Yearning for Learning…

We all have those points we reach where we re-evaluate where we are and what we want. I honestly think that it’s part of the process by which we make sure we’re not repeating mistakes and are on the path we want to be on.

As you all know, I started my own consulting business about a year ago, and it’s been a learning experience to say the least. I’ve learned more about the business world and finance and taxes in the last year than I had in decades prior.

It occurred to me that one thing I truly love to do is learn…be it people…trees…the wind…math…okay…maybe not math much anymore, but you know what I mean? My spark is still there…in scenarios where I have to immerse myself into an environments where I have no bearing, and no experience. While I am hardly getting rich by becoming my own boss, but I am enjoying a level of freedom that I didn’t even know when I was a kid. Part of that freedom has been having the time to take on learning TONS of subject matter I didn’t have time for beforehand, and recently, I’ve even started inquiring about tuition costs for school because unfortunately, some of the world I want to know lays buried in the books and lectures of professors I normally wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

The bottom line, I miss learning, I miss that feeling where I’m entering a completely new arena and have to soak in absolutely everything. It keeps my mind from getting too bored, which unfortunately is very easy for me if I don’t have a conversation going on…or a book to read…or the internet to soak in and learn about…well…everything. Well, as I’ve learned recently, an undergraduate degree acquired online costs over $70k. Yup.

That is what I said. HOLY CHRIST ON A POGO STICK…SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS…

…and that is 100% do it yourself computer based training.

Unfortunately, as I stated above, I have time – but money like that – not readily available, especially considering my health problems and trying to buy a house this year…I know it’s simply not an option at rates like that.

So here comes that spark…

I’ve been a TED subscriber for quite some time, and the messages you hear on it are incredible…there are soooooo many people out there trying to broaden our horizons and make this world a far better place, it’s pretty inspiring. So much that I’ve tried to make sure I watch at least a few TED video’s every week or two so that I know what they know, or at the very lest can draw some ideas or inspiration.

And earlier today I saw this article on free courses offered online…

TED Blog – Completely free online classes? Coursera.org now offering courses from 16 top colleges

TED.com - Ideas Worth Spreading

And after that I checked out Coursera.org and found that t wasn’t the degree I longed for…it was the education, thee information, and the opportunity to soak more of the world or turn my brain to jello trying.

I went on to find a number of other organizations that offer free education and courses. I realized that some people and organization were finally trying to improve the world, by allowing the mind to grow. In a society that puts a price on access to virtually any information, there are finally a number of organization that are trying to share that wealth instead of profiteering from it.

Again. Me. Inspired!

So where did all that take me?

I have the time, I am going to take it and learn as much as I can while I still have it. There are already more courses out there than I could finish in the next decade, and I think that within the next few years the amount of curricula available will grow exponentially.

You’re probably reading this and thinking Jeez Tony you could have just said, “I’m going back to school.”

True, I could have, but then I wouldn’t have shared all these nifty links to all these places online that provide free education.

The Khan Academy – TONS of video and stuff…LOADS…I also found these guys from TED.

OpenLearn- I haven’t tried these guys yet but they have a huge course selection.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – Open Coursework from a great Medical School. Prize material for med students!

Tufts University – More Med school offerings


Stanford University
– That’s right, Stanford has buku lectures free via iTunes!!!!

UC Berkeley – More from UC Berkeley, available via iTunes!

OpenCulture – Has a FEKTON of courses listed available online.

Education Portal – Good information regarding online coursework.

What did I find for myself? A sustainability class, some newer Philosophy classes, loads of history classes I might actually like learning from…bottom line…enough for me to really enjoy regardless of where I learn it.

;)

-Tony



Dear Facebook (by Michael Aguilar)

Michael Aguilar - From PoorlyPlannedSafari.com

Guys, this is a letter one of my friends wrote in Facebook (to Facebook) that really needs to be more public than the silly public settings on Facebook itself. While this letter doesnt touch on some of the more questionable actions by Facebook we’ve learned of in the past, it does address a common dissatisfaction within the environment that most people do find in their experience with the service.

Michael is very much like me, he’s very savvy in the tech arena and often cracking some awesome one-liners that sometimes you’ll even find me quoting on the blog. He’s currently forgone the tech arena, and is currently taking a journey camping from Texas all the way to Alaska..no really, he’s actually doing it. I am featuring him here mainly because he’s a pretty cool cat and he posts rants like these that just make people want to hug him.



You can find him and his campy camping experiences at PoorlyPlannedSafari.com

Dear Facebook,

I think it’s time I explained something to you. It’s about what you are. Yes, I’m sure you’ve drunk enough of your own Kool-Aid to believe you are something new, cool, and different.

You’re not.

What you are is blogging for the masses. Nothing more. There isn’t anything happening here that hasn’t happened for years on other platforms. You just made it easy enough for anyone to get into it.

That’s great! Setting up and filling a blog used to be really hard. If you wanted to say something to the world, you had to jump through a lot of high hoops. HTML & CSS was enough to scare people away. If you wanted to manage access in any way, you had to convince people to sign up for it. You had to give out your URL, or urge people to subscribe to your RSS feed. You had to pester them to read the thing.

It was part tech, part marketing, and then only what you had to say.

That sucked, and you fixed it. Thank you.

So why even bring this up? Well, it seems that you’ve gotten a little too big-headed lately. You’re so fixated on being cool that you haven’t figured out that you’re not. You were just the next step in something that has been going on for almost 20 years.

So, now you’re running around buying and building things that nobody even asked for. Timeline? Really? Show me a successful blog laid out that way, I dare you. Nobody reads like that.

Instagram? Face.com? Sure, lots of people were using them, and I’m sure they will make fine additions. They’re cool, right?

What about the basics, though? Instead of listening to what your closed circle of people are telling you, why don’t you just look at the things WordPress does, and make it even simpler?

How about nested groups, or at least permitting more than one group access to a post, picture, or album? Managing access is still a complete pain. This is something that Google+ does much better.

What about (you knew I was going to say it) better photo management? Moving a picture from one album to another should be a no-brainer. It isn’t possible at all. Instead of automatically tagging faces, an automatic watermark would be nice.

And wow – these long-form posts really hammer the browser. I didn’t know that until just now. Take a look at it, would you?

Most importantly, quit trying to be so sneaky. This is our stuff. We want to talk to each other, not you. I’m sure most people understand that we’re giving away data to advertisers, and that’s not so bad. You gotta make a buck or two. That’s fine. Setting things so that we’re unknowingly sharing has got to stop. Take us more seriously.

“Cool”, by it’s nature, only lasts so long. You’re not lame, yet. You sure are working on it, though.

I’m not going anywhere just yet. This is where the people are. For now. I’ll go back to posting pictures of my cats.

Sincerely,

Michael Aguilar (but you already knew that)



How I met your mother…

Before you finish that thought. Yes…off the top of my head…this could have been a great big “your mama” joke.

But it isn’t…well…not exactly.

Because how I met your mother is irrelevant. I’m talking about the tv show. You see…I watched that tv show for the first time tonight and realized something.
I realized that for the past few years, I have been alluded to so many times about this tv show that it’s almost comical.

…and I never knew.

But see now I’ve seen the show. And I am continuing to watch, because I now know WHY so many people have said the oddest things to me. I’ll know why one of my best friends duct-taped two 40oz Mickeys to my hands at the beginning of my birthday party last year.

It’s all become sooooo clear. And now I have to watch all these episodes so that I will actually know what you all know about me.

You my friends are evil, but I love the hell out of you all.

Have a great night everyone!

-T



Listen to yourselves sometimes…

Dear Close-Minded Woman that pissed me off this week,

Perception is reality. 22% of the worlds population believes in Islam. It’s the worship of a single deity, with that deity’s word outlined in the Qur’an, and the teachings of a prophet named Mohammed. I could just as easily compare it to the Bible, God, and Moses just like my buddy did, and be quite satisfied in being correct…at least until we get into a more detailed description of the religion.

SO…maybe…just maybe…the next time someone greets you with a blessing you should be gracious enough not to act like someone just put a hex on you.

There is this knee-jerk reaction people have when engaging religions not their own that is usually uninformed, uneducated, and almost purely instinctual…almost fight or flight. That is explainable. The possibility that one may be right and the other wrong triggers a fight or flight reaction, most of the time verbally where a person spouts off whatever they can come up with in a few seconds and hide behind their faith in the argument…or worse. When in reality (personally I think religion is a horrible burden on spirituality, being now a tool for business and politic), they are both mutually destructive to one another and will continue to teach at least a small portion of their congregation that the other is the evil one.

The only end to this was to remove religious rule, and we did it.

What scares me most is that some people actually think that adapting the US government into any degree of Christian theocracy would actually protect us.

Separation of Church and State protects us. It has allowed our country to flourish where many other nations have fallen or been turned over in civil war nightmares. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” and Article VI specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

I completely understand feeling threatened by belief systems other than your own. I actually understand the feeling more than most. I just don’t understand the need to attack others beliefs to justify your own. Disproving someone else’s religion doesn’t make you right, it makes you a judge where none is necessary.

-Tony

NO…I am NOT a Muslim. I just cant stand religious bullies.



Masterpiece Theatre Part I

Masterpiece Theatre Part I
by Marianas Trench

When I was a kid you couldn’t get me to stop singing The Beatles and Queen. So much that I actually got in trouble a fair amount for singing in class, even on field trips…I just wouldn’t shut up ;) I think that maybe people had a clue then. Here I am decades later and still practicing songs when I know no one listens ;) Every time I hear this song play I get that same sly grin I had in those days long ago when I was about to start singing regardless of who was listening…or anyone who didn’t want to hear it ;)

It’s so funny because my best friend’s kid is just like that too and I’m not allowed to tell him I would get in loads of trouble for singing all the time.

First it comes on quiet creeping slow.
Clever words and phrases always stain,
I remain so lost and buried under everything
that i need when all i want is you.

I’ve been here so very long and every word
is calculated, never questioned or debated
All these practised poses, I could wreck it if i had
to but i’m the wreck so what would that do.
My masterpiece will fall apart;
it was over before the start

If I burn out and slip away.
If this is just a part I portray and
this is just a part I portray
You’re beautiful can I hide in you awhile.
but this is just a part I portray
and this is just a part I portray

They keep mostly to themselves;
don’t make a sound in case they hear you,
It only hurts me to be near you.
Keep those tired eyes closed careful follow my instruction
and i will show you self-destruction.
This Masterpiece is only mine, entirely guilty by design

If i burn out and slip away.
If this is just a part I portray and
this is just the part I portray
You’re beautiful can I hide in you awhile.
this is just a part I portray,
can I hide in you awhile.

I just can’t let, let it out
oh I just can’t let it out
I just can’t let, let it out
oh I just can’t let it out
I just can’t let, let it out
oh I just can’t let it out

if this is just a part I portray,
You’re beautiful can I hide in you awhile,
You’re beautiful, if this just a part I portray,
if this is just a part I portray,
I don’t know how it got this way



Little rant for the evening…

Good evening readers. (In this case “readers” is the term I casually use to act like I actually have “readers” when in fact…I am simply writing to myself a bit to vent.)

so.

It is absolutely amazing how loopy you can get when you’re tired, sick, and have taken a sizable shot of Nyquil to have an easier evening.

Well…when I say “you” I obviously mean “me”…unless…umm…nevermind.

So…in case you didn’t see my tweet, you should all google “askew” so you can see what its like for me every day.

Not the “askew” part per se, just the googling. I am asked to “google” things on a professional level so often that you might honestly wonder how I actually got into all this. Which was simple. A decade or so ago, I use to keep a journal. Shortly after a violent break up with the restaurant industry I started keeping my journals in electronic format. LiveJournal, then C2…at one time I was even using phpbb. Until finally after a gazillion hosts and many many blog platforms later…Wordpress won me over. Of course I am a great big dork. Mainly because every one in a while I have to say ‘Tony is a dork’ in my posts so that I come up on the search engines properly…that is…by searching for ‘Tony is a Dork’ you might still find me.

I did mention I am a little loopy. Mainly sleep deprivation of the “under-a-day” kind. We used to call that “wedging” – if you were awake for so long that you started feeling drunk…yeah thats wedging.

Luke the Cat - TonyTown.comAnyhow. I should probably introduce you to my assistant blogger, Luke.

Luke the cat is a little bundle of insane cat whoopass that you all know kittens to be.

He is lovable all the time. He plays with absolutely everything. His favorite toy is a straw, which you can use to make him climb up anything, including innocent roomies that dont realize that a spastic kitten is about to climb them like their life depended on it. He also feels my sandals are mice in disguise and attacks them regularly. And when he gets tired he gets absolutely adorable by climbing up my back without notice so he can curl up on my shoulder while I am typing. (Not joking…he really doesnt care what I am doing, when he wants to sleep he meows twice and if I havent picked him up he climbs on his own.

So yeah. I am really tired now, even the cat is passed out, and I just realized I wrote about nothing on my blog, so I’m fired and tired for the evening. You guys have a great one and hopefully my next post will have something remotely umm…relevant…in it eh?

Night!

-Tony (and his assistant Luke)



Counting the Hours

By My Digital Summer


I think that far too many of us are far too passive about what we’re doing to ourselves as a society. It’s like we’re a mile away from driving off a cliff but everyone wants to act like we can’t hit the breaks. I used to loath the idea of moving to more rural areas, and now it seems like thats the smartest thing I could consider. Weird eh? Then I stop being so gloomy and realize this song would be SO perfect to play at the beginning of “The Walking Dead.” Yep. Me. ;)

No streets to cry at night
For change to come about
We’ve finally worn out our welcome

And we plague the cities with disease
And we breed too many mouths to feed
It’s no surprise I’d like to see it all wash away

So let the story drop
With infinite power
Yet I’ll stand strong
Just counting the hours
Like nothing’s wrong
While the city’s devoured
The storm rolls on, in these final hours

It’s too late despite our regrets
We deserve everything we get
And I cant wait for the rain
I invite the earthquakes to hurricanes
And I love the moments just like this
Where the walls come down, and the chaos hits
There’s nothing like an apocalypse to open your eyes

So let the story drop
With infinite power
Yet I’ll stand strong
Just counting the hours
Like nothing’s wrong
While the city’s devoured
The storm rolls on, in these final hours

In these final hours

(Let it destroy everything)
(Don’t wanna save anything)

And I don’t care
If I watch the ocean swallow everything
I welcome the change
I’m so sick of this complete ignorance
Don’t care who survives
Cause I’ll be fine.

So let the story drop
With infinite power
Yet I’ll stand strong
Just counting the hours
Like nothing’s wrong
While the city’s devoured
The storm rolls on, in these final hours

(Let it destroy everything)
In these final hours
(Don’t wanna save anything)
Just let the storm keep raging on and on
It goes on and on
Rages on and on
In these final hours.



I’ll walk away from Facebook for supporting CISPA.

You all know I am incredibly big on freedom of information and the U.S. government really seems to be drinking some cybercrackpot’s kool-aid again. Because here we are again and it hasnt even been a year.

As it happens, the next incarnation of SOPA, called CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) is slowly creeping up on Capitol Hill.

…and once again, only a fraction of the proposed legislation has the interests of the American people behind it.

The rest of that legislation is geared toward holding companies blameless and granting them permission to submit personal data to the government without court order. This includes texts, email, private messages via social media…essentially most of the communications mediums we use privately are now suddenly available to the big business to use.

The Young Turks presented a very good explanation of the legislation and point out some incredibly important details that you should be aware of.

http://cyberspying.eff.org/

If you want to read an overabundance of views and peoples’ reactions and opinions on the matter, I STRONGLY suggest you check out The Debate Club because of the raw amount of information present. I will also point out that for some inexplicable reason the only people promoting this are those representing big business.

Essentially it comes down to this. Facebook doesn’t want to get in trouble for giving the government carte blanc to their information. Neither does Twitter. Now any other corporation. However that’s apparently where that sense of importance ends. As long as they arent held liable for invading our privacy, they simply stop considering it an invasion of privacy.

And thus we come to this little tidbit…

Nothing you say or do online should ever be considered secure, safe, or private. You can take all the precautions you want, but the bottom line is that the government will never back down from making online activity fully trackable and accessible. A worse turn will be it impact this has on free speech. Too many people have been conditioned to fear first and question freedoms after their lost. This legislation will allow companies to attempt to silence individuals without proof or due process.

Lame.

So, that’s basically where I draw the line. I will publish 100% from my blog and own my own information and only promote forums where privacy is respected, not just alluded to.

Here’s my idea. Omit the 60% of the bill that allows private companies to be privy to our information and remove the guarantees of non-liability. I bet these companies work one hell of a lot harder to clean up their content rather than simply saying “not my fault!”

-Tony



Shrooms! (Mushrooms Stuffed Full of Yum)

I’ve been REALLY craptastic about posting to the blog, I know it. No excuses here…luckily this blog was never a part of my livelyhood and the only people to yell at me about it are on twitter (and Amazon – apparently they have some sort of *rule* about their paid authors actually writing…go figure).

Anyhow…it’s time for some really awesome foodstuff, I’ve been coming up with more and more really original recipes lately. I’ve gotten some pretty awesome reviews of my mushrooms, straight out of Tony’s Kitchen!

Real Simple.

So Simple this almost isn’t a real blog post, but here it goes.

INGREDIENTS

Fresh white (champaign) Mushrooms - Stuffed Mushrooms - Tonytown.comMushrooms (8-16oz)
These are those regular white mushrooms you find int the produce areas of the grocery store, you can find better ones if you really want to go all the way, and if you really want to impress your favorite vegetarian, you can opt to go with portabellas and top them with the stuffing, tastes frickin AWESOME.



Black and Green Olives - Stuffed Mushrooms - Tonytown.comBlack Olives (6oz)
If you want cheap and fast, just get black minced olives in a can. If you prefer fresher (I do – always) find yourself a decent olive bar (usually only found in decent grocery stores) and get your fill. Be prepared to pay far too much for fresh olives though..it’s almost silly.



A fresh white onion - Stuffed Mushrooms - Tonytown.com1 Large White Onion (6-10ounces at least)
Green onion really won’t work too well in this, and purple onions don’t mince as well, as I like, so I usually opt for the white onions on this. I’ve run into a couple people that didn’t like onions, but didn’t even bat an eyelash at chowing down on these stuffed mushrooms, so unless they are allergic, I encourage people to try them before acting like you’re asking them to try castor oil ;)


Balls of Mozzarella Chesse - Stuffed Mushrooms - Tonytown.comMozzarella Cheese (8-16oz)
Finely shredded Moz is awesome. If you get fresher blocks it will make an incredible difference on the taste. If you have a Vegan in the group, you can substitute real Moz for Dairy-Free Mozzarella by Daiya Foods.

PREP

1. Preheat your oven to about 400 degrees (Fahrenheit).

2. Break the stems out of the mushrooms. I usually slice the stems for use in other sauces etc. No use in wasting good ingredients!

3. Mince the onion, the olives and the Moz. If you have a good processor you can mince this all at the same time until you have a fine paste. Otherwise, mince until you are comfy with the consistencies and mix them thoroughly together.

4. Treat the mushrooms like little bowls and you want to fill them up with the mixed stuffing. until they are overflowing by about 1/8 of an inch.

5. Place the mushrooms in a non-stick roasting pan. You only need to give them about a half inch space between so you should be able to fit quite a few in the pan.

COOKINS

Place the pan full of goodness into the preheated oven, and set your timer for 25 minutes.

NOTES
1. If you like your mushrooms’ texture to be more steamed than baked, you can easily pour a thin layer of water into the bottom of the roasting pan. About 1/4-3/8 of an inch of water will serve to effectively give you more juicy mushrooms.
2. If you opt for the Vegan Friendly version, please note that the Dairy-Free Mozzarella by Daiya Foods takes longer to melt so you may have to leave the Shrooms in the oven a bit longer. ;)



Politicians, Debates and Schrödinger’s Cat

I just thought of something, if politicians were prohibited from alluding to a scenario involving Schrödinger’s Cat -metaphorically or otherwise- it might actually save the world economy a ton of money and time spent in syndication, thus disallowing them to pander fears and ideas that exist only by those same politicians’ own descriptions.
Schrödinger's CatIf you didn’t understand what I said:

    1.Please go find out about Schrödinger’s Cat.
    2.Understand the application of this theory to modern political asshattery in the media.
    3.Watch the debates again.

or as an alternative you can:

Drink more Kool-Aid.

Anyhow, it occurred to me tonight, that buried within most of the rhetoric and banter between candidates in the GOP debates, these guys directly allude to Schrödinger’s Cat in one form or another.

…My example is as follows:

…Pandering to the idea that the cat is dead and might still bite and scratch you…or maybe…the cat’s alive and out to steal your freedom as soon as it’s released. Worse still, the idea that someone actually KNEW there was a cat in the box AND gave it poison. Is that person criminal? How do we charge them?

…you have to remember…no one knows if the poison even affected the cat. Yet…we’re going to allow ourselves to be guided on a crazy journey of how beautiful this poor little cat was and how we wish it were still alive…

…then we’ll be guided into how we’ll hold responsible the horrible man that put that poor cat through such a horrible ordeal.

…then the media will make it worse by sensationalizing the state of the box that poor poor cat was imprisoned in.

…then we find out that some country that we have a some strategic or financial interest in supplied the poison.

…by the time the politicians are finished inspiring us and protecting our national interest in the cat…billions of dollars are allocated and we’re going to stop that country from ever poisoning cats again. Because that’s what they are. Cat killers.

…it gets worse. we are informed that an small extremist group of fanatics (who it so happens don’t even know what a cat is but believe the U.S. to be responsible for all the problems that arose from poison boxes) intend to place cats in boxes across the U.S. and poison them. With a fervor that shakes the world economy and eventually accounts for a truly scary portion of the national deficit, we eliminate and destabilize those horrible cat killers.

In the last ten years since things have become REALLY crazy and scary, the loss of innocent life in the last decade makes me saddens me to the bone, the effect of profiteering at the expense of our economy has sliced my income in half and even then, there are a lot of people here far worse off than I am, and yet the politicians got their salary increase and kept their benefits while the people they likely misrepresent to satisfy special interests and lobbies start to become a little more aware of the practice.

…and now comes the time where we have the opportunity to decide on which leader will be most capable in making sure the box is never opened again, the poison is never produced again, and the cats never die.

After repeatedly making laws that serve the big business and the financial block, we begin to realize that we have far more to fear and distrust in those who represent us in the government. All the candidates are either viewed as proven failures, proven liars, proven crooks, proven loons, even worse…proven inexperience.

…debates rage between potential leaders regarding the dead cat, the unclean box, and looming threat of yet another poison.

…we are told we have to remember what’s happened historically with cats, boxes, and poisons, and that the party that wants to make antidotes for the poison just in case isn’t a priority because the cats all of a sudden are jumping into boxes. Worse still, we’ve found out that a nation that hasn’t attacked another nation in hundreds of years suddenly hates Geiger counters.

And so the debates are still going now. They are getting more and more poignant and the candidates are fighting already, the tasteless commercials depicting candidates as faithless lunatic crooks are in full swing. Again, we begin to loose faith as we realize that the current electoral, media coverage, and campaign system will not allow the US to rally behind a single leader ever again…even if they deserve it.

The worst thing of all. For the last umpteen years, we’ve had to listen to politicians earning a living and invariably stressing information about a cat that never existed, a box that we never owned, a poison that actually was never created, and lastly a Geiger counter that was never really necessary.

Maybe you’ll get it. This isn’t about which GOP candidate can beat Obama in an election (if that’s even possible coming election time). This isn’t about all the dirt you see in commercials and advertizements. It’s not about who’s got some truly radical ideas (in every sense of the word).

I think it’s more about your own priorities after you’ve managed to filter out all the crap they’ve been feeding you about the idea of Schrödinger’s Cat.

Thus ends my rant for the evening.

For everyone returning to my site after everyone on the internet got a 12-24 hour taste of what kind of effect SOPA/PIPA will have on the US-based netizens, you can find a VERY clear and descriptive article on what SOPA and PIPA are on Wikipedia. So far the very best (and maybe the most objective) description of what the bill is about.

Take care and good night.

-Tony

PS – Ignoring the lines starting with … will serve as a shining example of what I was trying to point out.