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New Year Resolutions, Anyone?

So did you make any New Year resolutions?

If you’re like the group at a recent WordPress Meetup I attended in North Phoenix, you didn’t. Just about no one planned for any other than “not to make New Year resolutions.”

The nicer New Year resolutions.
You say you want a resolution?

The New Year is a Terrible Time to Make Resolutions

I’m convinced that New Year’s is about the worst time to make a resolution. Here are just a few reasons:

  • New Year’s happens near the end of the winter holiday season. Many of us are squeezing in a last few hours to engage in mild to moderate hedonism.
  • Once you’ve broken a resolution by January 2, what’s the point?
  • New Year’s resolutions have a nagging quality no one wants to deal with particularly when they are leaving party mode.
  • It’s still cold and miserable out for a lot of the country. And while it’s mild here in the Phoenix area, it’s dark by 6:30 and that makes it feel cold.
My sunglasses go unused in cloudy Phoenix.
No need for sunglasses in cloudy Phoenix.

And for what it’s worth, it’s been overcast for more than a week now in Phoenix and it’s rained almost every day. I know I shouldn’t complain but really, this is not what I expect during the months when you can go outside for more than a few minutes without bringing a hat, sunscreen, or water.

I just got these cute new sunglasses just before Christmas Day and I have had exactly one opportunity to use them. This isn’t normal.

The Best Laid New Year Resolution Plans Don’t Work Anyway

I spent the last day of the holiday coming to grips with the fact that my LastPass master password wasn’t going to work no matter what I did. I must have changed it at some point but I don’t remember doing this. LastPass doesn’t store master passwords so I reset the whole mess and began the process of asking every site I visit to let me change the password. This takes more time than you’d think.

To make matters worse, LastPass reset me as a free user when in fact I’m a Premium user. I sent them a copy of the invoice but they haven’t acted on it yet.

Can you guess what my resolution was for 2016?

So much for planning. I wonder if Australians and New Zealanders are more successful with their New Year resolutions?

The Middle of Winter Doesn’t Feel Like a New Year

Frankly, I never felt like the middle of winter was a good time to start the New Year.

This may be because I’m Jewish, and we celebrate New Year begins in the autumn. This also coincides with the start of the school year. As a kid I thought it was perfectly logical to have a New Year holiday at that time.

But the middle of winter? Why not have a new year during the summer solstice?

It’s not like anything is new in January. OK, there’s a new president coming in but a a lot of people aren’t particularly happy about this.

Plus, it’s still the middle of winter. For a lot of the country, the light at the end of the tunnel is still a few month’s off at best. This really isn’t the time to start a conversation about losing weight, cutting down on drinking, or blogging more often.

Well, maybe blogging more often is easier to do.

New Year Resolutions Weren’t Supposed to Start So Early In the Year

It turns out that the middle of the damn winter isn’t when we are supposed to celebrate the new year and make New Year resolutions.

According to History.com, the earliest known new year celebrations were in ancient Babylon and they did it in March, for the spring solstice. They started this about 4,000 years ago.

The Babylonians marked their new year at around the time of the equinox, which coincided with the spring barley harvest. They celebrated with different rituals for 11 days. New kings were crowned around that time as well, since it coincided with a religious event to celebrate their sky god’s victory over the sea god.

They also made promises to their gods they’d pay back their debts and return things they’d borrowed. Pretty much like a New Year resolution, isn’t it?

The Jewish New Year includes 10 Days of Awe that end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, we’re supposed to we are supposed to ask for forgiveness for our sins or wrongdoings/screwups and hope to be inscribed in the Book of Life. That does make it easier to make a resolution to Never Do This Again, or Stop Doing That or you won’t get in the book.

It’s striking to see that both cultures established a new year holiday after their harvest had nearly the same number of days devoted to it.

As for my resolutions, the timing helped me keep them at least through the winter break. By that time, I was used to them so keeping them after January 2 wasn’t so hard.

How to Keep a Resolution Any Time of Year

I’d say there are healthy ways to approach a resolution:

  1. Start a resolution whenever it feels right. If it’s New Year’s, fine, but understand the odds are against success.
  2. Make it something you really want to do and that you know will be beneficial, like quit smoking.
  3. Celebrate benchmarks. If you go a week without smoking, look at the money you saved and put it aside for something fun.
  4. Recognize that some days are better than others.
  5. Read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. He really puts things in perspective.

Lastly, keep a backup copy of your passwords somewhere that’s really secure–a safe, or maybe a shoebox.

Categories
Arizona business Arizona issues Arizona Tech Communiy Mobile technology

The Internet of Things – Alive in Arizona!

You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things. You might have quickly decided it sounds like too much to look up. Let me simplify it for you: it’s about using the Internet to control your stuff that may or may not be mobile.

Is the Internet of Things too all-seing and all-knowing?
What’s not to like about the Internet of Things? Security, for one but Arizona’s IoT firms are working on it.

I already knew this, and had a pretty good idea about how it works. I’ve written about the “smart home” concepts for clients and wondered how safe this is. Aren’t there geniuses in North Korea and China chained to cubicles and ordered to hack our smartphones this very moment?

If I wired my home security to the phone, what could stop some devious person from breaking in and stealing Junior Yankee from me in the dead of a late Saturday morning when he’s asleep but I’m away at a conference on the Internet of Things? Or what if they want my adorable Chihuahua and Dachahuahua? Is IoT, as it’s also known, a safe place?

The Internet of Things is a Wonderful and Scary Place

I got an email about a local IoT DevFest. Since it was being held at the Mesa Arts Center, I figured it was hosted by a legitimate tech group and not a nefarious dictatorship, although its co-sponsors included Google Developers and Intel.

I’m just joking! Really, Google, get a sense of humor.

A very nice guy named Mike Wolfson (he’s an Android/Java developer) organized the conference on behalf of the Phoenix Meetup for the Internet of Things. He comped me a ticket after I emailed him asking if it would be too technical for an interested, semi-techy, writer.

It was time well-spent. Not only did I learn much more about IoT, but out of a group of perhaps 150 people, there was no line for the ladies’ room during the first, post-coffee break. (Not so the mens room!)

Here are more reasons to like IoT:

  • It’s a bona fide Arizona industry. There are firms right here in our state doing amazing work with IoT most of us couldn’t have imagined five years ago.
  • Its growth potential is huge. A few speakers cited a Gartner Research finding that about a million new devices come online each day, making IoT is a potential $14 billion market.
  • It enables and improves technologies, including mobile technology. A Tempe manufacturer called Local Motors created a series of 3D printed cars. Check out their video below.
    • How is this related to IoT? It’s powered by a platform created by another Tempe company, Octoblu (now owned by Citrix), which works to integrate anything and everything through the Internet. You can control the car through a laptop and I’m sure, through a very well-protected smartphone someday soon.
  • IoT developers care about delivering quality products. I’m among millions of frustrated people who’ve written about abysmally slow US Internet speeds. IoT platform designers will be the ones to push for a faster Internet on our shores. Here’s an article I wrote on Internet Speed a couple of years ago.

 

Here’s where IoT is scary: security gaps.

Platform developers like Octoblu are working hard to maximize security on their end. They’re constantly hiring people to hack their systems and help them identify where there are weak spots. It won’t be easy for Kim Jong Un’s minions to break into their platform.

The problem comes from the device side of things, where there are no security standards. The best platform developers can do is blacklist devices and firms that are notoriously sloppy and easy to hack. They should also take the lead in persuading and assisting mobile developers to improve security and invest in new safeguards.

Right now, the safest way to communicate between two places is peer-to-peer (P2P), which of course makes it less “mobile” in some ways, but it is the most difficult to hack.

The Phoenix IoT Community is Robust and Enthusiastic

Honestly, IoT folks are not just enthusiastic at work but also at 9 am on a bright Saturday morning, after a rainy week when it’s tempting to ditch a conference and go for a hike.

Not this group. The auditorium was full for the keynote speaker, Octoblu founder and local IoT god, Chris Matthieu, who sports an impressive twirly-style mustache. In this video, he explains how Citrix used Octoblu technologies to power that 3D car.

Citrix also hosts the IoT Hackers Meetup. As a member of a couple of WordPress meetups, I appreciate when companies loan their spaces.

Another local group that brings together IoT developers is CO+HOOTS. It shares offices in downtown Phoenix to encourage collaboration among techies in various areas, including software and app developers. You don’t have to be a techie to use their space, though: the site lists graphic designers, filmmakers, photographers, and independent types like lawyers, real estate agents, and ahem, writers as among their members.

While developers tend to work for their own firms, IcedDev is one local group that hires consultants to work with companies involved in development. I won’t pretend to understand a lot of what they do but its founder, Luis Montes, talked a lot about JavaScript (the group sponsors a local Java/Node Meetup). He also discussed an interesting development in Bluetooth technology that links sensors on low-powered devices like heart monitors to the web. This allows for remote patient monitoring, perhaps as a backup for onsite hospital staff attending to emergencies elsewhere.

Want to know what the experts say will be IoT highlights in 2016? Check out this blog entry from Chris Witeck, Citrix’s chief technology strategist.

 

 

Categories
Arizona issues

Meetup for Business & Social

meetupI must sing praises to Meetup.com, a site that hosts groups on just about any socially-acceptable topic.

In many ways, Meetup has been a godsend for me. I’ve met more friends, including other single parents, enjoyed camping trips, went to some great parties and dinners, and made a few very useful business connections. All came courtesy Meetup groups for single parents, families that go camping, and WordPress enthusiasts.

The last one is the focus of two Meetups I currently attend once a month. If you look at the footer on my  homepage, you’ll see language about WordPress, the software I use for this website and the others I’ve created. I can’t say enough great things about WordPress, starting with it’s easy to learn the basics.

One of the Meetup groups I attend is for WordPress developers. These are people who work on websites much fancier than this one. One of the group’s founders, a guy I used to work with, is a WordPress Rock Star. Even his license plate has something about WordPress on it.

I admit some of what they discuss at this Meetup is over my head, but I’m able to follow most of it. It’s hard for me to turn down an opportunity to learn something new that I might possibly use, maybe on Jeopardy one day:

Me: “I’ll take WordPress for four hundred, Alex.”

Alex: “The answer is: ‘These small apps perform specific functions, often in the sidebar.”

Me: “What is a widget?”

Alex: “Correct! And you are now in the lead. Go ahead and choose.”

Me: “How about obscure Scottish history for 600?”

This developers’ meeting is also very close to where I live, just a short ride up 101 from my home on in East Scottsdale, which is a real place although people in South Scottsdale disagree.

I also go to a WordPress Meetup for writers, which unfortunately is all the way out in the Northwest Valley. The people who organize it used to travel as far as Chandler to get their Meetup fix so who can blame them? This Meetup is more  for people like me, as they talk about stuff that content writers obsess about like Hummingbird and email marketing. Plus, they are now meeting at a coffee shop with a strong wifi connection and even have a sponsor, which is pretty impressive in my book.

So–if you’re looking for a social group to practice your Russian language skills, or you’re a lonely single parent, or you want to talk and network with people in your field, go to Meetup.com. Because the groups are so specific, it’s easy to talk to people who go to their events. You don’t have to worry about sitting by yourself or what to talk about because everyone is there for the same reason. I’m not exactly shy but I don’t do particularly well in large gatherings, even if I know someone there. But Meetups are smaller and much more conducive to actual networking or friend-making.

Visit the Arizona WordPress Group on Meetup. You’ll see a list of Meetup groups plus resources. I highly recommend checking out both. Notes, including presentations, from past Meetups are on the Pages tab, and more resources are under the “More” tab.

An independent Arizona WordPress Group site features tons of information including tutorials, business listings, WordCamp, surveys, and best practices. Yes, there is such a thing as WordCamp and it’s fun.