Tips for clearing clutter

My wife and I are hoarders. We get stuff and have trouble doing away with it. This leads to a shamefully messy house, and excessive need for storage. We’ve tried all manner of overcoming the problem, but without a consistent effort, we pretty much fall back into over-collecting soon after clean-ups. I’m going to give it another shot, after having found Zen Habits’ 15 tips to declutter.

13. Internalize that your value is not in your “stuff”. It is just “stuff”. And realize that your value grows when you share your “stuff”. Hoarding is a selfish act.

I think this one really applies to me. I tend to buy when I’m stressed or down. Some people eat – I spend. Bad Randy.

1. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. It’s amazing how much you can get through if you just do it in small increments like this.

One of the reasons why I like this list so much is almost everything on there is as simple as this opening step. I can much more easily stick to it if it is easy and I can start with a low commitment. Much like I’ve been most successful sticking to day-after-day of frozen dinners with known calorie counts, I think I can be more successful decluttering and cleaning if I do small increments of clean-up daily with a room-by-room cleaning plan.

[tags]Declutter, Zen Habits, Cleaning[/tags]

Maker of Lipitor cites dubious study to keep patients from generic

We all know that medical care and especially drug costs are crazy high in the US. We’ve probably all heard the many commercials that recommend jumping from name-brand drugs to generic drugs. However, not all drug manufacturers find that to be a good idea. In an attempt to protect the big-money drug LipitorTM, representatives from Pfizer are citing a widely questioned study that indicates patients on generic cholesterol-blocker simvastatin die more often and have more heart attacks.

While simvastatin is not a generic equivalent for LipitorTM, it is a generic version of competing cholesterol-blocker ZocorTM. Studies other than the one Pfizer is referring to show that at the most commonly prescribed doses of LipitorTM, simvastatin is equally effective for most patients. Naturally, Pfizer representatives disagree.

The company has mounted a campaign that includes advertisements, lobbying efforts and a paid speaking tour by a former secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Pfizer is also promoting a study – whose findings many experts are questioning – that concluded that British patients who switched to simvastatin had more heart attacks and deaths than those who remained on Lipitor.

Naturally, the mighty dollar plays in here. And I do believe Pfizer has not only a right, but a duty to shareholders to try protecting such a big funding source. However, I think reliable science needs to be behind any claims used to try swaying opinions, and apparently the study in question may not be reliable science. We’ll just have to see how it turns out, I suppose.

I also take issue with the following claim from a Pfizer senior vice president:

Continue reading “Maker of Lipitor cites dubious study to keep patients from generic”

How long does your luck hold against dozens of rattlesnakes?

In a special show of stupid, a man nicknamed “The Texas Snake Man” has set a new (stupid) world record by sitting in a bathtub with 87 rattlesnakes. Real, live, fanged, venomous rattlesnakes.

Another day, another bizarre world record for Jackie Bibby, “The Texas Snake Man.” Bibby spent about 45 minutes in a see-through bathtub with 87 rattlesnakes Monday, shattering his own record by 12 snakes just in time for Guinness World Records Day, which is Thursday. The record was certified by a Guinness official.

. . .

The record was Bibby’s latest grab at glory. Last year he set a Guinness-certified record by holding 10 rattlesnakes by their tails in his mouth at once. He said he plans to break that record Tuesday by squeezing in an 11th.

I don’t mean this as an insensitive comment, but he might do well to ask Steve Irwin (nee The Crocodile Hunter) a bit about how long you can go around dangerous animals before your luck fails.

The article discusses other official and unofficial records held by Bibby, so head over to get the full scoop if you want to see how far someone can press their luck.

[tags]The Texas Snake Man, Rattlesnakes, Snakes – why did it have to be snakes?, World record[/tags]

GIMP finally hits 2.4

If you are into heavy-duty image editing, but can’t afford Photoshop, you are probably already familiar with GIMP, and already know version 2.4 was release last week. If you didn’t know that, well now you do, and you can head over to the GIMP website for the download. In honor of the release, the GIMP team has updated the website with a cool new look, too.

Developers, artists and user interface designers from all over the world worked together to make GIMP more powerful and easier to use than ever. The changes from version 2.2 are too numerous to list here, please check the Release Notes to get an overview.

If you want to try out GIMP, but can’t or don’t want to install it just yet, you could also try out GIMP portable from the PortableApps collection. The version there is not yet updated to 2.4, but it will be soon. This is actually how I run GIMP on most systems where I use it. It’s just so convenient to use it from a USB key or to copy a single directory to a local hard drive and run it. I’m getting really used to just running everything portable that I can.

One last bit of advice. While GIMP is powerful, it can be a little tough to grok the interface. I highly recommend Akkana Peck’s Beginning GIMP book. It makes easing into the program so simple, and exposes the power of GIMP early. I have no idea why it is out of stock everywhere, but I assure you it is worth having if you plan on working with GIMP. For more details on it, check out the book website the author’s web site or the book detail page at Apress (where you can buy the ebook version) for possible help tracking it down.

[tags]GIMP, Graphics, Image manipulation, PortableApps, Portable Apps[/tags]

Get your television fix online

I’m not someone who watches a lot of television. Typically, if I have spare time, I’d prefer to be doing something on the computer rather than sitting just watching television. Even if I do sit to watch television, I tend to have my laptop with me so I can work on other things in the downtime when I’m not focusing on the television screen. But there are a few television programs I enjoy enough to watch (although typically not when they are broadcast and usually not on the television set). Given my own viewing preferences and when I’m most likely to have time to sit and watch television, you can probably imagine how interested I was when I found this guide to alternative means of catching your favorite television programs over at LifeHacker.

It’s a good guide to six ways you can keep up-to-date on television shows when you can’t be sitting ready to watch them when they are normally scheduled. Downloading options are of course the easiest and make up the bulk of the article, but building your own digital video recorder is also mentioned. And while this list is mostly focused on free methods of viewing television, there are brief mentions in the article and in the comment of some pay-to-play options as well.

With the fall television schedule in full swing, many of us are back in the habit of plopping down in front of the tube at night to catch the latest installment of our favorite show when it’s scheduled to air. That means clearing your schedule to watch the show and then sitting in front of the TV for a whole hour just for 43 minutes’ worth of programming. That doesn’t seem very productive, does it? Luckily, this viewing season there are more ways than ever to catch the latest episodes of your best-loved shows without becoming a slave to the prime-time television schedule. So forget the fall lineup as you know it, because this year you’re going to watch TV on your terms.

There is no mention of TV Torrents (my preferred source), nor usenet downloads (I use EasyNews), so realize that there is more out there than what is covered in this brief guide. But if you aren’t already into online television options, LifeHacker does have enough to get you started. You can always use Google to search for other options once you get started.

If you are curious as to what a geek who shares my interests would watch, right now I am staying current with Heroes and House. I also like to catch Bones, Criminal Minds, and Numb3rs when I can. I’ve just finished watching the first season of Burn Notice (I absolutely love this show), and will be catching up on Dexter and Eureka soon. There are a few others I like, if you are interested, but these make up the bulk of my television viewing.

[tags]Television, LifeHacker, Download TV programs[/tags]

iPhone outselling Motorola RAZR?

Before the iPhone launched, I said I didn’t see it doing as well as Steve Jobs expected. I thought it might sell well initially, but once the early adopters had their hands on it the market would slow. Well, I believe the difference between Steve Jobs opinion and mine shows why only one of us is disgustingly rich and in charge of a tech-company growing ever more revered.

Motorola said it shipped 900,000 RAZR2s during the quarter, falling well short of Apple’s 1.12 million iPhone shipments during the same period. This, despite Apple being limited to only U.S. customers and having one carrier. Now, Motorola’s no lightweight when it comes to the mobile phone industry. Overall, the company still shipped 37.2 million phones during the quarter and managed to a snatch a worldwide marketshare of 13 percent, behind only Nokia and Samsung.

So one of the more popular phones on the market is getting outsold by the iPhone, and I’m clearly a moron in at least this aspect of reality (possibly others, but I’ll hold off on those for a while). I still don’t get the appeal of the iPhone nor understand why it is performing so well, but as I’ve said before – I want my gadgets to do one task very well rather than several tasks less well, so I’m clearly not the best to judge this trend.

[tags]iPhone, RAZR, iPhone outsells RAZR, Apple, Motorola, Apparently I’m a moron[/tags]

Glenn Beck declares conservatives hate America?!?

Since the first time I watched his show, I’ve liked Glenn Beck. Sometimes I disagree with him, but often I think a lot of what he says makes sense. So I find it exceptionally odd that Glenn would chose to say that conservatives hate America on his program.

“I think there is a handful of people who hate America,” Beck said. “Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”

Now of course, many folks would hear that, think “Ahhh – California is a bunch of liberal nuts” and guess Beck is talking about Democrats losing their homes. The reality is that the places hit hardest by the fires currently are California’s 49th and 50th districts, which are more in the 3/5 to 2/3 conservative range. So generally speaking, if you hear some unknown person lost their home to the fires, the safe bet is to guess the unknown person is conservative.

Furthermore, if you listen to what Beck actually says (roughly the last 30 seconds of the clip), he ends his comment saying “There are a few people that hate America, but I don’t think the Democrats are those.” So in an area that is over 60% conservative, people who are not Democrats hate America and are losing their homes.

No matter who Beck is talking about, the comment is unnecessary and idiotic. A person’s political views should never lead someone to imply they deserve bad circumstances. Sadly, rather than own up to making a stupid comment, Beck tries to explain it away as if it were some joke and that liberals are just hating on conservatives. If you can go listen to the clip linked above and explain the joke to me, I’d love to hear it. I just don’t find the funny in there.

[tags]Glenn Beck, Beck says conservatives hate America?, California fires, San Diego[/tags]