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Jake Finley
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Jake Finley

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I was recently in an accident (nothing bad, no injuries, but both cars were dead)  and was warned my insurance rates might go up in my next renewal as a result. Nothing unexpected there, I had a great rate anyway so it going up a bit wasn't horrible. The guy that handled my claim was awesome, walking me through every possibility (as I'd never been in an accident or filed a claim before), and really did a great job of making me less of a nervous wreck.

The renewal was today, and as it turns out it went down $20 (total, not per-month). I love USAA - what other insurance company would do that? If you can qualify to get them, you really should. I have nothing but praise for them.
Financial services association serving military members and their families.
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Apparently yesterday was "World Turtle Day" and I didn't know it... one day a year my avatar is appropriate and I missed it!

Oh well, here's the cutest turtle picture I have anyway.
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Just finished uploading this short excerpt of a seminar taught by my boss - I do volunteer work for her non-profit and handled the filming & photography at this event. I also designed the template for our powerpoint presentations so that she could just add content and have it already look nice (it's intended to resemble the organization's website).

There is more info on the website (http://fl-wet.org). We wrote up a couple articles on the class with significantly more details, but this video (and others like it to come) is intended to show a bit of what is taught in these classes and hopefully generate interest in hosting more of them.
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Feedback/Suggestion for +Google Play: When uploading multiple songs that share the same album info, if more than one song in the album has the same track number it should be automatically assumed that the second instance of that track is on a second CD. In this case I decided to upload my aging collection of CD audiobooks of the Wheel of Time series - the first one I ripped had 32 disks. If I don't manually edit the CD number after each disk finishes uploading it will sort by track number (32 track #1's in a row followed by 32 track #2's, etc) which makes no sense whatsoever. This is an edge case obviously, but even music albums can have more than one CD and the system is counter intuitive as is. I'm not looking forward to uploading the other 7 books I have on CD...

More support for audiobooks in general would be greatly appreciated. I would really like to replace iTunes with Google Play, but can't until it has full support for audiobooks. In an ideal world I'd be able to access my Audible.com library through Google Play, select a single book to be made available offline on my laptop (my primary mobile listening device), and be able to pause and resume play on a different device in the same spot I left off. I'd also be able to upload my old CD audiobooks and combine the tracks into either single CD tracks (~12 short tracks combined into a single long track with "<Book Name> - Disk #" as the track title) - books uploaded in this way should at least be able to take a single CD offline if not the entire book. Finally no audiobooks should be included in random shuffles (there is no reason you'd ever want this to happen).

#feedback #audible #audiobook #begging
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I've been doing volunteer work recently handling the web design for FL-WET.org, a non-profit initiative started up by my boss at Clear Water PSI. There's not a whole lot here yet in terms of content, but we're working on that. This is my first real project working with wordpress as a CMS, but it's been surprisingly easy to work with and customize. I'm really fond of how this is turning out so far, I started out with a really nice looking but feature sparse theme and developed a more feature rich child theme to sit on top of it. That, plus some formatting tweaks and the addition of some handy plug-ins have resulted in a site I'm quite pleased with. The question now is how well my efforts at SEO will work out (It's not something I'm good/experienced at), I'm using the Yoast SEO plugin and have set up special archive pages for media-tagged photos, but I don't think there is enough content to say for sure yet (and no external links that I'm aware of).
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Patrick Rothfuss is one of my favorite authors, he's also a great person (and a hilarious blogger). Every year he runs a charity drive, matching his own money to donations people put in. Additionally, anyone that donates gets entered into a raffle for all sorts of prizes, ranging from rare books to things like this:
Patrick Rothfuss originally shared:
 
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I just heard about the +ASUS Taichi ultrabook. The price of this thing is going to be exponentially proportional to how badly I want it... And I really want it.

I use an Asus EEEPC 1000HA as my main work and internet browsing computer. I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but this little thing has been by far the best computer purchase I've ever made. So far it has suffered the following:
- It's been dropped several times (and launched at least once).
- Its been stepped on (the bottom is now cracked).
- I once accidentally left it in a bag while on for several hours (it was almost too hot to touch and had a dark brown screen when I pulled it out).
- At one point the fan died only to start back up again with only a bit of a rattle after I took a paperclip and a broken rubber band to it.
- Best of all it had pixels crack only to magically un-crack then start working again a few days later (liquid was running down the inside of the screen, but I propped it up up-side down and it just seemed to reverse the process completely, you cant even tell it ever happened now).

Despite all of this it works flawlessly, It's held up better than any computer I've ever owned and for longer than most. The only visible sign of damage is the crack in the bottom plastic. I'm badly tempted to (when I finally replace it) find out exactly what WILL kill it. However it's incredible fortitude and resilience combined with how grateful my wallet is to not having needed to replace it five times over (or even one) has led to the development of an emotional attachment to it, and I don't think I could bring myself to intentionally destroy it.

And that's only the amazing physical properties it has. As I've mentioned I run an apache server with PHP/MySQL on it, alongside 20+ google chrome tabs, image editing software, multiple programming tools & environments, as well as several modern games (3D and 2D). Everything but the games can be run concurrently.

Even though I'll never be able to afford this particular model, there is no chance whatsoever that my next laptop will not be an Asus. By my reckoning I owe them at least three purchases anyway (my current desktop motherboard is also Asus, so I figure that accounts for some of my karmic debt).

#asustaichi   #asuseeepc  
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Spent the afternoon configuring PHP, MySQL, and Apache to run on my Asus EEEPC 1000HA. This being part of my ongoing experiment to see how much stuff I can cram onto this poor netbook (and simultaneously run) before it spontaneously combusts. The Eclipse IDE hung once but hasn't given me trouble since, and everything else is running full speed (including over 20 chrome tabs). It took some work to get AJAX working correctly under this PHP/Apache installation as it was giving me some very unhelpful error messages, but I got that figured out eventually. I was also rather impressed with how easy MySQL was to set up, it took the least effort of anything I did today and has a pretty slick interface.

In case you're curious what else I get up to on this computer, here's a view of my desktop. I use it for nearly all my work and it does surprisingly well.
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Warning: Contains philosophical ramblings, stories from my childhood, and a book report. It is also over three times as long as the article it links to (which you may wish to read first). Not that anyone actually reads anything I post here, but if you've stumbled across this somehow consider yourself warned.

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Here's a story about how fictional characters we read about influence our personalities, its something I've been aware of in myself for a long time. When I realized it was happening (in 8th grade) I decided that I liked it and have made a conscious effort since to read books that offer this sort of positive re-enforcement of character traits (honestly I probably would have anyway, but I became actively aware of it while it was happening with each new book). I have an image in my head of how I want to be and act, and I've intentionally attempted to use fiction to help build up those traits in myself. It's also made me feel old. I know very little even compared to others my age when it comes to practical knowledge (cars, cooking, reading a map, etc - all things I know less about than I really should), but I've absorbed thousands of life lessons condensed and distilled into books and short stories that have had the effect of maturing my personality faster than most others (in my opinion at least). We learn and develop through second hand advice and personal accounts all the time - it's a similar principle (if more idealized than the typical real life example).

The question though is what's the best way to learn these lessons? Is it best to learn from personal accounts of your parents and friends? Is it best to learn through personal experience? Are fictional accounts equally or more effective? In my opinion, they can all be equally effective in conveying life lessons - but quantity and quality matters. Fiction has the singular benefit of being custom tailored in every respect and there is also a virtually unlimited quantity of it; however, if it isn't realistic in how the lesson is delivered then it will fall flat (I should clarify here that most of the time no actual "lesson" per say is intended, but that doesn't stop us from learning from the experiences of a realistic character). Personal experience has the downside of having to screw up before it kicks in, and it's possible to take the wrong meaning from the lesson ("Got arrested? Well you better not get caught next time.") - most importantly there is no one to serve up a neatly packaged moral for you to digest or tell you how it all works out in the end, so if you don't figure it out by yourself nothing good will come of it (if you do though, it will stick better than anything else). Finally personal accounts lack in quantity, but are fairly well targeted, from a known trustworthy source (or potentially known untrustworthy source), and you can't get more realistic.

My parents raised me on stories of how they screwed up as kids (it was my favorite bedtime story request as a small child) - I credit that with forming the core of my personality at a young age, and I credit the shear quantity and quality of the fiction I read with much of the refining it has undergone since. Those, combined with an offhand comment my mom made when I was very young have literally defined my life to date (I was doing something cute - pretending to be a turtle I think - and she told me, half joking, that someday when I was a teenager I wouldn't be "a good little boy that loved her and did what she said anymore", and I was so horrified by this that I immediately promised myself I'd never be like that and set off to prove her wrong. It took me years to realize the irony, but it also worked better than anything else she could have done... Also, as you may have noticed, I'm still pretending to be a turtle).

Anyway... back on subject.

The article gets it wrong on one point, or at least not exactly right: Reading about a likable but evil or flawed character isn't going to make you more like the parts of them that are undesirable unless those are traits you value in yourself. Instead, you'll see yourself in the traits you share with them, and be all the more repulsed by their defining flaws (if you empathize with a character that commits a murder, your empathy makes the sense of betrayal, disappointment, and horror you feel over their action only serve to push you further away from that sort of action). If you're familiar with the concept of the "Uncanny Valley" - this is the equivalent in novels (fiction and non-fiction: read "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote). It's like looking at a twisted reflection of your personality that's almost but not quite right, and that wrongness is all the more unnerving for it. At a bare minimum these characters will force you to think about yourself in the context of their actions, which will tell you more about who you are as a person - knowledge you can use to choose who you want to become. This is also why villains we are able to relate to are so much better characters than the classic pure evil no redeeming qualities force of nature type villains that used to be so prevalent. Those characters existed only as obstacles for the protagonist to overcome, rather than as a story in and of themselves.

Consider the book Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. This book is the one I bring out every time I want to give an example of the best villain in fantasy fiction - Brandin, King of Ygrath. His motivations are entirely human and understandable, and If the story was told from his eyes he would be the hero. The entire premise of the story is based on the death of his son at the hands of the army of a land he was trying to conquer. He and his son were the aggressors, but so grief stricken was he that spent the rest of his life dedicated to getting revenge for his son's death - forsaking his kingdom and the rest of his family to do so. He's doomed to fail from the first chapter of the book, because it is a book, and all the reader can do is watch as this heartbroken man gives up everything, is betrayed by everyone close to him, and is ultimately killed by those who killed his son. For the villain, Tigana is a tragedy, but for the heroes it's a story about freeing their people from decades of oppression by a tyrant who conquered them and wiped out every hint of their history and culture. Can we as readers blame a man for reacting in that way towards the people who killed his son? Yes, we can, because he was the aggressor - he started it and so it's his fault we say. That's our excuse, that's how we're different from him. But still it makes you think, would you make that distinction if you were in that position? Perhaps instead you'd blame the one who killed him, because to do otherwise would be to admit that you were responsible for your own son's death - and that would be too terrible to live with. Perhaps you'd express the guilt you refuse to admit you feel at yourself in the form of rage and an overwhelming desire for revenge against any other possible targets. Your other options are despair and insanity. Forgiveness isn't and option. You can't forgive yourself and move on when you wont accept the blame.

That's not fiction - it happens every day, though usually on a smaller scale.

Tigana is a lesson to everyone that relates to the character of Brandin, and almost everyone will. What you'll get from it will be different than what I got from it, and that's how it should be - he embodies an aspect of all of us but nobody works in exactly the same way and so the lesson will change to suit the person. It's not so much what you get out of it that matters, it's that you recognize him in yourself and internalize that knowledge - putting a check on any thoughts and actions you associate with him because you saw where it led him. Whereas good heroes are positive re-enforcement for behaviors, encouraging you to behave in specific ways; Villains are negative re-enforcement, discouraging types of behavior. Anti-heroes can actually accomplish both roles; or either. However, none of that will be against your will or nature - the lesson you get will be complementary to your existing values, and the only way those will change is if the plot or actions of the characters logically or emotionally convinces you that they need changing - unlikely unless you're young and haven't yet solidified them (and then, usually not a bad thing - most books for kids are written with this purpose in mind).

The last thing I'll say about Tigana is this - while I do bring it out to showcase Brandin all the time, he's only one of two villains and a half dozen heroes in that (fairly short) story. It's a true work of art, and reads like poetry.

What both this essay and the article boils down to is that yes, we are what we read to a great extent - that is intentionally done by authors when they write books. It makes things more interesting to people if they can relate to the characters - it doesn't work as well in film because we have less details to flesh out the character and we typically can't see inside their head. However the side effect (sometimes primary effect) is that just by reading about these people we learn more about ourselves and consciously or unconsciously build upon our own personalities and experiences with those of characters who have traits we value. We idolize some of them as role models because they were made to fit that role. Likewise we repudiate others for their actions that we deem evil, wrong, and unjust - yet we still see aspects of ourselves in them or we would not feel the need to distance ourselves from them and rationalize our differences (excluding the aforementioned force-o-nature types that aren't really characters). Still others we see rise and fall, make mistakes in good faith and lie out of necessity. We see ourselves in them most of all, and they are the hardest for us to deal with because they strike so close to home - we wince in embarrassment when they make fools of themselves and then think about how we would have "just crawled into a hole and died right there" if we had done that instead of them, but they go on, and so do we. Hero or villain or average joe, we learn something about ourselves from all of them, and in doing so we don't gradually become a different person - we become more of what we already are.
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Can't explain that - I keep javascript and flash set to load only when I allow it which circumvents lots of problems like that, but enabling them on that site didn't cause any instability for me.
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Just bought this on Google Play - compared to iTunes not a bad experience. I'm not sure how the selection compares as this is my first purchase and I went in specifically looking for it. Anyway, enjoy a free play if you're in one of my circles! (clever marketing idea there)
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+Amazon.com Regarding Audible:

First, thank you for providing this incredible service, it approaches perfection. I do have a suggestion though:

I may be odd, but I like having my entire library at my fingertips ready to play at the drop of a hat. However, this means that I'm lugging around 60GB of audiobooks (not even the highest sound quality), half the memory of my laptop, everywhere I go. I would love to see support for Audible files on Google Play, It would be a delight to seamlessly transition from computer to computer to device without loosing my place or having to jump through hoops to get the book on the right machine and in the right position. I've actually taken to using remote desktop to stream them because that's actually simpler many times (if limited).

I use my laptop simply because it gives me the greatest flexibility in terms of always having a book on hand (trade off between mobility and storage space) - if I could stream them and only keep the current book available offline it would be a great benefit. All this is technically possible as-is, but it's a pain to manage.

Shove the burden of streaming off on Google and sell your product through their store like you do on iTunes - everybody wins! I love having the ability to download and keep local copies of my books (never get rid of this), but I mostly want these for peace of mind - I don't need my entire library for everyday use, but splitting it up and only keeping the ones I'm planning to listen to on hand is too much of a pain for me to bother with, and as I actively re-listen to old purchases, somewhat impractical.

A long time ago, before Audible became an Amazon subsidiary, they offered a very basic streaming service - it had no ability to do anything besides play and pause. This was basically useless, and it quietly disappeared at some point without me even noticing it. This is the perfect opportunity to do it right - all Google needs to store with any given account is the list of books owned and the current position in play. One copy of the file on Google's servers could serve the entire user base - no need to upload books, just authorize your Audible account and have them all show up in your Google account near-instantly. #Audible #Amazon #feedback #googleplay
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+Google Play, I'm noticing that there does not seem to be a way to make a song available offline in Chrome on Windows - am I missing something or does this feature not exist? If not you should seriously consider adding it - it would be a nice feature for use with laptops/netbooks.

Also, on the subject of feature requests, you have the option to include podcasts in the automatic uploads - it would be better if these were separated from the music in the player as they appear to show up in shuffles. Also, downloading songs: I understand you don't want people to be able to use your service to distribute content, but 2 downloads ever or your entire library seems excessively extreme - why not 3 max with a recharge of 1 every 6 months. Forever is a long time. Sure most people wont need more than two, if that, but why cause frustration for the edge-cases when it can be avoided (or at least better mitigated). #googleplaymusic #feedback
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<-- I like turtles, and this one looks particularly happy.
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Best nachos I can remember having anywhere, good onion rings too (it seems like they have very high quality appetizers in general). I've eaten here several times over years and never had a complaint. Once used a $20 Groupon with no trouble at all.
Food: ExcellentDecor: Very goodService: Very good
Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
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