Reess Kennedy

Ideas, sharings, projections

Category: Announcements

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Why I’m proud to make my marathon debut in NYC this year!

Tears welled up in my eyes last fall when I watched the NYC Marathon runners enter Central Park at 72nd street. It caught me off guard. Thinking about why this impacted me so much, I’ve realized that watching the New York City Marathon is a powerfully uplifting, thought-provoking, emotional experience.

The following summarizes my thoughts on why and introduces the very worthwhile cause I am running to support come November 6th.

People choosing a hard thing

All year, every day I learn about new violence and discord within and among nations. I begin to think, “Maybe this is the natural state of things? Maybe strife is inevitable.” History supports as much.

Then on this one fall day in New York City–a city that represents openness and new opportunity–over 50,000(!) very unique humans from almost every country on Earth with varied occupations, religious beliefs, values and sexual preferences come together with a common purpose: push their bodies to the limit!

Typically when people travel this far and spend this much money they’re on vacation and looking for relaxation. The marathon pilgrimage is just the opposite: here tens of thousands of people have decided they wish to dedicate their finite resources and energy to come to one of the most competitive cities to do something that is incredibly taxing.

This decision reminds me of the oft-repeated JFK speech to motivate the first moon mission: “We choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

And so despite the indolence or fear I observe day-to-day–in others and myself–the marathon renews me with this awe that humans are these tremendously brave, purpose-led beings willing to make very hard choices and follow through on them in an effort to grow.

It’s like this big challenge to show respect to the unsympathetic scientific principle of evolution that has necessarily killed to give us life. We run to say, “We’re worthy! We obey. Keep making us stronger.”

People coming together

The marathon also seems to challenge this notion that discord is inevitable. For a moment when you’re watching the runners come through Central Park I question my resignation over the seemingly persistent, global state-of-affairs: “Maybe we could figure out a way to bottle this up and spread it out over the whole year?”

This is what gets me choked up. It’s witnessing this highly uncommon, global unity.

Granted, I realize if everyone stopped running and started talking and discussing their views we’d probably have some issues crop up in short order but for a few hours we have, because of this vigorous activity, pacified the world!

It may sound corny but that’s the way I felt last year and that’s one reason I’m proud to be participating this year.

I’ve been running consistently for almost 20 years but this will be my first time competing in a marathon and will require me to significantly increase the intensity of my training but I’m excited about the challenge!

The Cause

I’m also excited I was given a chance to run by such an great organization doing such meaningful work.

I’m running to raise money to send seriously ill children to the Hole in the Wall Gang Summer Camp where they can be kids and have fun and not feel sick for a bit.

The camp was started by the late, legendary Paul Newman (one of my absolute heroes) and they do some very important stuff. Read more about them on their website. Note that unlike some charities they are also are very transparent about tracking and publishing their operating costs and have a great cost-to-benefit ratio so more of your contribution goes to actually helping kids.

I’ll maintain very fond memories of my own summers at a sports camp in New Hampshire for the rest of my life so I know the lasting impact being able to “raise a little hell” while your young can have. The Hole in the Wall Gang calls it, “a different kind of healing.” It’s hard for me to think of something more worthwhile than helping improve the quality of life for a child struggling with a serious illness.

The successful fulfillment of this fundraising effort will allow at least one sick child to attend camp.

Your support will also help my endurance over the next three months and will no-doubt elevate my spirits when I enter the hurt locker towards the end of the race on November 6th!

Thank you so much for your support!

Contribute to my campaign here! Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

Reess Kennedy’s Team! on Crowdrise

Ray Dalio’s Principles in .epub format

UDPATE: Now Dalio’s Principles are also available here on Amazon. Below is the original, early version he made available for free online a couple years back.

I’ve now read the updated, new version in stores and it’s more complete than the early edition made available below. I recommend it. I guess I’ll leave up the original for the historical record but the update–especially the biographical part–of the new book is greatly expanded.


Original post: 

Dalio’s principles have received a lot of press coverage since he first published them in 2011.

But he only published them as a .pdf and reading them on my Kindle is better. I’m a big fan of my KindleEvgeny Shadchnev already took the time to make a .mobi version and properly format it and I have just converted that copy to .epub as well which I link to below.

Ray Dalio’s Principles in .epub format.

And in .mobi format.

I’ve been keeping my own “process list” — basically a set of principles — which I maintain and continue to update to aid me in personal and professional decision making. Maybe, eventually, I will publish those somewhere. I actually held off on diving into Dalio’s principles until I spent an honest amount of time dumping out my own mind into a structured list of personal principles. I encourage others to make their own lists as well — and to do it before reading Dalio’s principles. After doing this, It’s interesting to compare and contrast your own list with others–to understand the principles that are uniquely your own, or have become your own from various other influences, and to understand the ways your current principles already overlap with Dalio’s and others.

I also like how Dalio just releases this as a .pdf instead of publishing a book. This way, the focus is solely on the ideas and getting them out there and not all the packaging and authorship stuff that comes with publishing a book and now being thought of as another self-help author.

The money that would come from publishing a book would be pennies for Dalio so he can do it this way and keep the focus on the ideas.

But at least now they are easier to digest and highlight on an ebook reader.

2015 retrospective

I’m better positioning myself for 2016 by taking a moment to take stock of 2015.

Overall, there are always highs and lows. I wrote out a monthly list of personal and professional accomplishments and failures but it’s too long (and the failed efforts started to piss me off) so I just extracted the good stuff and, in aggregate, it made me happy and even more excited about all there is to do and achieve over the next twelve months so this is some of the happy stuff I will include below, categorized by subject:

Best Purchases of 2015

Kindle PaperwhiteI love this thing. I wrote a post about why. I recently added the “Send to Kindle” extension which allows me to send long blog posts to my Kindle for superior reading and storage. I continue to love the highlighting and “Vocab Builder” functionality.

Rebel Desk: I did a lot of research on adjustable sit-stand desks and ended up going with a Rebel. It was something like $800 when I bought it and now it’s $599 with free shipping, which is still a little spendy but still way less than many of the electric ones and, overall, a great value. I really prefer the crank adjustment that comes with it. The really expensive sit-stands are electric but I don’t need anymore electronic stuff to plug in and the crank is smooth and easy on my Rebel. I actually can’t imagine a sturdier desk at full height and I don’t regret getting the glass top despite the need to clean it often. The glass makes it look cool and makes it seem like it’s taking up less space in my small Manhattan apartment.

Sistem 51 Watch: I wasn’t always a watch man but I am starting to feel naked without one on my wrist. My Mom got me the cream-colored Sistem 51 for my birthday in August and I absolutely love it. It’s fun, in a very antique way, to be able to listen to the natural click of a watch that doesn’t use any battery power. It’s just masterfully engineered. I don’t profess to understand everything about how they pulled it all off, I just like it — something about it being hermetically sealed and protected from any contaminants. I’ve found that as long as I am wearing it, it keeps pretty good time too.

Toshiba VHS to DVD Recorder: I helped convert a bunch of family movies to DVD to preserve them digitally and help clear up some space and this machine is easy to use and did the trick.

Personal Notes and App Improvements: 

I wrote a post on all the apps and tech stuff I use to organize my life earlier this year.

I end up writing down a lot of thoughts each day while I am on the go using the standard iOS notes app and for a long time I felt guilty about using this app, thinking that one of the two million other “to do” apps were likely better. I tried Asana for a bit since I use it for other stuff and even a few others but the truth is, after a bunch of trial, Apple’s Notes app just opens faster than all the rest of them and speed is the most critical feature in an app for spontaneous notes. I thought the fact that the notes app doesn’t have a great API or export feature would be a deal breaker but I found some code that will export the notes with a timestamp to Evernote. I wrote about it here. Problem solved, I’m content and I’ve stopped wasting time thinking about what else is out there.

Trips: 

I didn’t stray too far from the shire.

VT / Ski: Got in a nice weekend at Stowe with a fun group and enjoyed another day trip to Hunter with Manhattan’s Paragon ski club that busses NYers from Union Square up to Hunter. It’s a good deal.

Maine: I went to Maine in May to a “camp” I’ve been visiting since I was little. May is still really cold in Maine. It was only three weeks after the last ice thawed off the lake but we had a great time climbing Bald Mountain, cooking some delicious steak in tinfoil on the Weber, going for the 10 mile run into town, putzing around on the little Rangeley boat a bit with the same engine my Grandfather put in it decades ago and spotting a big old mouse on the drive up.

Hamptons: Fun weekend away. Beautiful place. I was actually annoyed how much I liked it. I’ve held that the Hamptons must be unnecessary for me given my parent’s live in a coastal Connecticut town only an hour outside Manhattan but unfortunately the Hampton’s really delivers with its wine vineyards, beautiful farms with roaming horses, art scene and great beach access to Atlantic waves — far more exciting than the Long Island Sound surf I am accustomed to. So damn you Hamptons for actually being nice and no longer allowing me to dismiss you.

Massachusetts: Another wedding weekend that rocked in Willamstown. Willams College has one of the nicest Track and Field facilities I’ve seen — and this was a small DIII school. I stopped in Lenox on my way back to visit my Grandfather’s grave site — which, apparently, was never finalized so I was walking around the cemetery confused for a long time.

NJ: Got away for a bachelor weekend in Atlantic City. The gambling part of the city seems to be falling apart with a few casinos eerily abandoned. Outside this area, however, the Jersey Shore seems alive and well with many families on vacation. We got a cool Airbnb pad and I am just loving the options that Airbnb opens up.

New York: Doug’s wedding weekend in upstate NY was a blast. Growing up in CT I didn’t get to the Hudson River Valley much but it’s beautifully verdant and it was a great getaway. I had been madly working on a speech for the rehearsal dinner I wasn’t sure would “hit” so I was happy when it seemed it went well. Doug and Marisa really worked their tales off planning and everything came together perfectly.

Detroit and Ann Arbor: Went to visit Al with the guys. He’s all grown up with a real house and kids and everything. It’s pretty awesome and Ann Arbor is a nice town. I ended up scoring $150 when we went to a Detroit Casino for a bit. This was especially fun because I am such a poker novice and only went along to play because I was following the guys. The old men at the table started to be suspicious of me when I began winning pots. Some thought I might be a “professional flopper” who feigns to be a novice to gain competitive advantage.

PA: A couple great trips to NE PA with my little lady.

Other events and fun stuff: 

Gay Pride Parade: This really may be the best day of the year in New York City. This year’s historic ruling on same sex marriage made it very special.

Clapton at MSG: They said this would be Clapton’s last time playing at MSG or in the United States so I had to get tickets for my Dad for his 69th birthday. It turns out paying a couple hundred bucks for seats to Clapton at MSG will still get you super nose bleed seats, but it was still fun.

Brian Regan at Radio City: I love this guy. I don’t think this performance was his best but it was cool that it was streamed live on Comedy Central as we were watching. This was a first for the network. And Radio City is really cool.

Broke 30 for five miles: This really isn’t impressive but I am not running as much as I used to so sub six minute pace is okay on an upper-medium effort. This gave me enough motivation to daydream about what I could do on Thanksgiving Day 2016! My best time is about three minutes faster on the course which I believe I ran when I was 17. Next year I’ll be twice that old and I still feel very strong so this gives me more motivation to stay fit and see what I can do next year.

Conclusion: 

Okay, I have to conclude this post because it’s starting to get annoyingly long and too self-centric. It seems like I am just writing down everything I did this year and I don’t think this is useful anymore. My aim is only to share stuff that’s important to me if I think it might also be useful to others.

Still, I think writing down all one’s highlights from the previous year at the dawn of a new one is, generally, a good activity — whether you share it or not. It’s easy for me to always feel “I should have done more” but when I look back I feel less anxiety about what I might have left undone and more gratitude about what I was able to do and, more importantly, after organizing my past year on paper a bit I feel more excited about the present and the year to come.

16 tools powering my life

My guiding philosophy on technology: Only use it to simplify, not add complexity.

My Grandfather said that technology is a tool and tools can be used for good or evil. Nuclear fission is a dramatic example of this. “You have to decide how you employ it,” he said. He said a lot of true, Yoda-like things.

The point is: With this philosophy as my central guide how can I use technology to organize and simplify my life? What are the best tools out there that facilitate productivity instead of frustration? Focus instead of distraction? Freedom instead of imprisonment? (Okay, that list of dichotomies got grandiose but there is some truth in there … “freedom” in the form of an app having a great, open API is really important when considering what to use.)

Without further delay, below are general tools I use every week. I have more specific tools I use for programming which I’ll write about in another post and link to here. I am very discerning when it comes to the tools I use and I test options extensively, sometimes making my own spreadsheets listing features before deciding what to use. When it comes to the technology solution you’re going to use to do something important in your life it’s better to “measure twice and cut once.” It can be costly to have to migrate once you start with something if you haven’t chosen the right “tool for the job.”

In order of importance to me:

1. Notebook and Pen

The rest of the tools are digital but paper and pen — for fluidity and speed — are still at the top of the list. I have a specific to-do list system I will explain in a separate post but I figured I’d lead with the the only non-digital tool here.

2. Google Docs

Google Docs is nirvana. It’s AMAZING what Google has been able to do with software in the browser. I live in the browser, so not having to go off to a standalone app is huge. I’m actually a believer in HTML5. I think there is still room for it to make people question the need to invest in native mobile apps in the future despite some company’s high profile failures with this so far. Yes, maybe MS Word and Excel have a bunch of features not present in Google Docs but I’d venture 99% of people don’t need those features. And the Google Docs suite becomes more and more powerful and feature rich over time.

The key thing is mobility. I have a laptop, iPhone and iPad and now have become spoiled knowing all my documents are synchronized on all these devices at all times.

Additional things I love:

  • Real time edits. I get a little bit of knot in my stomach when someone sends me a Word Doc as an attachment to review. You know how much productivity is lost from people passing different track-changed Word docs back-and-forth? A lot, I suspect. You loose track of which document is the most current and it’s just a mess. In addition, consider all the massive email bulk people keep around in their inbox? In aggregate, the world’s sum of old, never-again-to-be-useful file attachments being stored on machines and backup servers is wasteful in a number of ways.
  • Edit history. This basically like track changes or version control (for programmers).
  • Sharable links: for the same reason above. Send a link, not a document attachment.
  • CompatibilityI have used Google Sheets to collect data or list data with simple web apps that don’t require some more complicated relational structure. A good example: You could maintain a list of books you’ve read in a Google Doc and it would always be there and really easy for you to update and then you could output that data using the API anywhere in HTML — like on this very blog. 

 

3. Google Drive

I use this over Dropbox. It basically does all the same stuff, is cheaper and I don’t have to switch to another app.

Other Cool features:

  • Screenshot storage and OCR: I take a lot of screenshots of interesting or fun stuff I find on the web and they are automatically saved to my drive. The day I found out Google OCRs all these so I can find text results that were in my images I almost fell out of my chair. Awesome. Evernote also does this but, again, I am always logged into Google and the extra storage costs are so cheap, like $2 / month for 10 terabytes of data, so I am letting Google do the heavy lifting with my file storage.
  • Easy local machine to cloud sync: I keep a few shortcut folders on my desktop that link to local folders storing my Google Drive documents. These are then also accessible by the web interface and searchable and it all stays synchronized.
  • Integrations: Google is still good about keeping their apps open, which means that if I ever need to I can write my own code to communicate with them or use Zapier’s cool bridges to that hard work for me.

4. iCal

This is what I use for my main calendar app. It’s fast and synchs on all my devices. I used to have a bunch of different calendars for very-specific things like “Exercise” and “Meetings” and that was overly complicated. I now maintain three calendars: “Work”, “Personal” and “Notes” and I use notes to log calendar-sensitive events like, “Put in new contact lenses” or “Got haircut” and then set alerts for, in the case of contact lenses, two weeks in the future so I know when to replace them again.

5. Apple Notes

Speed and simplicity is the most important feature in a notes app and Apple’s default is just the fastest. It has some downsides like the inability to export or tag your notes but I solved that and wrote about the solution on how to export your notes to Evernote or other apps using Apple Script. I export my notes into Evernote every couple months using this method.

6. Evernote

I was a very late adopter on this. I did stupid stuff — and sometimes still do — like take screenshots of passages I like while reading. (Maybe not as stupid now that those screenshots are searchable in Google Drive, as describe above.) Now, with Evernote’s flexibility and selection tool I just select the text in web article and use the web clipper in the bookmarklet.

I also now using it for basic bookmarking. Even though I do this, I think bookmarking is basically useless. It’s an impulsive thing to want to save this location but I don’t think I’ve ever really used it. Google Search is my bookmarking tool. They save my whole history of everything I have been to anyway so if I really want to find something again I can look through that. Despite the fact that I think it’s worthless, I still do it and I went from using the standard bookmarking offering in the web browser, then to Google bookmarks, then even to Delicious, then experimented with the whole group of popular “read later” offerings (Pocket, Instapaper, Pinboard, Readability) and now have settled on Evernote as the best all-in-one to simplify all this.

I also love that there are great API integrations for Evernote so you know you can always get your data out, if needed.

7. Asana

Now that I am starting to use Evernote there could be some overlap with Asana but I use this for 1) task tracking and management and 2) idea logging. I will offload ideas from notes to Asana where I can comment on ideas and they are all timestamp and easy to sort. Asana does amazing things with Javascript to create a great, flexible experience. And again, their API documentation is great so it’s easy to retrieve or do useful things with your data. Their new design is great too. It’s more Basecampy, in a way, but with my features.

8. WordPress

  • I have a local install of WordPress on my laptop that’s disconnected from the Internet  — at least not on a remote server — and runs on MAMP and I use this for private info I want to manage. I use a front-end edit plugin here to make it quick to edit and I often will keep it open in a tab.
  • I also use this very blog to store drafts for posts. I have a custom post type called “Draft / Ideas” where I’ll write them down and this keeps them unindexed while they are still drafts. I have this idea that just putting them in separate silo but on my actual blog makes it more likely I’ll actually publish them.

9. Macmail

This is my work email client. I like keeping it totally separate from my personal email and, for some reason, despite what I said about preferring to do everything in the browser, I like — or have gotten used to — having my work email in a standalone client.

10. Gmail

Personal email is here. It’s been awesome from the beginning. I do use the filters effectively too! (Google could probably make the programming of filters easier for non-technical people to understand — like a better visual UI for this, maybe).

11. Twitter

I kind of use Twitter as a public bookmarking service to track stuff I find interesting I am okay with sharing with the world. I’m actually very bullish on Twitter and think, right now, with a 20.71B market cap, it’s undervalued in a big way. There are so many directions they could go with their users and data. I used to use Delicious for public bookmarking and even liked their design updates but it’s just a redundant thing I have to abandon now. But twitter could allow you to tag and organize your own tweets. That might be a good idea for ya Jackster!

12. Scansnap

After a bunch of research I bought a Scansnap in an effort to try to go paperless more and I am glad I did. It will scan any paper you have quickly and then their software will make the text in the document searchable using OCR. It even converts handwritten text into searchable text. This is kind of the new standard, I guess — Evernote and Google Drive will also just do this for you once you upload a file. I save my scans directly to Google Drive so they’re accessible at all times and once I scan something in it’s soon available on all my devices automagically!

13. Skype

Still my go-to way for chatting or communicating overseas or having video conferences.

14. Time Machine

You just have to do it. Apple macs it simple. I bought an external LaCie 1TB drive to offload the backups. I don’t back up all the time though. I basically will plug my computer in once in a while as an EXTRA backup because I recently started using an always-on primary backup solution in the cloud called …

15. Backblaze

I wanted an extra safety measure and a remote backup of my files in case something really bad happens. Backblaze runs quietly in the background backing up all I do and store the backups in a remote storage facility in Arizona (I think). It works great and it’s only something like $49 / year so it seems like a no brainer for that kind of peace of mind. The fact that most of my docs are already saved by Google Drive means I have less that is unrecoverable in the event of a hard drive failure but it’s still worth it and I no longer need to fret about data loss from hardware failure.

16. Screenflow

I sometimes have to make demo videos and this is what I use to capture screencasts. It works really well. It also makes editing really easy too. I have used it edit together some family video footage as well and it works well too. I don’t have FinalCut nor do I know how to use it and I suspect it’s very bare-bones for actual video editing but for simple stuff and screencast recording and editing it works great!

I also use the following:

  • Google Chrome for browsing with the Momentum Dashboard extension installed — an inspirational image, quote and the current time in each tab.
  • Photoshop: I don’t do much design work but if I need to edit something I have a copy of photoshop for light editing.
  • Vienna: A free, open source RSS reader app for Mac. I just began using this to track product updates for software I used and some blogs.
  • Newsfeed Eradicator: Blocks your FB newsfeed. I used this because I love being social but often really need to concentrate.
  • Genius Scan: If you need to convert an image into a .pdf on the go.
  • Opera Mail: I don’t recommend having multiple mail clients but I had this issue where I had these old email accounts that had become overrun by Spam but I also wanted to be able to check over them occasionally. To achieve this I installed another non-MacMail client (I settled on Opera Mail) and I use it solely to hook in old, unused email accounts that receive mostly junk mail in case I ever need to check on any of them.

Stay tuned for my more formally work-related tools.

Get the New York Times homepage in your inbox every morning (for free!)

The New York Times allows for free access to a .pdf of the front page of the paper each day. Here is today’s paper.

I wrote a simple program that emails me this link every morning at 5 a.m. so it’s waiting for me when I get up. It’s really convenient. I just load it and read while drinking my coffee. If you want to get in on this and have a link to the front page delivered to the your inbox every morning just enter your info below and you’ll be added to the list. Simple stuff!

SIGN UP HERE

Why read just the front page? Dr. Harrison, one of my high school history professors, said that you should at least read the front page of the NY Times every day if you want to be a halfway interesting person. That stuck with me. Also: Sometimes the front page is all you have time for before other obligations take you away.

Why not just read the homepage at nytimes.com? I have a list of reasons I think analog consumption of news can be more mind-expanding or educational than digital consumption but I will share that in another post.

Is this kosher? I think so. This page is given away for free so this is not a way to cheat The Times out of change. I believe in supporting journalism in a big way. You should pay for home delivery too if you can keep up with it.

How’d you built this? If you care, the code for this is just PHP and then I send an email template to the email newsletter program Sendy using their API and it checks all the emails associated with this list and then I set up a cron job to make this all happen at 5am.

Ideas about this? Send me a note if you have any thoughts on improvements. I tried to see if the Financial Time sand Wall Street Journal also do this but I don’t think they do.

My NEW Goals with Blogging

I have hundreds of notes written down for “article Ideas.” Possibly thousands. They were originally all in journals and notebooks and now I transferred them all to Asana and a custom database I built on my computer.

I’ve been writing them down over the past 10 years and because work is always my top priority I never cut out the time to site down and flesh out these ideas, not always directly related to work, into an article.

Partly this is also because I am nervous about putting my voice out there, partly it’s because it’s a challenge to make the time but also–and I think this is one of the main reasons–it’s because I feel like my stuff always has to be really, really great. I don’t like saying I’m a perfectionist because I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything perfectly but I’m something like what people mean when they use that word. I hate making mistakes. And I’d hate putting mistakes out into the World for public view.

In an attempt to fix this I figure I can just announce publicly my intention to use this blog as more of just a long form twitter; like a Tumblr but on WordPress instead of Tumblr and with the ability, if I ever get on a roll, to really do so some research and really flesh out an idea into a piece I am proud of.

And I’ll just experiment with this. And if this doesn’t work and I need to just write less but make sure everything is more fully-baked, fully-formed  all the time, okay. But setting a lower initial barrier will get me going. It’s like how I tell myself I’ll just go lift weight for 30 minutes and if I hit that minimum I can walk home happy but I normally get going and put in more time.

So that’s the deal. I’m just logging some quick thoughts here and every so often I may write an actually well researched article I am proud of, that I think is adding something new and valuable to the World and I will be sure to promote that more.

Back in Action!

I haven’t really sat down to write any thoughts down since early 2007. Far too long!

I got a job, became singularly focused on that, advanced at it. Then started a company. Then sold that company.

This leaves me at today. After many years of hard work, I now have time to step back and I’ve realized that I’ve let my writing muscle atrophy in a big way. And regardless of my new professional goals, I need to regularly make time to collect and communicate my thoughts.

Writing helps me think. It’s a completely a selfish thing. It’s likely I’ll write more about this very thing in a post in the future but for now, this serves as just a declaration that I am adding my voice to the global conversation I value so much.

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