Author: Sarah (Page 1 of 14)

The Contagion Piggybacking on the Pandemic

While everyone has adjusted to life in the era of Covid-19, there’s another contagion piggybacking on the pandemic…burnout. You’ve probably noticed it in your workplace and you’re not alone. The added stress of kids going back to school (or not?), working from home (possibly with a spouse), and trying to remember to wear your mask everywhere despite perhaps peer pressure has taken a toll on the mental state of everyone.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a parent or working from home to feel the impacts of these situations because burnout is contagious. Yes, you can catch burnout from your coworkers. A study on teacher burnout was able to backup this hypothesis a few years back. It seems the negative attitudes of senior teachers were a major factor in new teachers getting burnout in their first 4 years at any given school.

But why is it so contagious? Maybe we should *yawn* take a step back. You probably have witnessed it before. Someone yawns and that triggers someone else to yawn. That’s the work of our mirror neurons! And a study in Switzerland was able to show that there is a connection between higher cognitive empathic function and this part of our brain.

Even when we’re not physically mimicking what we see, these mirror neurons are at work. It’s one of the ways we’re able to learn, empathize, and connect with others – even when the emotions we’re sharing are negative.

Now let me give you an example. You’re starting the workday and you’re feeling great. You check your email and see at the top of the pile is an email from a coworker. It looks out-of-the-ordinary so you click it and check it out. It’s filled with snark, passive aggressive comments, and a demand for your time and attention.

If you’re able to approach this with a level head, you might try calling them to check in and see if everything is ok. You may ask a few questions and spend the rest of the call just listening to their problems, however…if you’re burnt out you’re going to respond a little different. Perhaps you fire back an email filled with snark and a no. Maybe even CC someone higher up to get their attention on the problem. This isn’t actually helpful for anyone and now you’ve made a bad email into a renewable source for burnout.

Everyone pulled into the experience is going to walk away at minimum, annoyed. And then they have small interactions with other people and the chain reaction becomes…well…unstoppable. Or is it?

When a whole office is caught up in a negative feedback loop fueled by burnout, you have to stop. Not just one or two people taking a vacation and running away from the problem, you have to stop and signal to everyone that there is hope. After all, burnout is a crisis of hope.

A Taste of New York Chips from Western New York

New York Chips vs Saratoga Chips for Best New York State Chip
It’s been some time since I posted and while I’ve thought of a number of different things I wanted to write about I haven’t found a lot of time to do so. I recently bought a house, moved back from California, started working on a startup, and in my spare time I’ve learned to code. Needless to say, busy.

That being said, I can’t ignore anything related to small businesses in New York. If you don’t know, New York Chips are the potato chip that’s 100% made in New York. The potatoes are grown, processed, and packaged right here in Western New York. Do you know how excited I was to find and try them?!

This weekend I noticed the place I usually pickup my pizza from had a display with a few different flavors. The shelf was half empty so I suspect I was a little late to the party, but I grabbed a bag of salt & vinegar. Somehow I refrained from popping it open on the way home.

My original plan was to save them until I grilled some burgers, but I couldn’t wait that long. I ended up eating them just hours after purchase…even though I’d eaten pizza and wings. I have to say, these were some of the most flavorful potato chips I’ve ever eaten. I know, I know, blasphemer, right?

If you don’t understand let me explain. While I’m raving about these potato chips from Western New York, I’m somewhat slighting the original potato chip, which is also from New York. Saratoga Springs, NY to be exact.

The original potato chip was meant to be an insult to a picky customer at Moon’s Lake House on Saratoga Lake back in the 1800’s. The customer insisted that his fried potatoes were too soggy and needed to be thinner. The chef made them as thin as possible expecting to laugh when they were unable to be picked up with a fork, but instead they were a hit. The Saratoga Chips company has been making them ever since and it’s certainly hard to disavow the company from the title of best potato chip in New York.

I like Saratoga potato chips, but they’re…healthy tasting. I obviously buy them because I like to support local companies, but they aren’t exactly the chip you can bring to a BBQ. (Speaking of which, they do make the best BBQ flavor chip in the world.) What I like about New York Chips is they’re a bit more casual. Aside from the Avocado Oil & Sea Salt, the flavors are pretty standard. You won’t see anything to match Saratoga’s Thai Sweet Chili and so picking out something for a crowd of people is a bit easier.

Honestly, I just love seeing businesses in New York succeed. We have an abundance of agricultural resources that get spent on cow corn and I love seeing the market expand to allow for greater value products. So go ahead, grab yourself a bag of chips and feel good about supporting a small business!

Developer Week 2017 in San Francisco

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This was my first time attending the Developer Week Conference and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I attended a handful of talks and walked around the show floor and was overall pleasantly surprised.

I should start off saying that I’ve always found virtual reality (VR) to be a bit too gimmicky. Often applications that are released are focused around video games. While that may be fun I’ve never understood why Silicon Valley has been so in love with the technology until now.

Two specific events at this show helped me to make the jump from VR skeptic to VR advocate. The first was encountering a company on the trade show floor called Primitive.io. A few of my friends from 42 had seen me walking by and asked if I wanted to see how code could be visualized in VR. I scoffed and gave a general overview of my opinion on VR. Thankfully Avik Das, the CTO of Primitive, was standing nearby and jumped into the conversation.

What I didn’t grasp right away was that this wasn’t a gimmick for someone to pretend to code in the matrix, the software being developed was intended to help solve a problem for almost any tech company. If you’re unfamiliar with programming or even managing programmers I’ll explain briefly.

When a company is reaching that key growth phase where things are taking off there are always too few programmers and too much work. This means companies have to hire on more programmers, but it takes some time for each programmer to read and understand the company’s codebase. This results in all kinds of delays and communication issues and the problems don’t stop there. Long-term issues like maintaining documentation, updating old code, and debugging new code all require at least one person to build a comprehensive understanding of all the code and its functionality in their head.

What Primitive.io is doing is taking that information out of the head of that one architect and moving into a virtual space so that it can be understood and reviewed by anyone. I’d even say a technically savvy non-programmer could get a handle on the workings of their company code using this tool. I truly think that John Voorhee’s and his team are onto something very cool and would highly recommend any technical manager or team lead to try this out.

The second event at Developer Week that really changed my mind about VR was a talk by David Holz. I had heard about a product his company, Leap Motion, had created years ago. It was a camera that pointed down at a desk and could read your hand movements. This product was the talk of the town at my alma matter Rochester Institute of Technology. The college shares a campus with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and a number of students and alumni were interested in the applications of the technology for American Sign Language.
Anyway, fast forward to the talk at Developer Week, the company has come a long way. They demonstrated their VR headset add-on that can read hand movements and then map them into a VR world. These virtual appendages can then be used as controllers in the virtual world to manipulate objects, open menus, and change the environment.

It was amazing to watch, but even more interesting was the lecture itself. David gave an easy-to-digest history of VR headset development as well as shared a number of his predictions and opinions related to the industry.

Overall I was glad to have attended the conference and get a peak into the minds of so many intelligent people. As much as I love to talk up the great state of New York, I have to admit, this was a truly San Francisco event. I’m not sure there is anywhere else you’d be able to find so many brilliant projects in one room. I look forward to seeing what all of these companies are able to do in the next few years!

TCM Falls Short with Streaming Video Service FilmStruck

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I need to confess, before I signed up for FilmStruck I already had it in my head the kind of glowing review I was going to write. I was going to talk about how FilmStruck was going to run away with a bunch of Netflix customers, but then I created an account. I used my computer and while it wasn’t a horrible experience I did take note of the bulky join flow they had.

“That’s ok,” I told myself. “It’s just a join flow. Not everyone’s spent years optimizing those like me!” The selection was fantastic. Unlike Netflix, Amazon, HBO Now, and Hoopla I wasn’t sitting there trying to find something tolerable to watch. I gleefully added film after film to my watch list. I signed up for the yearly plan so I needed to make sure I had a nice big queue waiting for me!

Once I felt like I had a good lineup I decided I’d curl up in bed with my phone and watch some of these movies. I’ve got an iPhone so I went to the app store and started the download. I started to get a little nervous when I saw the reviews though. Two out of five stars is…really low. It couldn’t be that bad though right? I scrolled through and most of the complaints seemed to center around no airplay feature. OK, that I can deal with. Some people mentioned crashing, having to reinstall the app, and some similar issues, but I figured that couldn’t be the majority so I kept moving forward.

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I logged into the app just fine, picked out my movie and…no sound. I thought perhaps it was just a bug with that movie, but as I went through both the Criterion Collection and TCM’s films I realized, it was all the videos. I even tried to switch over to my iPad, but no dice. The app ran even worse on tablet and crashed the seven or so times I tried to get something playing.

I was a bit deflated as I continued to navigate the streaming service’s interface I lost track of how many UX mistakes were being made. Any other video streaming service would KILL to get their hands on content this good, and yet I feel like FilmStruck is determined to disappoint. If you don’t have a clue about who I am or what FilmStuck is I’ll quickly fill you in. (If you already know, sit tight.) I spend a few years managing a team of marketers, designers, and developers to sell a subscription video service and we were one of the first to successfully break into the mobile market. I can confidently say I know what works when it comes to video streaming services. FilmStruck is Turner Classic Movie’s response to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the rest of the world. They decided instead of licensing their content through these third party services they would rather directly capture the value of their customers. Fantastic idea! Expect they’ve failed almost completely.

I wanted to write a message to someone working on FilmStruck who would understand the weight of the free advice I was going to hand out so I headed over to LinkedIn. Unfortunately, this is where I got truly sour toward FilmStruck. As I scrolled through I saw nearly two dozen people listed as managers, freelance writers, and directors of something important working at FilmStruck. You can probably see where I’m headed…I decided to take a peek at just what jobs FilmStruck is hiring for. With all of these development bugs, certainly they must be looking to hire a swarm of developers! Nope. They did have some more positions for FilmStruck, but they were centered around data analysis.

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There are a few reasons why this made me particularly upset. It suggests that FilmStuck is contracting out their development, and not even to a good development team. There are literally hundreds of companies who already have proven video streaming white labels (a skin so you can brand your content with their tech to offer a streaming video service) and FilmStruck could have used ANY of them for likely a fraction of the cost this custom-built turd is costing them.

My second reason for being upset with FilmStruck is that they are hiring data analysis positions which wouldn’t be necessary if they had a good development team making their platform in the first place! A smart development team would have made a custom algorithm to recommend films, they would have built in tracking to understand what users are doing, and they would have made reports so that any person at any level of the organization could understand FilmStuck customers. We did this where I worked and we had a much smaller team than these guys.

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Lastly, they just released an Apple TV app. WHY?! I know maybe one or two people who have an Apple TV and they probably don’t fall into the FilmStruck demographic. Why didn’t they spend some time fixing their existing Apple apps instead of releasing a third, probably broken, app? I would imagine that the people who would be interested in FilmStruck are highly-educated, older, probably in a high income bracket…and you know what kind of devices those people tend to have? (Spoiler, according to Forbes it’s an iPhone.) I can only imagine why this didn’t come up in a meeting, or if it did why nothing was done about it!

I rarely write anything negative on my blog, (feel free to scroll back and look if you don’t believe me) so you have to understand just how insanely disappointed I am by FilmStruck to make such a long rant. Maybe FilmStruck has “too many cooks in the kitchen” or perhaps their company culture is accepting of low-quality work, but I can see by the app reviews that I’m not the only one who was letdown by the release of FilmStruck. Perhaps it will get better over time, but I don’t think I’ll be able to support their product as it is now.

42 USA: The Free Coding College

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The past month I’ve been learning to code in Silicon Valley as part of the application process for the no-strings-attached free-tuition school called 42. If you’ve been following my twitter, you might have noticed one or two posts about the application tests and process. The owner of the French telecom network free founded the college in Paris, and this year they opened their second campus location in California. The college has no teachers, no accreditation, and has just started to build it’s reputation, but the draw of a free education that leads to a good paying job seems to be attractive to people from all walks of life.

Why Did I Decide to Go?

Like many, when I started the application process it was on a whim. I saw a link somewhere and thought it would be a fun way to test my intelligence. I have always been mildly interested in learning programing, but I wasn’t ever sure if I “had what it takes.” When I received my invitation to the in-person month-long bootcamp I had to give it some serious thought. Eventually I decided that regardless of the admissions process, I could learn a lot from the “piscine.” (I’m told this translates to “swimming in a pool” from French.) Not only that, but I was worried that if I didn’t go I would regret not taking the opportunity since I’m fast approaching their maximum acceptance age.

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What I Learned At 42

I’ve taught myself a number of different skills through video tutorials and reading online so I wasn’t too worried at the lack of teaching staff at 42. That said, I think more people would succeed if the school made a few changes to how prospective students learned during the piscine. Prior to flying out I think everyone could benefit from reading The C Programing Language, by Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie. During the piscine you’re too busy to play catch-up so those who have a basic understanding of programming concepts seem to be more successful. Of course, there are instructional videos throughout the month-long program, but they are only mildly helpful. I know for a fact that 42 is working to re-make the piscine content though so I expect the videos and PDFs will be infinitely more useful for future pisciners.

In the end, I did learn some C. I have always tried to avoid learning C because I didn’t know what I would do with it, but not only have I learned C, but I’ve learned why learning C is important! I also learned more about how I learn. I know that sounds redundant, but understanding what tactics help me to retain information the best will be useful for everything I want to learn for the rest of ever! And yes, maybe some people think they learn this at college, high school, or at some other point in life, but I didn’t realize how ineffective my old techniques were at teaching me to retain information until I tried to use them for this piscine.

What I Loved Most About 42

The people…and cantina… Can I love two things the most? I knew the people who would be drawn to 42 would be interesting and I wasn’t disappointed. In some ways, I chose to go to Rochester Institute of Technology for my formal education because of the people. When I re-visit the campus as an alumnus I feel a bit sad that I don’t see as many weird kids. (And I mean that in the best possible way.) Fortunately 42 didn’t disappoint me in this regard.

Politics were a hot topic during my piscine since the presidential election was concluded in the middle of the whole thing. It was interesting to hear from people that were self-identifying as everything from near-Marxist to alt-right. Even aside from that we had some real characters. The lack of sleep and high level of stress allowed you to see a huge range of emotion from each person in a fairly short window of time. It truly made you feel like you’d known these people for much longer than you did. By the end of it I was hoping everyone would be going back to further their education so that I could spend time with them all.

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My Slight Criticisms

The school as a whole doesn’t do a great job with communication. You’re told not to trust rumors, but often times without rumors you’d be left in the dark. Prior to leaving it was a struggle to find out critical information like when the end date was, when you had to be moved out of the dorm, and the food situation. I now know that some things, like the food situation, were still being worked on so they didn’t have a lot to tell the pisciners. (There is now a great cantina in the dorm building for students, but it wasn’t open until the second week of our piscine since the original food vendor left abruptly.) I think the lack of communication at 42 was particularly apparent in the struggle for the cantina to provide food for students. There was always a highly volatile amount of food that needed to be made. For instance, our last night we threw a good-bye pisciners BBQ, but the kitchen staff didn’t know that so they ended up cooking for more people than showed up. It sounds like such a small thing, but those little communication breakdowns cause a lot of stress, frustration, and unhappiness for staff, students, and pisciners alike.

Now in the school’s defense, they do seem to be aware of this and are working to improve the communication. I think we received more emails about events, processes, and expectations in the last week of our piscine than every other week combined. I expect the staff is just over-worked and backlogged with projects at the moment and that this will continue to be a better experience for everyone as things fall into place.

I have so much more to say about 42, but I wanted to post something covering the major points before I got my acceptance or rejection letter. (I think that makes the opinions a bit more objective.) Overall, I’m glad I went and I would encourage those who are truly interested in coding to try it for themselves. I think I walked away with enough knowledge and skill to have made the experience worth the temporary inconvenience to my day-to-day life.

Toss Your Soylent Snack Bars

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So remember when I reviewed Soylent 2.0  and talked about the companies energy bars? As it turns out you might not want to eat those after all.

The company has vaulted production of the bars and has told anyone who still has some to throw them out. Customers around the country have been complaining of gastrointestinal distress after eating just one bar. Finding yourself stuck to a toilet for the day probably negates any time savings you got from eating a bar instead of a full meal.

The company hasn’t explained what went wrong with their snack bars yet. It’s possible there was some kind of food contamination, but there is also a chance that this is a formulation problem. Users have claimed having a slight soy intolerance from other Soylent products in the past.

This isn’t the first time Soylent has been caught shipping a product that made their customers sick. The launch of their 2.0 drink (the one I reviewed) had to be delayed because of mold found growing inside the containers. Yum yum, right?

Dont get me wrong, every company tends to fall short of their promises now and then. I do think Soylent has a lot of potential as a brand and product, but if you’ve got sensitive stomach enzymes you might want to opt for some other meal replacement product.

The Ringing Rocks of Pennsylvania

ringing rocks campground Pennsylvania

It’s important to try and get your outdoor activities in before winter when you live someplace like New York. Naturally, this means camping in the beginning of fall! My youngest sister had pointed out that just outside Philadelphia there was a cool phenomenon known as The Ringing Rocks. In typical Kohl-sister fashion, we decided that planning a last minute trip over the weekend was do-able so we packed our things and headed out for the keystone state.

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We decided to tent camp at a campground called, The Ringing Rocks Campground, mostly because it was close to our destination. As it turned out, the campground was actually an amazing choice! The staff was incredibly friendly, they had a campground shop with everything you could have forgotten, and they had clean bathrooms with free showers! I should also note that the weekend we were visiting they were running their annual trivia game. (We didn’t win, but we didn’t come in last place!) Most of the campers there were people who stayed all season and they had built a good community atmosphere that was welcoming to the transient tent campers.

In the morning, we made the short drive to the Ringing Rocks park and started hitting stuff with a hammer. (You have to bring your own so don’t forget that!) We had brought my other sisters dog and she managed to hop from rock pile to rock pile without too much difficulty. I was surprised at the number of other dogs there! Some were just tiny things that had to be carried, while others gleefully followed their owners off-leash. The rocks were fantastic though. You could find ones that were different tones and make melodies by hitting them.

The people there were pretty great too. One of the guys was there with his extended family and the group had brought a couple dogs with them. They were telling up about a waterfall we could hike to and shared the location of an off-trail route of getting to it. We chatted with them awhile and discussed all of the conspiracy theories about the ringing rocks. (Did they come from space? Why doesn’t vegetation grow in-between them? Why do they stop ringing when you take them away from that specific site?) And in the end, they shared some of their dog treats with our traveling companion.

While we were in the area we decided to check out a few other things. We stopped at this college and hiked back into the woods to see these weird modern art sculptures done by students. (And of course took some goofy photos!) Unfortunately, there was a lot of broken glass so we didn’t stay too long.

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We had seen some billboards for Mazeilla a 14-acre corn maze on the way to the ringing rocks and thought we would stop there and check it out. When we pulled in we saw the giant No Dogs sign and decided it was best not to put up a fight with the workers. Fortunately, the stop wasn’t in vain as we realized we had stumbled across a town in the middle of the Appalachian Trail! Knowing that was dog friendly, we pulled over and started to hike. We did see a couple through-hikers but most were just day-hikers like ourselves.

After we had hiked to exhaustion, we decided to turn back. You might not guess this, but Pennsylvania is “a bit” hilly. Just before we got back to our vehicle, a small grey kitten jumped out in front of us. Of course, we picked it up petted it and tried to find it’s owner. Nobody seemed to know anything about the kitten. I told my sister to set it down and see if it would lead her someplace. It did lead her to it’s prized destination which turned out to be an opened bag of generic brand potato chips. After seeing that we scooped it back up, and decided to preemptively end our trip in favor of getting the kitten home with us to NY.

We called our brother-in-law who’s rescued more than his fair share of cats and he gave us a bunch of pointers. By the time we were back to NY, we had already found some new owners for the kitten. Before it left for it’s new home it stayed with my sister a couple days and we got to see what a sweet and loving cat it really was.

The new owners took the little tatter to the vets and were happy to hear it was completely healthy. They also found out that it was a little girl kitten and named her Ash. It was a happy ending to a spontaneous trip to Pennsylvania for sure!

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The Most Detailed Review of Soylent 2.0 in Existence

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Last week I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. We decided to get lunch and reminisce. While we were eating one of the things he mentioned was that this was the first solid meal he had eaten in days. I was a bit shocked, but he went on to explain that he had been primarily drinking Soylent during his trip to New York. I knew he had been drinking this stuff awhile back, and even tried a little last time I visited him. That said, I didn’t think he would be able to survive on a Soylent diet very long.

As he explained, the company behind Soylent released a 2.0 version that comes pre-mixed and packaged in individual servings. Part of my disinterest in the product before was that version 1.0 (a powder) required you to mix three servings of the drink at a time and keep them refrigerated. That’s fine if you’re drinking them as meal replacements for every meal of the day, but I just wanted something for an emergency meal on the go. Needless to say I had a million questions about version 2.0.

After he answered all my questions I asked my friend if he was getting some kind of sales commission for what seemed like the best pitch for Soylent I’d ever heard. A few days later I was ordering a box on Amazon.

My friend told me that while version 2.0 is drinkable at room temperature, it’s much better when chilled so I popped my bottles in the fridge when they arrived. If you’re wondering what exactly is in Soylent I can give you a hint, it’s not people. As the name suggests, it’s primarily soy with guest appearances from algal oil and isomaltulose. Of course, there are also some added vitamins and minerals, but the idea is that it should have the nutritional contents to make up 20% of your daily recommended…everything.

All right so you’re probably wondering how it tasted, yeah? My first impression was that it tasted like white. If the color white had a flavor this would be it. It was nearly flavorless, which really was a significant improvement over the powdered version. It was entirely drinkable, easy enough to keep on hand, and unlike a lot of the other meal replacement drinks, I felt full after drinking it.

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What I didn’t particularly like was the packaging. The label was very trendy, but these are white bottles, covered in white plastic, just so a small square of text could be printed on the bottle. The top section of the plastic label tears off to expose a black cap. When you take that off, there is a foil seal over the bottle that needs to be removed before you drink it. Unfortunately, whatever adhesive is used to stick the foil to the bottle creates weird strings of glue that aren’t easily removed. You can kind of feel them on your lips as you drink and I didn’t like that.

The cost-per-meal is good coming in around $3-4 and still cheaper and healthier than any fast food you can get. I don’t think I would want to drink these for every meal, but if you did you could save a fortune on your grocery bill!

The company does make a few other products, but I wasn’t as interested in those. There is a coffee blend of Soylent called Coffiest that I hear is better than version 2.0, but I don’t like coffee. They also just released an energy bar that looks pretty decent, but the cost per calorie is significantly higher than Soylent. For me there is a point at which my “quick meal” gets expensive enough that I would rather just grab a decent lunch and enjoy my food. I suppose that’s why they recommend the energy bar be used as a snack instead of a full meal replacement.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about my Soylent experience. I’m truly enjoying this little experiment and it’s got to be healthier for me than picking up Taco Bell!

What is MIT’s Project “Solid” And Why Should You Care About It?

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Tim Berners-Lee gave us the gift of the Internet without patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Unlike the giant tech companies we know today, Tim Berners-Lee provided global value to society without putting his own self-interest first. Now this genius wants to revolutionize his creation with “Solid” and the team at MIT’s lab.

Solid stands for “social linked data” and somewhat represents the block chain system we see being used for crypto currency. The end users would store their personal information in personal online data stores, or “pods,” and access to this information would only be aloud by applications that have the authority to do so.

How is this different from today’s system? Right now your personal information is being centralized and stored by all the big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and any other service where you have an account. These companies make a phenomenal amount of money off of that data. They analyze it for internal project developments, rent it out to ad buyers, and sell it to third parties who just want to know a bit more about their customers. In other words, it’s impossible to keep your personal data personal anymore.

What’s worse is in the current system, hackers can gain access to one database and get the personal data on thousands or millions of people. Under the proposed layout of Solid, that data would be decentralized and (hopefully) personally owned. You could keep your banking information in one pod, your contacts in another pod, and your health information in a third pod. This would prohibit applications from poking about where they don’t belong for profit. Of course, because so many large companies make so much money from the current system it may be impossible to change it.

Of course, Solid and MIT aren’t the only ones trying to decentralize the web. The InterPlanetary File System is trying to achieve the same goal, but through a model more similar to BitTorrent. These folks want to decentralize whole websites by allowing multiple computers to provide various parts of a page instead of pointing a domain to a server. They believe this would reduce censorship and increase website up-time.

It all comes down to supply and demand, but I certainly hope people take the time to learn about this technology and realize how it can change their lives for the better. We live in an ever-changing world, and we must continue to improve through innovation.

PSA For Rural Pokémon Go Players

I know the frustration, I talked about it here in great detail, but this post is short. I’ve got some good news for you rural trainers!

You can now request to add a PokéStop near you! Yes, now you and your friends can now bombard the developers with requests! I’ll warn you that I did have my request denied, however, I assume they will keep this information on file somewhere for a possible future expansion. Don’t give up hope! It also might be a good idea to coordinate your friends to request the same location. Regardless, it shows that the developers are aware of the issue and are working toward a solution. Hang in there!

In the meantime, if you didn’t read my original post, please do. It’s filled with a bunch of tips that might make your countryside training a bit easier. Happy hunting!

Playing Pokémon Go from Rural Area to Big City

pokemon go sarah kohl rural rochester ny

First off, I need to admit something. I don’t have the Pokédex memorized, I failed at nearly every Name-that-Pokémon, and I have never finished a single Pokémon game. You know what though? It doesn’t matter when playing Pokémon Go. The game reminds me a lot of Pokémon Snap. There is no great storyline, gameplay is simple, and there are a limited number of Pokémon you can catch. So why is everyone playing it?

It’s got a great community vibe to it. When I installed it I was in a rural area and there were no landmarks or gyms nearby. Heck, it didn’t even say there were Pokémon nearby! I closed the app and didn’t think much about it until I visited my friend in the great city of Rochester this weekend.


Login issues aside, once we both decided to walk around the block and play we were hooked. What started out as “maybe we’ll play this for an hour or two” turned into a treck from the city, to the beach, and then to visit our alma mater. We kept playing because the game helped us connect with people in real life. It was addicting to be able to walk anywhere at any time of day and run into people who would strike up a conversation.

“What team are you on?”
“Did you get that Pikachu back there?”
“Have you been able to find the Beedrill?”

Easy game-related conversation starters lead to learning peoples names, talking about careers, current events, and even connecting on Facebook so we could hang out later. In a time when people are constantly moving for work opportunities I can think of nothing better than learning about your neighborhood and making new friends. That’s what’s making this game so addictive for me and I hope other people are having a similar experience! (If not, move to Rochester, NY!)


After intensely playing for a short time, I would encourage people to start playing sooner than later. It’s very likely that this international epidemic will wane in popularity in a month or so. If you’re having trouble getting started here are a few things I’ve learned:

 

  • If you live in a rural area, play till level 5 or so in a city. You’ll want to focus on getting eggs, Pokéballs, and incense. These items will let you go to even the most remote place on earth (with cell reception) and still have fun playing. When you run out of them, you can just make a quick trip back to a city to collect more.
  • Playing with others is more fun. So if you’re walking around alone strike up a conversation with some other people playing. (You can tell by the way they stare at their phone!) If they don’t seem interested in grouping up, don’t follow them. Just tell them where you’ve seen some interesting stuff and find someone else who wants to talk.
  • If you are having trouble finding new or different Pokémon, try going for a drive and finding some new terrain. Water Pokémon can be found next to water, electric ones can be found in parking lots, and so on. You’ll likely see them if you’re out running errands at the store.
  • If it doesn’t seem like your eggs are hatching make sure you wiggle your phone a bit when you’re walking. Your phone’s GPS and pedometer are used to determine the distance you’ve walked.
  • If you’re experiencing issues with the app, log out, and then get frustrated as you try to log back in. Hopefully they will spin up some more servers.
  • If your phone battery is dying and you’re finding the “battery saving” mode in the settings to be glitch, just turn your screen brightness down on your phone and only turn it up when you feel a vibration.

Schedel Arboretum and Gardens in Ohio


I planned out my trip with some great mid-point stops. I had never heard of the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens, but it was the perfect distance for my lunch break so I thought I would check it out.

The gardens were beautiful and I appreciated the labels identifying all the trees, shrubs, and flowers. I’ve been trying to keep a log of all the birds, bugs, and wildlife I have seen this year and having labels is much easier than trying to search the internet for photos.

The Japanese garden was beautiful and it was fascinating to see the collection of bonsai trees. There was a bonsai of nearly every tree that I could name from redwoods to red maples. A few of the trees even had flowers on them, which was unexpected!


My favorite garden by far was the rose garden. It might not be what you’d expect if you were thinking of the garden in Alice in Wonderland though. They had nearly every variety of rose I could think of and dozens of ones that I didn’t even know existed. It was interesting to see the various petal shapes, arrangements, and colors.

The downside of the garden was that it was right next to the highway. Even though there were a number of fountains and a creek near the property, the sound of traffic somewhat diminished the relaxing atmosphere. I may have just hit the garden at a bad time of day since it seemed like they were doing some yard work.

All-in-all, I was still glad I made the stop. It was a good place to stretch my legs and the gardens were well cared for and delightfully planned out. I also spent enough time there that I missed the other place that I was going to stop though I’ll probably catch it on the way back.

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