Category Archives: personal

Note Taking

There are no answers here.


I continue to see articles proclaiming the benefits of taking notes by hand.

Here is the latest from the Wall Street Journal:

Pen and paper

That is all well and good. And truth be told I LOVE taking notes by hand. I love the feel of the pencil/pen and paper. I love that it is easy to come by. It doesn’t take any extra technology to make it work.

The problem is that I am left with the paper afterwards. Inevitably I feel like I have written something down that makes the entire paper worth saving for some unknown period of time.But when I do take a closer look I find that any information it contained is out of date and that it has just been cluttering my desk this whole time.

Another problem is that a single piece of paper is made meaningless when taken out of the context from which it was made.Sure this can be remedied by adding some metadata to the header of the note or keeping a filing system. But that branches out into a madness I am not willing to engage in.

I have dabbled with using Google Docs to keep a typewritten record. And this does show the promise of find-ability (full text search)  But that doesn’t make my writings any less mostly garbage within a certain amount of time. And that is because taking notes is mostly a tool for learning. As you rewrite what you hear you have encoded something slightly more into your brain than if you had just heard it. (Auditory vs. Visual learning)

HP Tablet PC running Windows XP (Tablet PC edition) (2006)

Recently I have had the fortune of being able to use a Surface Pro 4 which comes with a stylus and One Note integration. I have had some success using this to write with, but I haven’t always been able to read what I wrote down when looking at it later on.

I do feel like if I worked at this hard enough there might be use just for a device for learning and then being able to easily dispose of it afterwards. If I could find a method of converting my free text notes into searchable text using some OCR then that might be ideal.

Still the problem comes down to another barrier. A device to be charged and signed in to vs. a piece of paper and a writing device…


More to come, I hope.


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Lake Waccamaw State Park

We visited Lake Waccamaw State Park last week. They have a nice visitor center and the lake itself its quite beautiful. 1 (910) 646-4748 Lake Waccamaw, NC 28450


There was a nice long boardwalk that went from the visitor’s center to the lake. This was great for us to be able to let the children run.


We loved seeing the moss along the path. It was so vivid!


To find lunch though we had to go to the next town over. We found a nice southern cooking buffet, and then loaded everyone back in the car to go home. We can’t wait to go back and take a nice long walk along the lake side. But, first we might have to find a baby sitter so we can make it the whole five miles.


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New Resolutions for 2013

This past weekend we decided to go on a trip to a state park


We decided to go to Ft. Macon. It is about 2 hours from our house, and the first state park here in North Carolina.

It might seem an ominous choice at first as an old ft. from the revolutionary and civil war era. It has cannons that seemingly face in your direction as you first pull up.

cannon ft. macon


But, it is a really neat place to visit because it has a lot of history and a large number of rooms  and places to explore.


But you have to watch the edge with small children because there really are no guard rails in place. As the sign says as you enter the park “This fort was built for times of war and  not for your safety”

view ft. macon

Everyone had fun running around, although the toddlers desired more free reign than we gave them.

Our oldest boy especially loved getting up on the cannons.

cannon portrait


I think we will try to do better about getting the whole family in a picturet in the future but we were able to get the children to sit still for a second.

Fleming children at Ft. Macon



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Google Plus Circles: How to get the most out of sharing

This post is dedicated to anyone who has indicated that they don’t see enough involvement in Google Plus or that they don’t know how to set up their circles, or if you are broadcasting everything to everyone you follow (Stop it)

I initially created a circle for every group of friends that I belonged to. Then I started making circles for my interest groups. I kept my interests pretty limited. At first it was only “library” but recently I have expanded to a new interest “homebrew”

When I would post items in Google Plus I would create the post and then decide who my audience was and go through selecting different relevant circles that might want to see the post. This only worked for me for a few months until I realized that I was posting essentially the same content across the same circles. I needed a simpler way to do this.

To that effect I created new macro circles. In the Selective circle I included all of my friends and in the General circle I included people I didn’t know in my interest circles.

This works pretty well for simple posts without a targeted audience. I did experiment by creating an “active” circle that included everyone who had commented on a post since before the creation of the circle. The purpose of this was to include them in all postings and encourage more engagement. It was an experiment that didn’t end up bearing much fruit because people only want to engage with you on topics that they share an interest for.

The takeaway being: Post to the groups who will be interested in what you are saying. Don’t try to force participation.

The biggest change that has occurred since I set up this strategy was the creation of a new circle for homebrewers. This circle was growing very slowly until Google introduced the ability to share circles. All of a sudden users were sharing their circles of users filtered by interest. I added one of these homebrew circles all at once and there was a sudden explosion of new followers and new posts that directly pertained to my interest.

There was a problem however. The circle that had been shared and named “homebrew” actually contained quite a number of people who were not homebrewers. Many only had an interest in beer, and others had no discernible link to beer at all. I’ve tried to go through and filter out the users who should not be in the circle, but this is a time consuming process.

The next time I cam across a shared circle I was more selective about the process and went through the users in the circle first and examined potential people to follow from the list individually.

While grabbing that initial circle might have seemed like a big mistake, actually it led to a very large interest circle that is active and very knowledgeable about a topic that I am interested in.

I have filtered out many of the ‘love beer but don’t homebrew’ people and created a new circle simply called “beer” My next step is to move the entire homebrew circle into the beer circle. That way when I post a specific ‘how to’ question about beer production I will post to the “homebrew” circle and when I create a “I just made a batch of this kind of beer, or I bought this beer and loved it” post I will share it to the “beer” circle.

One parting word of wisdom. If you add people to Google Plus make sure that you are adding them to a specific circle where they will see information that will make it clear why you have added them. Also make sure that your profile clearly indicates interests you have so that the person you have added can use this information as a guide when adding you to a circle of their own (or at all)

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Attn: GOOGLE… RE: top links in the toolbar of Google pages

*This is a letter writing campaign*

Google moved the ‘Reader’ link off the top of the toolbar on the Gmail page. They tried to do this earlier in the year but it got moved back. As of now you have to click on the ‘More’ dropdown to get to the link.

For some reason the ‘Reader’ link still shows up in the toolbar when you are on the Google Plus page just not on the Gmail or (ironically) the Google Reader page. These links should be consistent across pages obviously, and we would like them to move the ‘Reader’ link back to the top.

Ideally we would like them to give users the option to choose their
top 5 or so sites that they would like to always appear in the Google
toolbar when they are signed in.

Please email everyone you know who works at Google so that you can
help make this happen.

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busy busy

A lot of people ask me how I have time for X after I tell them that I am the father of 4 month old twins. I usually shrug, but my answer should be “..because I don’t do Y”

You can have all the time in the world to do the things you want if you aren’t doing something else.

A lot of my chores I have to fit in to my daily routine wherever I can, and it usually involves a fair amount of negotiation.

For example, today I had a Dr’s appt at 1:30 so I wanted to get some things done before hand like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, making breakfast, sorting some laundry, doing some laundry, taking a shower etc…

At some point we decided to try and fit in a run to the grocery store as well which meant leaving around noon instead.

So.. right around 10:43 I asked how long I could mow the backyard for. My wife asked for the current time and gave me a fifteen minute window after telling me that she would need to get ready as well, and both babies would need to be fed. I agreed and took the four year old down with me, and made him a sandwich and a couple snacks. I then prepped the backyard and mowed just enough of the lawn to give the dog a good amount of room to maneuver within when doing his business later on that night.

So, I guess what I am saying is that you have to accept the partial completion of some tasks at times. The really important goal is trying to remember which baby fed last when. If you can get that down then you should be good to go.

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#homebrew My experience

I just started brewing beer at the beginning of the summer. I have thought about doing it for years but this year I put it down as the number one thing I would like to receive for my Birthday.

My wife and I went to American Brewmaster to get the necessary equipment, and we bought their Deluxe starter kit. This included all the buckets, tubes, thermometers, capping equipment etc… *and* your first beer kit.

I was torn between a Hefenweizen and an Amber Ale, but ultimately decided to go with the American Classic Amber Ale.

Once we had a guest in our home (Thanks Amanda!) to help take care of the twins I carved out a couple hours to rush headlong into the process.

I read over the instructions and followed the only piece of advice anyone has given me regarding homebrewing… I sanitized everything.

I steeped my grains (This smelled so good!), added my malt extract and hops, and boiled the wort (that’s what they call it) for a good long while.

Remember how I said steeping the grains smelled good? Well once you add the hops and boil it for an hour it stops smelling so good. Not bad really, just intense.

Then I added cold water to the 5 Gallon mark and cooled it all down as quickly as I could. Then I added the yeast, sealed it (mostly), and shook it for a couple of minutes. All I could do from this point was put it out of sigh and wait for 14 days or so.

At that point fermentation was complete and I just had to carve out another couple of hours so that I could put all the beer into bottle. This time my mom was visiting so I enlisted her help. I prepared the bottling bucket, and siphoned everything into it (with sugar for carbonation)


part of the bottling process

I added the beer to the bottles, and my mom did all the capping.

bottling complete

Everything went pretty smoothly considering I had lost my directions at this point.

Once we were done we put them away in the closet and waited another 10 days or so before it was ready to drink.

At that point I put a couple in the fridge to cool down and then poured one for my wife and myself to try. I was very relieved that it tasted good.

I couldn’t wait to get back out there and try something new. My coworker (Thanks Steven!) said he had some grains I could use so I scoured the internet for a recipe that would fit with his ingredients and would make a decent Wheat beer. The benefit to doing it this way was that I gained the experience of shopping for my own ingredients and I bought a new 5 gallon pot to boil everything in.

I bottled last Friday (Thanks Bob! for your help (FiL)) and can’t wait until next week to see how it came out.

#boulevard wheat clone

Next up is a brown ale that I am going to brew next week with my dad.

Unfortunately I have to wait until someone grows some pumpkins before I can make a Pumpkin Ale.


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