June 27, 2011

The Thought Process Behind Facebook Birthday Wall Posts

Facebook kindly informs you that your friend's birthday is today. You feel compelled to write on their Wall. Here is your thought process as you begin typing:

"Happy birthday!"

But that sounds so impersonal.

Perhaps add a few exclamation marks?

"Happy birthday!!!"

Better, but it still sucks. Must... type... something... more... to make it seem like I care. But what to write?

"Happy birthday!!!!!"

"Happy birthday!!!!! <3"

"Happy birthday!!!!! <3 :P"

Ugh. I don't know what else to write because... frankly I've kinda lost touch with you.

"Happy birthday my dear. Hope you're having a good day!!!!! <3 :P"

Almost there. Tweak those adjectives and add some superlatives to give it more impact.

"Happy birthday my dear. Hope you're having a fantastic day!!!!! <3 :P"

"Happy birthday my dearest. Hope you're having the most fantastic day ever!!!!! <3 :P Do something special to celebrate! <3 :P <3 :P"

WTF. That doesn't even sound like me anymore. Oh well, at least it reads better than "Happy birthday."

So you think. All that fluff reads the same to the birthday boy/girl anyway. Unoriginal.

June 21, 2011

Astrology 101

I was born at this magical time where the Earth was aligned with the Sun and other celestial bodies in such a unique manner that I am who I am today. My life is but a cosmic fingerprint in the story of the Universe in which my personality, my relationships and my encounters are predetermined by the gravitational pull of matter at the time of my birth.

That just makes so much sense.

June 16, 2011

Zombie Nation: America's Dependence On Caffeine

Whatever happened to plain old willpower? Or a power nap?

I wouldn't quite call it a culture shock, but one of the things I noticed about Americans when I first came to the States is their reliance on caffeinated drinks. Not just plain old coffee, but coffee with a heaps of sugar, or crap like Monster, Redbull, 5 Hour Energy and the like. Didn't LeBron recently introduce caffeine-loaded Energy Strips? Seriously, why do we need this crap?

In this day and age people work so hard and push their bodies beyond their limits. Everyone knows how important sleep is, but somehow everyone seems to be getting less and less these days. They then try to compensate by downing caffeinated drinks.

People have gotten so used to relying on caffeine to get through their day-to-day routines. Gotta start the morning with an extra large coffee! Then an after lunch coffee to fight that food coma. A 3pm coffee to get through the rest of the work day. Throw in some caffeinated soda in between. You get college kids who down several Redbulls to pull an all-nighter before finals. Isn't that a bit excessive? And it's not just coffee we're talking about. I've seen people dump in 5-8 packs of sugar and lots of creamer into their drinks. That can't be good for you. Diabetes. Hello?

You don't need all this caffeine. It has become such a routine for people that they don't stop and try to reduce their intake. I'm not saying caffeine is bad for you, but an excessive amount is. Try using alternative methods to stay awake. Listen to some pounding beats or drink more water so you get up and use the bathroom more often. Use your willpower. Do some jumping jacks. How about using those precious minutes spent brewing coffee or walking to your local Starbucks for a power nap?

Actually, if possible, maintain good sleeping habits and stop messing with your body's natural cycle with these stimulants.

Oh, and drink lots of water.

Image source: Taj Pharmaceuticals

June 15, 2011

Is Facebook Too Big to Fail?


Or at least I hope the answer is no.

It's no secret that I'm not so fond of Facebook. My contempt for Facebook started right around that time they did their redesign. "Which?" you ask. Well, just pick one of those countless iterations.

Recent numbers suggest Facebook growth has finally slowed, especially considering US traffic. It is still backed by strong international growth, but eventually that's going to slow down. Another report indicates a loss of 6 million users in May 2011 in the US. Now this statistic is really suggesting something. Why are so many people unregistering?

Facebook is really pissing off a lot of users by being so intrusive and omnipresent. Perhaps some people don't care when others tag a photo of them and their puking intoxicated face from last Friday's party. Maybe you want to show up on your mom's feed that you are at some local strip club with 4 other dudes. While you have the options to go to your privacy settings and turn these all off, a lot of people don't, or don't know how to. There is so much noise and spam and phishing links that show up on your feed. Here's a video of a man who took a picture of himself everyday for the past 8 years. Really? Dad walks in on daughter doing blah. Really?? Stupid people click on these stupid links, causing it to auto-post to your wall, saying you Like the link, then more of your stupid friends click on them. No thank you. I don't need to consume that type of content.

Nowadays a lot of websites have Facebook widgets and plug-ins that show who of your friends Liked a post or are fans of the website. How do you feel to have your face pop up everywhere on someone else's view? Do you want the whole wide world to know someone else checked you in at a restaurant? Most people have hundreds if not thousands of friends on Facebook and they don't all need to know what I'm up to, what pages I like and what sites I read. It's too much and it's creepy.

Facebook used to be about connecting a close-knit group of friends you know in real life. That line is blurred and it has become so diluted. With all these external apps it really clutters up the site. Yes I hide all those Farmville and Cafe Blah City feed items, but every time I see a new one, it just pisses me off.

I know there are many others who share my view and can't wait till Diaspora, Altly, or some other social media sites launch. I'm waiting eagerly to get my invites and start exploring other options. Look how volatile the Internet space is. One day you're hot, the next day you get replaced. Friendster, MySpace, and eventually Facebook will eventually be so yesterday. Eventually Facebook will piss off enough users and it will fail.

It will fail.

Sources: Mashable, NPR, Boston Herald

June 13, 2011

You Know What You Know, Or Do You?

Why do we believe in the things we do? Why do we say the things we say? How did we become who we are today?

How often do people actually take a step back and ask themselves these questions? It's rare for most people to be completely honest with themselves and self-reflect. People are so used to living their day-to-day lives following rules and traditions that society has set up. They have these preconceived notions of how the world works because their teachers or parents told them so when they were younger. As they grow up, experiences that resonate with what they were taught only strengthen their beliefs, whereas those that threaten those beliefs are often disregarded.

The truth is most people's view of the world is clouded by beliefs and ideologies passed on to them. It hinders their ability to really think for themselves. When something comes along and challenges their world view, most people try to rationalize by coming up with stories and ludicrous explanations to defend their existing beliefs so that they don't have to alter them. The last thing people want to do is admit they are wrong.

One of the hardest things for people is to learn to question themselves and challenge their own beliefs. It's difficult when they teach you as an adolescent how you should behave, how things should be and what's supposedly right or wrong. Most people try to mold themselves into preconceived roles as they grow older. It's true what they say: You are who your friends and family are. People gravitate towards those who share their opinion. They seek out similar people that only reconfirm what they know. This vicious cycle often lends to people becoming so stuck in their heads that they can never get out. That is, unless something drastic happens and their view of the world is challenged.

When your world is turned completely upside-down, what you once knew and what was familiar all of a sudden fail to support what's happening. The moment you go through hardships and make mistakes is when you start to really reflect upon yourself. It triggers a series of questions about what you think you know. The thought process may lead to heightened self-awareness. That's when you really learn who you are and can decide what's right or wrong for you.

Think about what you believe about today's controversial issues. What are your views on gay rights, sex education, religion, health care, drug legalization, etc? Chances are you know firmly where you stand on these issues. The question is why.

June 9, 2011

Using Others to Help Achieve Your Goals

Use your friends. Okay, that doesn't sound so nice. What I really meant is this: Tell someone your goals, so they hold you accountable.

Whatever your goals may be, whether it's losing weight, quitting smoking, or saving money, it's hard to keep yourself accountable sometimes. Most people don't have the discipline to follow through even if they want to. Why do you think there are schools and teachers and exams? It's not that people can't learn by reading textbooks on their own. It's the external push, competition for success, fixed schedules and deadlines that keep people in check. Accomplishing new goals requires effort and extra effort to keep yourself motivated. So if you're serious about making a lifestyle change, why not let your friends help you?

Tell as many people as you can. The more people you tell, the more you don't want to fail. Tweet it to your followers and tell your Facebook friends. It becomes a little game where you challenge yourself, and when you accomplish your goals, not only do you feel good, you also... look good.

No one likes to look like a failure and go back on their word now, do they?

My goal is to learn ActionScript 3.0 on my own. Now hold me accountable. Thank you.

June 7, 2011

iTunes in the Cloud Versus Google Music Beta, Fight!

I finally received my Google Music Beta invitation the same day Apple unveiled iCloud. Coincidence? I think not.

Observations so far:

Google Music is completely free. It doesn't care where you acquired your music (ripped, purchased from iTunes, Beatport, Audiojelly etc., or pirated), it uploads your music regardless. This process is a bit slow. I'm only syncing 80 gb of music, and at this rate, it will take a full week of continuous uploading to sync it with Google. They have a limit of 20,000 songs.

Getting the process started is really easy. You're given the option to either sync your iTunes player, your music folder, or other folders. I chose to sync my iTunes player, and to my pleasant surprise, it preserved the playlists I created on iTunes. I'm already seeing my music come in on my Nexus S and I was able to hook my music up to my car seamlessly, no download delays for me. You do have the option to make your music available offline.

iTunes in the Cloud is also free and automatically pushes your music to your devices. It's a great way to keep all your music across your Mac, your iPhone, your iPod etc. in sync. Also, you're finally able to only purchase your music once and access it anywhere. (About time!)

Apple also introduced the iTunes Match service for $24.99 a year, up to 25,000 songs. It scans your existing library and matches songs to Apple's music database. There's no need to actually upload anything if a match is found, but in case of no match, your songs will still be uploaded. This really speeds up the sync process. Also, this means if you ripped or pirated your music, a match almost makes it legit. You get all the benefits as though your music is purchased from iTunes (upgrade to 256-Kbps AAC). If it's music you've purchased elsewhere, well, you're kinda paying for music you've already purchased.

Both services are free (mostly, in the case of iTunes). The Cloud syncing concept is not new. It's the only logical step Apple can take. Google already does that with Gmail, Picasa, Docs etc, so I'm happy to see Apple step it up. They are by no means the pioneers as some (stupid) people may think.

(I'm sticking to Google Music for now since I'm not part of the iDevice halo effect. Google Music is working seamlessly with my Nexus S so far. Will give an update when I play with both services more. Oh, sorry Amazon, didn't mean to leave you out.)

June 5, 2011

How To Hard Boil An Egg

Well, everyone's gotta learn at some point, right?

I like to put hard boiled eggs in my salads. This is how I boil them. They come out perfectly hard-boiled every time. No nasty green rims around the yolk.

1. Put raw eggs into a pot and fill with cold water until all eggs are completely submerged. (About 1/2 inch of water over them).

2. Cover and boil on high. Turn off heat immediately when water starts boiling rapidly.

3. Leave the pot covered and on the stove top. Set the timer for 15 minutes and let the remaining heat do the rest of the cooking.

4. Run eggs in cold water a few times to stop the cooking.

5. When they're cool enough to handle, peel and enjoy.

(I actually prefer my eggs only half-boiled if I'm eating them by themselves. But this post is about hard-boiled eggs, so that's that.)

June 2, 2011

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash Recipe

I'm not the type that likes to follow recipes but likes to experiment. As I was driving home yesterday I had this idea of making a mashed concoction of sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Just those ingredients won't be interesting enough, so I dumped in a few other extra ingredients. This is my take on mashed sweet potatoes:

6 sweet potatoes
12 oz butternut squash (cubed)
1 large onion, diced (I used yellow onions)
3 slices of turkey bacon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 stick of salted light butter
a handful of chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper (use your good judgement)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and towel dry the sweet potatoes. Prick some holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork to let the steam escape. Bake for 45 minutes or until nice and soft.

2. Put the butternut squash on a baking sheet with 1 Tbsp of butter and bake along side the sweet potatoes. Roughly 40 minutes.

3. In a pan, crisp the bacon and sauteed the chopped onions and chives with 1 Tbsp of butter and minced garlic.

4. When the sweet potatoes are done, peel the skin off. It's easier to do with tongs when they're still hot.

5. In a mixing bowl, mash the sweet potatoes and butternut squash with a fork or potato masher. Mix in the rest of the butter and the sauteed onions.

And... done. I apologize for the bad photography.

I did a search for recipes after the fact and found a lot that call for maple syrup, fruit juices etc. to make it even more sweet. Who needs that much sweetness anyway when sweet potatoes provide all the sweetness you need?

(Next morning edit: For breakfast the next day I made sweet potato pancakes out of them. Just scoop the right amount and shallow fry in a pan. It was a good idea. Heeee.)

June 1, 2011

How To Change Mac OS X Application Icons Without Third-Party Apps

If you care about aesthetics as much as I do, you probably hate some of the default app icons that sit in your dock. There are a few third-party apps out there like CandyBar that allow you to manage your icons, but they're not free. Well it's actually really easy to change them manually once you know how.

Let's say I want to change my iChat icon:

All I need to do is locate it in the Applications folder, right click and Get Info.

Find an icon you'd like to replace the default with (preferably in PNG format and larger than 128px*128px). Iconfinder is a very good source. Copy the image onto your clipboard. Click on the top left icon and simply Paste the icon by doing Command-V.

You should be all set. If it doesn't allow you to paste, check to make sure system/admin privileges are set to Read & Write. If not, click the lock, enter your system password, and change the privileges accordingly. It should work. (You typically need this step when dealing with pre-installed applications such as iPhoto, iTunes, etc.)

The icon change will not reflect in the dock right away. You'll have to remove the app from the dock, locate it in Applications and drag the updated app back into the dock. Not happy with how it looks? Rinse and repeat.