Avoid compulsively making things worse — schlimmbesserung, farpotshket

Schlimmbesserung is a German word for an effort to make something better that actually makes it worse. Farpotshket means the same in Yiddish. Why is there no English equivalent word for an activity so common?


Today's fortune. #managerlife

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What if you get pwned?

The New York Times piece “How My Mom Got Hacked” (google it, I don’t link to NYT) reminded me that too many people I know create a single point of failure by storing all their digital data in one place only — be it their phone or their PC. I’ve heard plenty of rationalizations for this behavior, but none of them makes sense.

Unless you are Gus Fring, you should back up your data to the cloud of your choice. Yes, the NSA will have it, and Kim Jong-un will have it (just kidding, he won’t), but so will you when your phone crashes, or when you get pwned by CryptoWall (like the mother of the NYT journalist). If you have privacy concerns, there are solutions (like encryption). If you don’t know how to use encryption, I am available for consulting. But don’t delay — backup today.

Pro tip: Never open email attachments, no matter who the sender appears to be. If you must view the content of that Word document your cousin emailed you, do not open the file on your PC. Save the document to your Google Drive and open it there with Google Drive Viewer.

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The story of “Bicycle Stories”

“Bicycle Stories: What the bicycle means to me, my family, my community, my planet” is a documentary film produced by the students of International High School at Union Square. They want to present it at the Youth Bike Summit in Seattle in February 2015. And they need your help.

Bicycle Stories -- bicycle program at International High School at Union Square
Bicycle Stories — bicycle program at International High School at Union Square

Meredith Klein is a teacher at the International High School at Union Square — a small Title 1 public school in Manhattan for recent immigrants. An avid cyclist, Meredith founded a bicycle program at the school four years ago, and runs it to this day. The program teaches students to ride, fix, and maintain bikes, convinced that “students who learn to ride for the first time experience autonomy in a new city, or from expectations placed on them by their families or home culture.”

This excerpt from a student’s college essay is a powerful testament to the program’s success:

I feel that is possible anything to finish if I try more and get the opportunity and support. In my opinion no one born smart, everything depends on how much effort we put into action. According to this experience, riding a bike is one of my most influential events in my life.

The students made a documentary about their experiences with the bicycle program, and want to present it at the 2015 Youth Bike Summit. They lack funds for their trip, and they are asking for donations. It is shocking how little they ask for ($5,185 total, $239 already raised as I write this).

Help if you can. Donate here.

How to go viral on Twitter (hint: I haven’t got a clue)

I tweeted a joke about PDF. I thought it was funny. I thought maybe a few of my geogeek friends would get a chuckle out of it. Maybe it will get a few retweets. Maybe a few faves.

Two days later my “PDF joke” was seen by over a million people all over the world.


Twitter Analytics -- PDF joke -- one million impressions
Twitter Analytics — PDF joke — one million impressions

Lessons learned:

  1. Your tweet is not always about what you originally thought it was about. For over 90% of the people who reacted to it, my tweet was not about PDF — it was about religion.
  2. When something you post online gets seen by a million people, you are guaranteed to get an occasional unfriendly reaction.
  3. This is the second time an online piece of mine has gone viral (the first was my New Jersey gas station map in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy in 2012). I was totally caught by surprise both times, and still have no clue why it happened and how to replicate it.
  4. Nevertheless, I’m willing to listen to social media marketing consulting contract offers.

How to be cool

People often ask me: “A.T., how can I be more like you?”.[1] Easy! Be smart, charming, and funny. Have a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor. Most importantly, BUY A GEOHIPSTER T-SHIRT and wear it everywhere!

How to be cool -- wear a GeoHipster t-shirt everywhere
How to be cool — wear a GeoHipster t-shirt everywhere

So there, the secret’s out. You’ve got no excuse.


[1] No one, ever, actually


A new free open-source anti-surveillance tool called “Detekt” was released on Thursday (Windows-only). Says PCWorld:

The open-source tool, dubbed Detekt, was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri. It was released in partnership with Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International.

Detekt scans computers for infection patterns associated with several families of remote access Trojans (RATs): DarkComet RAT, XtremeRAT, BlackShades RAT, njRAT, FinFisher FinSpy, HackingTeam RCS, ShadowTech RAT and Gh0st RAT.

I downloaded and ran the tool. All my PCs came up clean (see screenshot below). Apparently I’m not important enough to be surveilled. I am not sure whether to be relieved or insulted.

Detekt screenshot
Detekt screenshot

Vital Apps for the Outdoorsman

The great outdoors can be very dangerous for the unprepared, whether you like to bike or hike through the woods or camp out for weekends. Thankfully, there are a lot of smartphone apps that can help adventurers in their journey into the wild. Before going on your next adventure, you may want to consider downloading these on your phone for a hassle-free and safe journey into the unknown.

MotionX GPS

The first rule of staying safe outdoors is to avoid getting lost in places you are unfamiliar with. When your phone has the MotionX GPS, you will be able to view your location wherever you are in the world. The best thing about MotionX GPS is that users can save maps so you won’t ever have to worry about losing your way in case the phone’s Internet connection gets cut off. You may also find your way back easily if you’ve set up a starting point, since the app will update your location with each step.

Knot Guide

One of the most useful techniques in camping is knowing how to tie knots. Knots can help build tents, help construct tools, and aid users in climbing. Knot Guide is a simple app that has over 100 instructions in forming knots for different situations. The app has pictures with its instructions so even complete beginners can follow the steps.

SAS Survival Guide

Ultimate SAS Survival Guide
Ultimate SAS Survival Guide

The SAS Survival Guide is the adventurer’s bible. It contains a lot of tips on how you can survive perilous situations while traveling. The app was designed by a former member of Britain’s toughest fighting force so the techniques that you can learn are very practical and useful. It has over 400 pages of survival tips, 15 instructional videos, pictures of edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants, a digital compass, and quizzes to test a user’s knowledge on survival.

Mobile phones in the present days continue to amaze us. They’re not only tools for browsing or gaming, but now, an instrument for survival as well. In fact, perhaps mobile phones are the most practical device for survival we have. According to Gaming Realms, software developer for Castle Jackpot Online Slots, the mobile market continues to grow and is expected to become a $42 billion industry by 2015. The predicted figures show that smartphones are becoming essential to daily life, and therefore the most perfect tool for survival in the great outdoors.