All posts by robotchampion

WordPress upgrades to ‘intelligent proofreading’ for spelling, grammar, and style suggestions

I have to say this is pretty amazing. The WordPress blogging platform now offers artificial intelligence for proofreading, and we’re not talking any old spell checker.

Here is what this “intelligent proofreading” covers:

  • Bias language
  • Clichés
  • Complex phrases
  • Diacritical marks
  • Double negatives
  • Hidden verbs
  • Jargon phrases
  • Passive voice
  • Phrases to avoid
  • Redundant phrases

 

I bet this already exist in MS Word or Apple Pages, but I’ve never seen this on the web. It is taking my editing to a whole new level…in color:

The proofreading feature checks spelling, misused words, grammar, and style. You can tell the type of error by its color.

  • Misused words and spelling errors are red
  • Grammar mistakes are green
  • Style suggestions are blue

 

For anyone who self-publishes on the web this is “just what the doctor ordered.” There is only so many times you can proofread your own content.

A little research shows that this feature is available using the JetPack plugin and comes from the technology After the Deadline which was purchased by WordPress.

 

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Snorkeling at Fisherman’s Cove in Lagune Beach, CA – where, what, how, & when

This morning I went snorkeling at Fisherman’s Cove in Laguna Beach for the third time. I like this spot a lot and so I want share it with my readers. I’ll include a description, photos, maps, marine life, and links to other dive sites.

The cove is right off PCH in Laguna Beach, turn onto Cliff Drive and immediately look for street parking. Most of the time I find a spot, but, if not, metered parking is available if you take the first left and go about 200 feet. That is also where the entrance to the Cove is.

Suit up, grab your gear, and head towards the entrance. Go down the steps and take the concrete path all the way to the sand. There you will find a nice secluded beachfront with a lifeguard tower, a few beachgoers, SUP’ers, and a nice rocky landscape for you to explore.

On the left, is a sheer rock face that you can launch in front of on small days. Keep a good distance away from the bluff and follow it out to sea. It’s pretty shallow and you can see tons of fish, mollusks, anemones, and more.

In the middle, a bit offshore, is a rock cluster that is great to swim around. You can see it from the shore with waves crashing against it. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to swim around and even dive into. Plus, it’s a great middle-point as you snorkel around the perimeter.

On the right, are a series or rocky outcroppings, like little peninsulas, that continue to jut out farther and farther as you swim out. These are ideal for snorkeling because an abundance of marine life hides in all of those mini-coves. Follow the outcroppings all the way around to the next cove, which is my favorite route, or you can head over to the middle rock cluster mentioned above.

It is usually best to go when the waves are small and the sunlight is good. This often changes but I’ve gone out at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm and had a blast. It all depends on the conditions. You can scope it out before you go using Surfline for wave size, wind speed, and water temperature. Rockpile as the nearest spot.

The amount of wildlife is amazing. I’ve seen nearly everything you can in Southern California waters from the famous Garibaldi to a huge stingray, octopus, and colorful snails. For list of species you will find check out Cabrillo Aquarium’s marine life profiles.

Here are a few other sites with good coverage of Fisherman’s Cove:

 

Maps/Photos:

Here is a link to the site in Google Maps, and below are screenshots of the site. There is no official address for the place but you can put this one into your phone, for the neighboring Heisler Park:

  • 375 Cliff Drive - Laguna Beach, California 92651

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How far are you willing to bike?

Recently, my girlfriend and I decided to go with one car. We both work from home and so it makes sense. We get to split costs and avoid paying for something that costs money just sitting there (not to mention depreciation). But, we also have to share time in the car.

This means we’ve both pioneered new modes of transportation, with biking the clear winner. Where we’ve discovered just what it means when you say “that is too far”.

At first, it was a couple of blocks. Anything beyond that seemed like a waste of time, compared to driving. As we got in the groove that expanded out several miles. We’re up to a 5-mile range now, and pretty surprised at how much fits within that range:

  • Local natural foods market – 2.2 miles
  • Starbucks #1 – 1.5 miles
  • Starbucks #2 - 2.5 miles
  • The Beach (Huntington Beach Pier) – 4 miles
  • Gym – 1.1 miles
  • Blockbuster Video - 2.5 miles
  • Shopping Center: Pizza, Comics, Bookstore, Chipotle, Pep Boys – 1.2 miles

One could nearly survive on all that. But, maybe we’re just lucky. We do live in a pretty dense area with a lot of local businesses. I wonder how your neighborhood works out. Have you measured up any of your local businesses?

As I’m getting more and more into this, I’ve started asking myself, “is driving really quicker?” After all, biking mostly avoids traffic, sometimes has quicker routes, and there are no parking problems. As an answer, I turned to Google Maps to compare the estimated times for driving vs. biking:

  • Local natural foods market – 6 mins driving  // 13 mins biking
  • Starbucks #1 – 5 mins  // 9 mins
  • Starbucks #2 - 7 mins // 15 mins
  • The Beach – 13 mins // 23 mins
  • Gym – 4 mins // 7 mins
  • Blockbuster Video – 7 mins // 15 mins
  • Shopping Center: Pizza, Comics, Bookstore, Chipotle, Pep Boys – 6 mins // 7 mins

That’s pretty amazing and I would consider it a wash. Biking only adds on a few minutes to most locations. With driving, you also have to take into account red lights, traffic, time for parking, and time to walk from the parking lot to the store. Each of which can add a few minutes to the journey.

There is the added benefit of a solid workout, but that can also be a problem. Sometimes I want to bike, but I’m too tired or hungry to do so. Although, I think it has improved my endurance going on a lot of  quick 1-2 mile jaunts. I’ve even looked at expanding my range to 7-10 miles. It was kinda fun looking-up what is within that perimeter: movie theater, more beaches, shopping mall, chocolate store (See’s Candy), Whole Foods, the library, etc.

I guess that’s how far I’m willing to bike…for now. Before we made this shift I never even considered biking to many of these places. Now, it seems ridiculous not to. I guess that how it happens when you’re trying something new, at first it seems out-of-reach and then after some time it becomes completely natural.

 

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Ghosts of the Osfront – an audio-chronicle of Germany/Russia during WWII

Here is a promo from my favorite historian, Dan Carlin. He does a show called Hardcore History and the name fits. So be warned that this is real, no punches are pulled.

The topic for this show, called “Ghosts of the Osfront”, is the battle between Germany and Russia in World War II. He starts with the brutality and effectiveness of the Germans as they start the war. Then, moves into the bloody Russian counterattack that eventually leads them to invade-back Germany. Millions of lives are lost, atrocities are committed, and more you don’t even want to know about.

Or do you?

If so, then this show is for you. Listen to this promo to find out if this fits your style.

 

 

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The two-step password movement continues – Dropbox joins in

The push towards two-step passwords and better security continues.

Dropbox trials two-factor authentication beta

A few weeks ago, when Dropbox users began reporting that their emails had been leaked to spam lists, Dropbox made some security changes and promised it would bolster its security measures further. The company has now made good on its promise, rolling out the beta version of a two-factor authentication system over the weekend.

 

Visit the link above for instructions on how to enable two-factor authentication.

I am a big fan of extra security for everything. I have two-factor authentication with my bank, PayPal, and in all my Google accounts. It’s good to see more companies beefing up our consumer security options.

 

 

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Do you know your baker?

Everyone needs a good baker in their life. Especially, if you live on the farmers market diet, and you’re a guy. For some reason, dudes need, not like, but NEED bread on a regular basis. Maybe it’s the higher muscle mass or something, but (most) girls simply don’t care about bread.

For me, it’s huge, and I have my own baker. His name is Gunther and every week at the market I meet his wife Dawn or their friend Eddie. I have a standing order with them, two croissants and a loaf of their finest, that I pick up every Saturday at my farmers market.

By the way, no one within 50 miles makes a better croissant (trust me, I’ve tried a lot of places). I asked Dawn about this and she told me that Gunther sticks to his European recipes. He likes to make things the right way. In this case, it means the croissant should be flaky and have a crunchy sour/bitterness to it.

She told me that, at first, nobody agreed with him because nobody makes it that way. Then, as he perfected the recipe and they all tried it, they were instantly fans. Me, too, and I think the whole market agrees as well. They sell out every week!

This is one of the best parts about regularly shopping at a farmers market. You get on a first-name basis with your farmers and bakers. You hear their stories and learn about their lives and families, and they learn about yours. It brings back that sense of community that most feel is slowly fading into the past.

It’s simply another benefit of living a low-carbon, farmers market lifestyle. And, if you’re ever in Orange County stop by the market or visit Dawn, Eddie, and Gunther at their shop, the Bread Gallery.

**P.S. — They also make the best sandwich for 50 miles, but that’s for another post

 

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Hurricane Isaac and the hurricane of satellite photos in Facebook, Twitter

I’m noticing a boom in crazy-good satellite photos of Hurricane Isaac. They are full color, super-detailed, route and rain predictions, and (my favorite) cloud formations.

I’m not sure why this is happening. Perhaps, it is the upgrade to our GOES weather satellites, or that the government has taken to social media like kids to water.

Either way, I think it’s pretty cool and may end up helping out someone in harm’s way.

 

Here are some of the photos ‘storming’ my networks:

 

(image: UT San Diego)

 
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It happens once in a blue moon (and that’s this Friday)

The moon orbits around the earth every 29.5 days and since our months typically have 30-31 days that leaves some leftover time (0.5-1.5 days). Eventually that adds up and we get an extra cycle in one month, and that means an extra full moon. Typically, months only get one full moon and so having two is pretty rare, happening every 2.7 years.

Hence, the phrase, “once in a blue moon,” which is a lot like saying “once in about 3 years”.

I love this stuff (orbits, planets, stars) and have been a star-gazer since I was a kid. If you are too, then you can enjoy the “blue moon” this Friday, August 31, 2012.

Yep, it’s been around three years since the last one (2.67 years to be exact, the last blue moon was on New Year’s Eve – Dec 31, 2009). I also think you should try, at whatever the cost, to say “once in a blue moon” about something. Think of something you know you won’t do or won’t happen until July 2015 (the next blue moon).

Also, the moons aren’t actually blue.

 

**Source: Space.com & Infoplease

 

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Stay in the water everyday – Yoga for Surfers

A few years back, I read an article on surf legend, Gerry Lopez, and they asked him, “How are you able to stay in the water everyday?” His answer was simple, Yoga.

When my first water injury hit I decided to try out his advice. He was dead-on. Engaging in a regular practice of Yoga has helped me to avoid innumerable injuries over the years and months. I would even say it has improved my overall strength, agility, and endurance.

I highly recommend the following 10-minute videos: Yoga for surfers. There are two episodes (6-minute, 4-minute) that cover 7 simple stretches. Do them at home for a while until you can memorize them, and then do them right before you go in the water. It is the perfect warm-up for the all the surfing muscles, it gives you 10-mins to watch the waves (find where you wanna go out at), improves your balance, and, for me, calms me down before my session.

Enjoy!

 

**PS – If you have a favorite Yoga or pre-surf routine, what is it?

 

 

Believing in a cure for ADD, ADHD, and depression

This isn’t a post to deny that depression, ADD, and ADHD exist. They do and many people have a terrible time dealing with them, but that doesn’t mean they are permanently debilitating. It is possible to live with them, indeed thrive with them, and not need drugs or any special treatments.

Now, before, I pontificate any further let me say I am not a doctor, nor an expert. I’m just a person with a decent amount of experience with both.

I want to talk about this because I’ve noticed a trend over the last decade to marginalize any cure for either problem. The majority of help is focused on how to cope in the moment. To fix the issue for a day or get through the week. Everything has become about those moments of panic.

Which is very strange. The moments of panic do offer the most acute pain and suffering, but they don’t offer any solution. It is the moments after and before where the learning occurs. Those off-days when you can focus on the cure, overcoming any problems the conditions create for you.

There is no specific solution for this, rather it is a building process. It starts with being aware when the condition manifests itself. Am I starting to feel down? Has this problem troubled me in the past? Am I feeling distracted or unable to stay seated?

I used to be a public school teacher with tons of restless students. Without knowing if they were ADD or ADHD, I would ask them to try to stay focused for an extra minute each time it happened.  Also, to let me know when they were done. This was extremely effective because it taught them to become aware of when it was happening.

It also created an idea in their minds that this can be controlled. When I noticed they were starting to understand that I would approach them with the next step. I called it strengths and weaknesses. This involves pairing the problem with something the person likes, usually a hobby. The hobby serves as the strength and place of safety to rely upon during the moments of panic. It also frames the problem as a weakness to improve upon, instead of a permanent problem to accept.

For an attention example, one student loved reading skateboarding magazines. While every other teacher banned them in the classroom, I told the  student to keep one handy at all times. Whenever the symptoms came on (weakness) he was to pull out the magazine and read (strength). At first, he struggled a bit with it, often getting this dazed look in his eye. He continued to make progress and eventually was able to master his focus. He even became adept at reading the magazine while paying attention. I wasn’t sure this was possible until he answered questions correctly, completed homework, and all that. I think it even turned his weakness into a strength.

For a depression example, I knew someone who would feel slightly down before major episodes. He was aware that these slightly down moments were happening (weakness) and so I asked him to write down (strength) whatever was on his mind. He liked the idea of a diary, though, at first, was a little ashamed to write down his depressed thoughts. Then the depression would hit, he would recover, and be left with those writings. He soon became aware that a lot of what was troubling him in those writings were real issues. He then had a pre-written set of issues to work through on the good days. Nothing happened overnight, but gradually his depression has been lessening and maybe, one day, he will turn it into normal sad/down days.

The one thing you will notice in each of these examples is something I call a “trusted friend”. This is the last step, finding someone to help you through these issues. The strange thing is that most people with ADD, ADHD, and depression aren’t aware they have these problems. This is just the way they are and when it happens there is no alarm sounded. The role of the trusted friend is to identify for the person when it is happening. Sometimes they can give advice, like in the examples above, but most of the time all they have to do is alert the person.

One thing to be aware of with depression, there is something about the down attitude that hates being told it is down. There is also a high level of shame attached to it. This doesn’t mean the person should not be aware of what’s happening, it just means to be much more cautious and patient when dealing with it. Give them some time to get used to it.

There you have my theory (non-expert, non-medical) on how to help people work toward a cure for ADD, ADHD, and depression. I understand that many, more qualified than I, consider these to be lifelong problems and offering a cure is just false hope. It may be true, but these experiences I pass along have worked in every situation. Perhaps, becoming self-aware, building on one’s strengths and weaknesses, and having a trusted friend are just great ways to build character. If so, I am still happy to pass them along as one quiet voice for a cure in a sea of  “survive the panic” writings.

 

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