Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Importance of Entrepreneurship to the Economy and Society


Red text on a blue gradient background. Reads "The Entrepreneur is a Reality Designer"

An entrepreneur is a special kind of person. 

The entrepreneur is a life/world/reality designer. 

The entrepreneur takes what isn’t yet and makes it happen. Someone who is entrepreneurial or chooses the path of entrepreneurship will create the world that others live in. 

Where most people must settle for the way things are and must pounce on the job opportunities they see in the world because those are the limit of possibilities for them, the entrepreneur will choose to create opportunities for themselves and others when they do not see the opportunities they wish for.

Clearly, I think highly of entrepreneurs.

Can Everyone Be An Entrepreneur?

"We Need More Creators" in yellow text on a blue and green background


I think that there are some people who lack the skills and the mindset to ever be entrepreneurial. They will go through their entire life only taking what other people give to them or allow them the chance to work for. All of their life’s choices are simply what more spirited people have created for them. 

I believe that this sort of person, a follower, is essential to a successful business, economy, and society. 

The problem is that they are too common. 

We have too many of these people, and they all need leaders to follow, creators to make jobs for them. Without leaders setting up the systems the followers fit into, the followers are useless. Followers are like a natural resource that businesses and leaders can utilize to create value in the economy. 

If at some point we run low on the supply of followers, they would become more valuable than they are now, but I don’t believe that will ever be the case, unfortunately.

Why Are Wages So Low?


The reason wages are so low for so many people is because everyone is replaceable. 

A leader created a business that requires labor to produce outputs, but once the business’s system is organized, the individual laborers that work in it don’t matter. If one laborer doesn’t work out, or wants too much in wages, they can easily be replaced with one of countlessly many other laborers looking for work. 

If followers/laborers were scarcer, then they wouldn’t be as replaceable, and they could command a higher wage.

I think that it is easier to be a follower and that is why so many people tend towards it. They could take the initiative to be a leader, an entrepreneur, a creator, but that would be too much effort. It’s hard to do. So, they simply choose to fit into existing systems others have made.

What Is An Entrepreneur?


In capitalism, the best, most efficient way to solve society’s and individuals’ problems, businesses are created to solve a problem. 

Somewhere in society a person or group of people need something that doesn’t exist, and entrepreneurs step up and create and supply that thing that is needed. The entrepreneur might do this work through altruism, working purely for the solution to others’ problems, or they might be selfishly motivated to earn a profit. The difference makes little real difference, because the end result is that someone is motivated to find a solution to the problem, to supply what is demanded. 

It is risky and stressful to be an entrepreneur. They may attempt to solve someone’s problem, at great effort and expense to themselves, and find that nobody is willing to buy their solution, or their solution is insufficient. 

This possibility may act as a thorough deterrent to those considering entrepreneurship. 

On the other hand, entrepreneurship offers the chance at greater freedom. The freedom of time because you aren’t required to put in your scheduled 40 hours per week working a job for someone else. The freedom of choice and autonomy, because you get to choose which problem you work on and how you wish to attack that problem. You get the freedom to create, because no boss tells you the way things must be. You are the boss.

"Be A Problem Solving Superhero" in blue text on gray background


Entrepreneurs are professional problem solvers. They are more than that, really. A consultant or advisor is a professional problem solver. An entrepreneur is more of a problem-solving superhero. Someone who notices that many people need something, and then go to work to provide that thing for them. 

Individuals who personally experience a problem may be inclined to solve their own problem, but they will likely only solve their particular instance of it, and not pass that solution on to others. They will also likely pay the highest cost for their solution because they will not be able to pass the research and development costs onto many eventual users of the solution. 

The solution will become cheaper and more efficient if created as or by a business because they will be able to work with economies of scale to some degree and improve on and refine their solution. 

Most individuals won’t actually ever solve their own problem, they will just continue to suffer the problem. Without the entrepreneur to provide the solution, the person would continue to suffer.

In addition to the fantastically valuable role the entrepreneur plays as a problem solver, they are also opportunity creators for followers. 

Once an entrepreneur identifies a problem, works towards and creates a suitable solution, arranges some way to sell and deliver the solution to customers, and has developed a little reputation for being a solid provider of some sort of solution, they want to unload all of those tasks onto other people as quickly as possible so that they can move onto solving other problems. 

An entrepreneur only really feels alive and most useful when working in the unknown. They must be always exploring, learning, adapting, and experimenting. Anything resembling a tedious routine will bore them to tears and make them feel useless. 

So as soon as there isn’t a need to constantly figure out each next step, and the process can be explained to an employee to take the task over, the entrepreneur will bring in and teach an employee to do the work in the business. 

There was no solution, but the entrepreneur created one, organized a maintainable system around it, and brought others in to work in the system and continue producing value for the economy. That is literally how all jobs are created. 

Once the system is in place, sometimes jobs will naturally bud internally as growth occurs and more needs to happen to fulfill demand, but those are really just downline jobs from the entrepreneur’s original creation.

Entrepreneurs, then, solve the world’s problems, grow the economy, and provide job opportunities to followers. 

The entrepreneur is the world’s most valuable type of person. 

These people are the limiting factor to the improvement of our lives and our happiness. If we have fewer entrepreneurs, our lives get worse. If we get more entrepreneurs, our lives get better. 

We need more entrepreneurs.

Why Aren't More People Entrepreneurs?


Anyone, absolutely anyone, can do the work of a follower. 

A task can be explained to anyone, and they can repeat the steps infinitely. Any person, even an entrepreneur, can fill the role of a follower. They may despise every moment of it, but they are capable of doing it. 

Doing the work of an entrepreneur is harder. For many reasons it is hard, but mostly it is because it isn’t pre-defined by someone else. It is constant guessing and estimating. 

There is always the risk that you are doing it wrong and therefore wasting your time. 

It is also difficult because it is scary. If you take a job for someone else, even if you hate it, you know that you will get a defined reward for a defined input. You show up, do the time and the work, and you will get a steady paycheck. That is pretty hard to give up in favor of a risky venture where you might work very hard and earn nothing. 

Despite these risks, the fear, the exposure to the unknown, we need people to exercise their entrepreneurial instincts and abilities. To choose to do the more difficult work when easier options are available. 

If you feel that you could do that work, I believe you have a moral obligation to do it. To not do it is to deprive the world of the good you could do, the jobs you could create for others, and to take an existing job that someone else could have taken.

Why You Should Be An Entrepreneur


A person who could be an entrepreneur choosing against it and instead just taking a job is a bit like a person who can afford to buy their own groceries regularly visiting a donation food pantry to get their groceries. The food pantry is available to ensure that everyone has a chance to eat, but it should be seen as an emergency option reserved for either temporary situations or for those who lack the ability to provide for themselves. 

Jobs are similar. Jobs are fine for people who aren’t capable of more, or for when they need income until something they are working on finally earns money, but they should, as much as possible, be avoided by the entrepreneur and left for those not capable of creation.

Doing the difficult work, being an entrepreneur, is something you should pursue if you are able to. 

You have this thing the world needs, and you must share it, utilize it. You have the power to change this world for the better. Please take advantage of that power. Others who lack the skills wish they had what you have so that could do what you should do. 

This is how I feel about entrepreneurship and its usefulness and essentialness in our economy. 

I hope what I’ve said has been motivational and inspired you to take the next step into solving problems and starting businesses. And don’t stop on your first success. Pass as much of it as you can onto employees and continue creating wonderful things. 

You have proven to yourself and the world that you are a part of that rare breed of creators, and you should maximize that until you can’t any longer. 

So, go out and create!

"Go Out And Create" Blue text on yellow background



Sunday, June 23, 2019

Why Is There A Minus 1 In the Annuity Formula


I was learning about the annuity formula in a math class I was taking. 

Math and formulas are fun and really cool. Formulas, especially, are cool because they allow you to do complicated, time-consuming things much more quickly than you could without them. 

I am a nerd and I love that moment when I fully understand a formula and how it came to be, the proof of the formula. 

But I was struggling to understand the Annuity Formula. Much of it made sense. It is basically just compounding interest applied to many equal payments over time, and then summing the payments and various amounts of interest accrued over time. 

But I didn’t understand the -1 (minus one) part of the equation. 

The equation looks like this:

Annuity Formula


Here are the variable declarations.
A = the final value of all investment and accrued interest
m = the amount of each annuity payment
r = the annual interest rate
n = the number of times per year that payments are made
t = time, in years, over which the investment spans

So all of it makes sense. 

The formula is based on the general “Sum of a Geometric Series” formula. In the “Sum of a Geometric Series”, each consecutive term is connected by a common ratio. Each term gets the next term in the series when multiplied by the same amount (which is different from the “Sum of an Arithmetic Series” in which each term gets the next by adding or subtracting the same amount). 

The 
Compound Interest Formula
part is just the compound interest formula. 

I just couldn’t figure out why there was the -1 in the numerator. 

I searched Google and Youtube for an explanation video which would prove the equation, and luckily, I found one that cleared everything up for me.


What I realized after I watched the video was that in an ordinary annuity, payments are made at the end of each month. That means that for month number 0, there is no payment and no accrued interest. 

The equation is based on numbers on a number line, and the number line has to start at zero, but since nothing happens until the end of that month a minus one subtracts that month. 

That is where I was getting hung up. 

I hope that this clarification helps you to understand and apply this very excellent formula.

Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper Review

Picture of popcorn in a red and white striped box labelled "pop corn"
I love popcorn.

I love eating popcorn at those places we usually eat popcorn like movie theaters and sporting events. 

Popcorn, as simple as it is, really brings up the enjoyment level of those activities. I am a bit confused and frustrated, however, at how crazy expensive popcorn can be in those concession stands. One can hardly imagine a cheaper food (the popcorn, especially when purchased in large quantities, is incredibly cheap, the butter or butter flavored oil, the salt, even fancy flavored salts like garlic or buffalo, are all very cheap). But when you buy a bag of popcorn at an event, it is often $7-$10. 

I love popcorn, but I can hardly afford to spend that kind of money on something so cheap to make. That would just be silly and wasteful. 

I understand that the high markups on popcorn, and other concession stand staples like soda and candy, subsidize the existence of the event and location. For example, in the case of movie theaters, often the ticket admission price is almost entirely paid to the makers and producers of the film you are there to see. The owner of the individual theater you see it in gets almost nothing. 

To pay for the building, the staff, the electricity, all the costs associated with running the theater and playing the movie for the audience, is paid for by either advertisements within the theater or concession stand sales. 

So, I do sympathize with the reason popcorn costs so much, and I do occasionally purchase it at those high prices, but I want popcorn way more often than I can afford to buy it at $10 a tub.


Why I Don’t Like Bags of Microwaveable Popcorn


My former solution to this problem was to buy microwavable bags of popcorn from the grocery store. 

The bags were cheaper than at the theater, and they were easy to make. Simply place the bag in the microwave and heat for the prescribed amount of time. But I always seemed to either overcook and burn the popcorn, which would stink up the house and taste awful, or I would undercook the bag and have a huge number of wasted, unpopped kernels. 

Also, the artificial butter in the bags, while extremely delicious, always gave me stomachaches and made me feel like trash.

Then I visited a friend who made popcorn for a movie we were going to watch at his house. 

He got out the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper by West Bend. 

I had never seen such a thing. I had seen the large-scale poppers used at theaters, but never anything for household use. 

He got out a plastic bottle of all-yellow popcorn kernels, a glass bottle of olive oil, and some butter. 

There were the makings of the best, most cost-effective popcorn I’d ever had.


How To Use the Popper Instructions



Picture of Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper


The popper has a large flat heating surface which is always on when the machine is plugged in and has no adjustments or settings, so there is no way to heat it wrong. 

A data table which shows the proper amount of kernels, oil, and butter needed to make various amounts of finished popcorn.

Use this data table only as a general guide. Make sure to reference your specific model's instruction manual for specific amounts of ingredients.


You put the proper amount of some oil (we usually use olive oil, but you could also use coconut oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or whatever you most like the taste of) in the pan. The oil helps transfer the heat of the pan into the popcorn kernels so that they can heat up and pop (use the prescribed amount of oil; I’ve tried using just a small amount and the kernels never pop; the oil is absolutely key). 

Then add the proper amount of popcorn kernels (by volume). 

-->Go to the West Bend site and they have all the instruction manuals for all of their products available in digital format! Just scroll down most of the way to the Popcorn Popper section (It's organized alphabetically) and select your specific model. This is super handy if you should ever happen to lose your instruction manual, or if you are closer to your smartphone than you are your paper manual!


If you follow the directions in the manual that comes with the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper, you would then immediately place the plastic dome-shaped lid over the pan surface and wait until all the popcorn has popped. Through extensive experimenting, I’ve found that the popcorn may turn out slightly soggy if you do that. 

What I’ve found works best is to leave the lid off until the first couple kernels pop, then place the lid on the machine, that way the moisture doesn’t build up. 

So that the first couple kernels don’t blast off like a rocket onto the table or floor you can hold the lid a few inches above the machine so that moisture can escape, but you’ll also catch the popped corn.

You wait until all the popcorn has popped, or until there are a few seconds between consecutive pops. 

This machine pops nearly every kernel every time. I never have as many unpopped kernels as I do with bagged microwave popcorn. I’ve also never burned the popcorn with the Stir Crazy Popper. 

This, I think, is because as soon as a kernel has popped it is pushed up, away from the heat, and is stacked on other popcorn or kernels. With bagged microwave popcorn, all the corn is constantly heated regardless of whether its popped or how long its been popped. 

So at this point you have perfectly cooked popcorn. 

Time for extra flavor!


Adding the Butter and Salt

Picture of melted butter in glass measuring cup

Some popper models come with a butter melting cap that goes on the lid. You put the desired amount of butter in the cap on the lid, and then as the popcorn heats the heat rises and melts the butter in the lid. 

There are holes in the lid which allow the butter to drip evenly all over the whole batch of popcorn. 

My model either doesn’t have this cap, or I accidentally threw it out with the box and packing materials, but no bother, because adding butter without it is super easy. 

Take however much butter you want to add to your popcorn and place it in a microwave safe container. Put the butter in the microwave and heat it until liquid. 

It doesn’t take very long at all to melt butter, so 10 to 25 seconds should do it (and butter splatters and is a mess to clean up in the microwave, so either cover the container with a lid or paper towel or watch to stop the microwave the second it’s melted). 

The instructions say that you can use the lid as the bowl to eat your popcorn from, but I always pour a bit of the popcorn into another large bowl, then pour a bit of butter over it, add some more corn, more butter, and repeat until I’ve used all of both the butter and corn. Using this method ensures that all the popcorn gets adequate butter. 

Then add salt to the bowl, regular or flavored, and you’ve got your perfect popcorn.


Conclusion


I absolutely loved that popcorn, and I was very impressed with the quality of the finished product.

I loved that the bowl of popcorn was able to be made so cheaply, so quickly, and without any nasty ingredients that gave me a stomachache!

I was hooked and I couldn’t see myself ever going back to bagged popcorn.

It was nearing Christmas, so rather than buy it for myself, I put it on my Christmas gift wish list. Someone bought it for me, and even amongst all my gifts, that Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper was my favorite one!

Now I regularly enjoy high quality popcorn at home, for movies in the living room, or just as a standalone snack. If you go light on the butter, popcorn can be a much healthier nighttime snack than chips or cookies.

The only possible downside to the whole thing is the need to clean the popper after use, which is the one and only thing that bagged microwave popcorn has going for it. You just throw the bag and you are done, nothing to clean.

But cleaning the popcorn popper is really not hard at all. If you can wash a frying pan, a cup, or a spatula, you can definitely clean this popper.

If you enjoy popcorn, I thoroughly hope you give this popcorn popper a try!

I’m sure you’ll, too, be hooked and never go back to that ultra-processed junk popcorn.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Aesop Rock Review


Aesop Rock is my favorite lesser-known rapper. 

Photo of rapper Aesop Rock removing his baseball cap to scratch his head.

I don’t think he is so unknown as to be called underground, but he isn’t a household name. 

Aesop Rock lyrics are unlike popular music and mainstream rap lyrics that you hear today. While other musicians write songs about having a lot of money and driving nice cars, maybe traveling the world in luxury accommodations, Aesop writes almost anything but that. 

Some of Aesop’s songs are like fictional stories, the telling of a character and their actions, some are almost like essays that describe how he feels about various topics, some are almost entirely abstract, stringing together lines that seem to have little to do with each other. 

One common theme throughout all of Aesop’s songs is very poetic lyrics and dense rhyming patterns. The language he uses is uncommon. It sounds beautiful strung together as it is, but it takes a moment to translate it in your head to what would be common speak and understand the meaning.

Aesop Rock has a huge back catalog of works, many albums and songs. They are all good, but I love his newest album, The Impossible Kid, the most. 

Album Cover for The Impossible Kid. Mostly purple and green illustration.

Not only are his lyrics excellent, but the instrument music behind them are unique and energetic. His productions are hypnotically repetitive, taking a small series of notes, some motif, and looping them. 

Aesop has done work in the past with prolific producer Blockhead. Blockhead’s beats are the tops, and if you have never heard anything by Blockhead, check out the songs “Music Scene” and “Funeral Balloons”.

Album art for Blockhead's "The Music Scene". Illustration of flooded city streets with two monkeys and a turtle.

Aesop Rock’s real name is Ian Matthias Bavitz and he is from Portland, Oregon. 

Bavitz is also involved in the musical projects “Hail Mary Mallon” and “Malibu Ken”.

"Malibu Ken" Album Art. Illustration of a close-up face of a disgusting man with boogers and zits and bandages and pus and bloodshot eyes.

My favorite songs by Aesop Rock are None Shall Pass, Rings, Rabies, Shrunk, Dorks, and Mystery Fish.

I think the rap artist most similar to Aesop Rock is MF Doom because they both share a similar lyrical style that involves poetry and thorough rhyming.

Photo of MF Doom wearing his metal face mask

Best Educational Podcasts on Spotify


Three images on a blue background that mean podcasts, brain, thumbs up, or Educational Podcasts are Good

Podcasts are a fantastic way to spend time and occupy your mind. 

Many people listen to podcasts while commuting to work, whether driving in their own car or taking public transportation. 

They are good for providing entertainment while doing routine household chores like cleaning and mowing the lawn. 

They are even perfect for during workouts. Some people may prefer music with a high BPM to motivate them during a workout or long run, but I seem to be able to work out longer and with more enthusiasm if my thinking mind is too busy with a podcast to have thoughts like, “Gee, I sure am tired and sweaty!”

Your reason for having time to listen to podcasts is possibly one consideration in choosing what specific podcast to listen to but understanding what you hope to get out of it is also important. 

Are you listening for entertainment? For something to make you laugh? To get caught up with daily news? Are you interested in what your favorite celebrity thinks? 

There are so many specific sorts of benefits that you can gain by choosing one podcast over another. I, personally, tend to want to learn something when I listen to podcasts. I am a nerd, so I like learning for learning’s sake and for the joy of learning, but I also like to add to my potential trivia knowledge stockpile. 

In attempting to learn something from podcasts I have tried out many educational podcasts. I would like to share with you a few of the best ones that I have found.


Stuff You Should Know

Short Stuff

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

The End of the World with Josh Clark

Planet Money

The Indicator



Stuff You Should Know

Logo of Stuff You Should Know. Black text on Red background

Stuff You Should Know, abbreviated as SYSK, is by far my favorite educational podcast. 

This podcast is created by the How Stuff Works network, which creates the HowStuffWorks.com website which creates and houses informational articles on nearly any topic you can imagine. 

The show started off as simply short summaries of articles on the site with rotating staff members in an attempt to encourage people to check out the website and its articles. That has changed. Each episode is now a very detailed discussion of a topic that lasts anywhere from 30-60 minutes but tend to be closer to the one-hour mark.

Chuck Bryant on the left, Josh Clark on the right

The show is hosted by Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant (the vast majority are anyways. The first maybe 15 episodes were Josh Clark with a few other staff writers and editors). Josh and Chuck are a couple of staff writers for the How Stuff Works website and actively wrote articles for the site until they became full-time podcasters. Now they spend all their time researching the subjects they plan to podcast on, recording podcasts, and doing live shows in cities around the world. 

The episodes’ topics are a combination of listener requests, ideas by Josh and/or Chuck, and articles from the How Stuff Works website. Most of the topics have some sort of article on the site, so they start their research there, and continue to search the world and the web for sources and information until they are nearly experts on their topic. 

It seems by how the show works out sometimes that Josh and Chuck don’t coordinate their research efforts or prepare their script, because during the episodes they sometimes mention that they hadn’t heard about some information the other has just shared.

Each episode starts with the incredible SYSK theme song, then Josh introduces himself, Chuck, and the producer for the episode (usually Jeri, but there are occasional guest producers). Jeri is never heard in the podcast, so all the talking is done by Josh and Chuck. 

The pair lead into or tease the topic for the episode, usually by some roundabout bit of conversation which ends up being related (though not always!). Then the bulk of the episode is the two having a fun conversation about the topic and what they learned during their research and prep work. 

One of the biggest plusses about the show, I think, is that they occasionally get side-tracked with interesting conversational tangents. A couple common ones are old movies and The Simpsons. I love that part of the show, but they claim they have gotten “hate” mail from listeners saying they wish Josh and Chuck would stay on topic and keep mention of their own lives to a minimum. 

They sometimes talk about things that have happened in the past, and in a fun, theatrical manner, make use of “The Way Back Machine”. They will mention some past event, question aloud whether they should take “The Way Back Machine,” and then Jeri will add some sound effects that sound like an old car starting up with bubbles, and then they will act like and talk as if they are in that past place. It is really fun that they spice up some history that way.

The episodes end with either “Listener Mail” or “Administrative Details”. 

Listener Mail is what it sounds like. People write in with comments, stories, or corrections, and those noteworthy enough get read on-air. Some of the listener comments are super interesting, and you should never skip over this segment! 

Administrative Details is when Josh and Chuck thank the people who have sent them stuff. Whether for genuine love of the hosts of the show or for marketing purposes, people will send Josh and Chuck free stuff. They’ve received candy, coffee, beer, art, books, and basically anything small enough to be mailed to Atlanta, Georgia (where the show is recorded). During the segment, they mention the item that was sent, who sent it, what they thought of it, and thank them for it over the air.

The SYSK show has over 1,000 episodes because it has been going a very long time (since April 2008). I listen to this show frequently for more than a year and am still not even halfway through all the episodes. Some of the episodes that come to mind (and are therefore some of the best) include: 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,
Composting,
Squatting,
Ponzi Schemes,
Guatemala,
Sea Monkeys,
Spontaneous Human Combustion,
Peter Principle,
Microlending,
and so many more!


I love this show, I love the intensity and fact/time-density of the information you learn in each episode and how it is balanced out by the fun and funny conversation that Josh and Chuck share with us in each episode. 

Please give this show a try, I’m sure you’ll love it!


Short Stuff

Image result for short stuff podcast

Short Stuff is a fairly new podcast by Josh and Chuck of the Stuff You Should Know podcast. 

People love SYSK, but sometimes the episodes can be a little long, so Short Stuff is perfect if you have less time available to listen, because they are like mini episodes of the full-sized SYSK. 

Short Stuff episodes have topics that are much like the ones used for SYSK, but they just don’t have enough material to fill out an hour without doing too much off-tracking, so they allot to it a shorter and more appropriate amount of time. 

There isn’t too much to say about Short Stuff because it is so new (started in the fall of 2018) and because it is so similar to the Stuff You Should Know Podcast.


50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Podcast Title Card for 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy. Primarily Purple with Yellow Text.

This is a podcast created by the BBC World Service. The host of each episode is Tim Hartford. 

Tim takes some idea or technology, most often something entirely mundane and ubiquitous that one would never take the time to think about or analyze it and tells its story. 

Each episode begins with a bit of a story told about some moment or some person which was greatly affected by the subject of the episode or sometimes the story of the discover/invention. Then Tim describes how it came to be, how it spread, how it helped the world, and how its advanced to current day. 

Each episode is short, only 8 to 10 minutes. 

The show (as its title would have you believe) was originally made to cover 50 topics in 50 episodes, but then nearing the end of the original run, they ran a poll to determine a 51st topic. So there were 51 episodes. But now it seems that they have rebooted the series in 2019 with even more greatly influential things that have shaped the world economy. 

Some of my favorite episodes are: 

M-Pesa,
Antibiotics,
Disposable Razor,
Google,
Contraceptive Pill,
Barbed Wire, and
Paper Money.



The End of The World with Josh Clark

Picture of Josh Clark on a background of picture of space with stars. Also white text that reads "The End Of The World With Josh Clark"

This is a podcast created by Stuff You Should Know’s Josh Clark. 

This is a ten-part series which covers the various ways that life could come to an end on Earth. The theme is “Existential Threats”, which are things that may occur which would wipe out all living things, things that bring an end to the “existence” of life. 

The show talks about how an accident is simply an event which is certain to occur but at an uncertain frequency. These things that are talked about in the episodes are possible, they could happen, but we should certainly hope they do not. 

The episodes are based in research and science but are speculative in nature because the things that are talked about have not yet happened, and the moment they do, we will all be dead and no longer be able to talk about them. 

Each episode is around 40 to 60 minutes. 

Josh does most of the talking but does include voice interviews with some experts in the field for whatever he is covering. 

The show has a superb, futuristic-sounding soundtrack composed and produced by Point Lobo, and that soundtrack is now available outside of the show on Spotify, and possibly elsewhere. 

Josh does a fantastic job of setting a mood. The episodes cover some dark material (the end to life is pretty dark), and the way he speaks is totally different from the upbeat, fun way he speaks on the SYSK podcast. 

This podcast has also had live events where Josh covers additional topics and gives even more information. 

A few of the episode topics are: 

Fermi Paradox,
Great Filter,
Artificial Intelligence, and
Biotechnology.



Planet Money

Planet Money podcast title card. Green background, white text that reads "Planet Money", NPR Logo, Cartoon of an astronaut with George Washington's head from the US dollar bill in the helmet.

Planet Money is a production of National Public Radio (NPR). 

Planet Money covers topics that are related to the economy. It is an educational, fact-based podcast, but it does what it does with a lot of story. They tell you how something happened and how it affected people, rather than just giving the statistics about what happened. They take things that might be boring and make them interesting. 

The show is hosted by various members of a small team who, as investigative reporters, follow tips and story suggestions and then relay to listeners what happened. They make regular use of interviews of both experts and just regular people. 

Each episode runs about 20-30 minutes long. 

One of the people involved in the show is Adam Davidson, who was recently featured in an Amazon Prime show called “This Giant Beast That Is The Global Economy,” which stars host Kal Penn. 

Kal Penn on red background. Large monster made of economic symbols. Yellow text that reads "This Giant Beast That Is The Global Economy"

They’ve covered stories that touch on 

Insider Stock Trading,
the Fondue Industry,
Student Loan Servicers,
Cattle Theft, and
High-Pressure Sales and Revenge within Wells Fargo. 


This show is seriously interesting and seriously addicting.


The Indicator

Blue Background. White text that reads "The Indicator". NPR logo. White line drawing that looks like a roller coaster. "From Planet Money" in green text.

This show is made by the team of Planet Money and is a production of NPR. 

Where Planet Money episodes come out maybe weekly or less often, The Indicator comes out daily. 

Each episode is about 10 minutes long and covers some number or “indicator” that has to do with something in the news. The explanation of the indicator can really deepen your understanding of the current event, which without a decent explanation or previous understanding can sound boring or confusing. 

The show often talks about government studies or reports, especially in Friday episodes which they call “Jobs Friday”. On Jobs Friday, they discuss a weekly government report about job creation and job loss on a national scale. 

The hosts of this show are Stacey Vanek Smith and Cardiff Garcia.

Cardiff Garcia on the left and Stacey Vanek Smith on the right in front of the NPR logo.

I love this show especially because of its short length. When I have a short drive to somewhere nearby, I don’t want to listen to only part of a long episode, I want something that can be finished in that length of a trip. The Indicator is the perfect podcast for those short trips.


Conclusion


If you love to learn stuff, then these are the podcasts for you. 

I wholeheartedly love these podcasts and I very much hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much as I do. 

If you are a super-prolific podcast listener and fully consume all the episodes of each of these shows and are looking for even more awesome educational podcast content, check out the networks which produce SYSK and Planet Money. 

SYSK is part of the How Stuff Works network, which has many other podcast shows like Tech Stuff and Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know. 

Planet Money is produced by NPR which has a large number of programs which cover educational and news-based topics. 

If you expand out to all the shows of both of those networks, you will have a bottomless pit of content to consume.

Google Chrome Touchpad Scroll Not Working SOLUTION


Two fingers on a laptop trackpad using the scroll gesture
I use and love Google Chrome. It is my favorite web browser and my default program for web browsing. 

Unfortunately, I’ve had some trouble with it recently, and it has caused me such frustration that I considered switching to an alternative such as Mozilla Firefox. 

I think I have found the solution to the problem, though!

Description of the Problem


I primarily use Chrome on my laptop, and I have become accustomed to using the tracking pad’s touchpad gestures. I use two fingers at once to scroll down pages. 

I sometimes use other people’s laptops which don’t offer that gesture, and I quickly realize how much I like that feature. 

On my own laptop, in Chrome specifically, I will sometimes lose the ability to two-finger scroll. I will be on a page, I will have two finger scrolled some ways down the page, and then suddenly it will stop working. The computer won’t be frozen, I will be able to click the arrows at the right-hand side to scroll the page, I will be able to click and drag on the slider, and I will be able to use the URL and back buttons. It is only the gesture that seems to have stopped working. 

The very temporary solution I found has been to switch tabs or windows. It is only a problem while I am in the current window. As soon as I click onto another tab, then switch back, it will work. It only works for another few minutes, at which time I will have to repeat the tab switching method. 

This has been frustrating me to no end, but I’ve found the solution (at least the solution for my particular instance of the problem.

Solution


The solution is wildly simple, but easy to mess up. 

Close all tabs and windows in Chrome. 

I had tried that many times, and I’m sure you have too if you are reading this article for the solution, and it doesn’t work. 

It isn’t that simple. 

Let me explain to you why it works, and how I was messing it up for so long.

I have a bad habit with web browsing. I have too many windows and tabs open all the time. I am reading something, see a link to another page I’d like to read, so I right-click and open that link in a new tab, and then continue on with what I’m doing. 

Before too long, I’ve got 27 tabs open. I switch between them and leave them open for future reference even after I’ve finished reading them. Its definitely something I should work on. 

Digital hygiene is not taken seriously by many people today, and I am one of them. 

I should make better use of bookmarking and future reading lists, but because I don’t, I caused my Chrome glitch. Each of those pages potentially has a long history (I could click the back navigation button loads of times before I reach the original page it was opened on) and takes up a lot of memory or CPU or RAM (I’m not super techy, so I don’t know exactly what, but I guess I could accurately call it “resources”).

When I would close all tabs and windows in Chrome to restart and update the app, in hopes of solving my problem, I would immediately upon reopening Chrome, go to the menu, go to history, and choose “Restore Recently Closed Tabs”. 

Screen Capture which shows how to navigate to Restore Recently Closed Tabs option in Google Chrome


I would do that for each of the windows I had closed. 

Restoring those tabs and windows also brings with them all of their browsing history. I was negating the entire purpose of closing the tabs and windows.


To really fix the problem, I had to go through each of my open Chrome windows, go to menu, go to bookmarks, and choose “bookmark all open pages”. All of the pages I had opened to reference later were then stored in a neat folder in my bookmarks manager. 

Screen Capture showing how to navigate to the Bookmark Open Pages option in Google Chrome


I then wished those tabs the best luck on the other side and closed them all for good. 

When I opened Google Chrome then, I would not restore anything from history, I would simply navigate to any page I needed in the moment. 

This totally solved my problem. 

I have not had the two finger scroll gesture malfunction since. I am still a bit messy with my open windows and tabs, but I no longer let the mess build up for months, only days. 

Now that I am aware of how much of a problem my lengthy browsing history causes, I will sometimes randomly close everything and re-navigate to the place I’m at so that it starts over from zero. 

And just to be clear, I didn’t delete my browser history or cache or cookies or anything like that (I’ve never deleted any of that since I got my laptop). That wasn’t what was causing the problem. Somehow there is a difference between active history within a browser tab and the total list of URLs you’ve been to which are stored in your browser’s history.

I love that Chrome has the option to “Restore Recently Closed Tabs”. It comes in handy when Windows decides it needs to restart to update and chooses to initiate the restart without your active input. Other than for accidental closures of Chrome like that, the “Restore” option shouldn’t be used. Don’t make it a routine part of your Chrome usage.

TL;DR


To solve the touchpad scrolling error in Google Chrome, bookmark all open tabs in Chrome that you care to revisit at some point, and then close all tabs and leave them closed. 

Open a new Chrome window and only navigate to what you need when you need it. Do not have over 20 tabs open at once (not an exact number, just illustrating a ridiculously unnecessary number of tabs), and purge tabs as you finish using them. 

Do not use Chrome’s “Restore Recently Closed Tabs” after every closure of Chrome. 

Scrolling problem solved!

Conclusion


This scrolling problem really bothered me for months, far too long, and I was so excited to have finally found something that worked to solve my issue. 

I browsed help forums and Google product pages looking for solutions and didn’t ever find this or anything with this thorough an explanation, so I decided to provide it for others. 

I hope that this solution also works for you! 

And remember to actively pursue healthy online habits and digital hygiene!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Real Duckface

Complex Line Drawing Of a Duck with Piercings

For this post I will not be posting an original short story.  I will instead post a poem I heard on the television show Frasier starring Kelsey Grammer.  Frasier recited this poem to himself right before his first show on the radio as a way to prevent stuttering and calm his nerves.  It very much caught my attention and I liked it so much I thought I'd share it with you.  

The poem is called "A Word To The Wise" by Louise M Laughton

Little owlet in the glen
I'm ashamed of you;
You are ungrammatical
In speaking as you do,
You should say, "To whom! To whom!"
Not, "To who! To who!"

Your small friend, Miss Katy-did,
May be green, 't is true,
But you never hear her say
"Kay do! She do!"


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