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Everything's Fine

3 min read

KC Green This is Fine.

Quite possibly the worst thing to tell anyone is “Everything’s fine.” That phrase means absolutely nothing. People utter these words for a variety of reasons, but the definition of “fine” is so fluid that it can mean anything in the known universe.

At age 7 I was told “Everything’s fine” when I was out of my wits with fear of swimming lessons. What about that big presentation you have tomorrow? Your coworker’s advice is “It will be fine.” What did you tell your friend with the terminal cancer? “Everything’s going to be fine.”

How is that Google maps, an application, can direct us from our homes to the latest vape store accurately, but we can’t communicate with each other? Perhaps my mother should have said, “I know the swim instructor scares you, but I promise you that she will not let you drown.” Your coworker would have been better off saying, “If you’re that nervous, let’s see if a meeting room is empty and you can practice in front of me.” That terminal ill friend is far from “fine.” So what can you do in the meantime. Are you scared? Do you not know what to say to this person in crisis? You know what? You can say that. Your honesty is an incredible gift to anyone, at any time. Remember that.

In keeping with the ideas of communication and honesty, everything I just wrote above is my opinion. I am not a psychologist and I did not study sociology. It’s based on my observations and interactions in a world where men aren’t supposed to have emotions. The social world of North America that I live in seems so deeply ingrained with the idea of polite affectation that it feels like we, as humans, rarely communicate. Play your role, tell everyone you’re “fine.” Ask about their work, family and kids and get on to business. Don’t share your pain. Don’t share your struggles. Don’t. Do not share emotions.

What good would come of losing that polite affectation? How could sharing my burden with everyone serve to help us as a community? It comes back to the fact that none of us are “fine.” We are alone with our emotions. Except, each and everyone of us humans has those emotions. Sharing brings us together. Opening up to others means sharing the burden. Together we’re stronger. Even then, we will never meet the definition of fine which is “superior, best quality, excellent or admirable.” However, we can strive towards excellence as a bonded community of humans. Isn’t that the challenge of life? There’s no such thing as perfection, but together we can reach admirable.

The image above is a popular meme from the web, but it originated in K.C. Green's web comic Gunshow.

December 2016 Monthly Income Report

3 min read

In September I made this grand experiment official, “Let’s see how well I can transition to a job as a writer.” Keeping it real, I recognized that there truly is no such thing as “going viral” or “being discovered.” This goal will take time. I thought I’d give it a year or two. Now, after a few months, my resolve is fading.

December was a month minus my regular client that provided more than 2 years of work. I started editing images for episcura (link not guaranteed to work much longer). Eventually, I was handling the Twitter, Facebook and G+ accounts as well. Two of the three owners had the reigns of the social network accounts as well. They grabbed followers, bought ads and responded to some questions while I posted the day to day content. From there, it spun into me blogging for them.

The company, episcura, has decided to close up shop. While 3D artist do need HDRI and texture images for their work, it is simply too easy to appropriate pictures from a Google image search, rather than pay for quality work. Furthermore, technology advancements continue to make photogrammetry more practical and efficient.

As I mentioned last month, even though I could sense it coming, losing the gig was quite a shock. Thus, I spent much of the month in self-doubt and low confidence. I wanted to double my efforts with my remaining client, but my ego was too bruised to give it my all. December is a holiday month spent with family and friends, but it was feeling shame because I had lost what little income I had. The month is typically a busy month because firms are trying to spend the last of their yearly budget in order to get the same amount renewed for the following year. However with the last week of December a write-off because of Christmas, I felt it would be difficult to find a new client in the 3 weeks left of the year. Perhaps that was the self-doubt talking?

Monthly Summary

Those are some very sad numbers, indeed. I didn’t get a lot of assignments from my remaining client because they were busy with an art opening. I’m somewhat mad at myself for not running with the freedom and pouring some content out on their site. For episcura, I ran with the ball and posted one article a day, sometimes more. I think initiative and confidence go hand and hand, and I was lacking the later. I’ve done freelance for years and clients come and go, but I was really invested in episcura, so I took it personally. The bright spot in the month is a piece I did on a new social network.

Other Income

Paul is always there when I need him. My friend and co-host started publishing our past live shows and kept me busy with show notes and writing updates on our Patreon page. We even got together for a short show and talked about smart watches.

January began with a trip away from the gloom of winter. Hopefully the sunshine will inspire a better report next time.

I just watched this Adam Ruins Everything video on how Facebook & Google aren't "free." It's somewhat funny considering that College Humor had around 16 pieces of tracking software on it. Anything for those precious clicks!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFX2P7JLwA

@jeena How's things with your website? Have you had to update your code often? It seems like Known is getting out of the POSSE game. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/known-dev/orekBTTJMfg

US Citizen Moves to Canada So He Must Be A Criminal

8 min read

CAN US FLAG

September has been an awful moment for my wallet, not because of spending but because clients and employers can't pay American me in Canada. Previously, a client had me sign up for a Chase service which I connected to my US account with another bank. Chase recently decided to say goodbye to freeloaders, like me, who weren't doing any banking with them. So began a month of stress, frustration and absolute disgust with customer service, computerized systems and the US, in general.

I'm a US citizen, but a legal resident of Canada. No matter what I do, I always have to file US taxes. Every other country in the world, has you file in the country of residence. Not our beloved USA. Thus, I changed my official address at my US bank account to Canada. I didn't want to appear suspicious by having a US address and also claiming residency in Canada. My bank assured me that they were fine with this arrangement.

My US bank account is a nice thing to have for traveling back home to visit. It's also necessary to pay off my student loans. Thus, I was getting paid by my US clients into that account and paying my student loans. I'm very thankful that friends in my professional network have stuck with me and cho se to employ me despite the move to Canada. It can complicate things for them and they're taxes as well.

While my problems this week are somewhat tax related, it really just comes down to getting paid. Despite having these computers in our pockets, banking is still in the dark ages. Well, I should rephrase that. American banks are in the dark ages. The security of the chipped credit card just reached the US last year? It's been a staple in Canada and other countries for close to a decade. (Plus, the US chip system never seems to ask me for my pass code. That's one of the most secure functions of it!) We hear about fabulous apps to send/receive money like Square Cash or Google Wallet, but they're US only.

"Where's the problem? You have a US account."

My address is Canadian. It's like living in a post Y2K world, where computer systems were never updated to do a 4-digit year. I literally cannot type in my postal code. I cannot choose my province from the dropdown menu. And "Heather," Google's help desk person who obviously has English as a second language because she's most likely not working at the Google campus, cannot help me because that's not in her script. Indeed, another friend talked to a family member who is at Square to help me out, and it was also a no go. Many friends suggested Freshbooks. It turns out they're based in Canada, surely they can help! "When you add your bank account, just put in a US address, not a Canadian one." Why didn't I think of that? Just lie. I'm sure that will work out for me. "News at 11: IRS Finds Canadian Terrorist Cell Using Freshbooks."

Death to Stock

Meanwhile in Canada and Europe, I've seen a number of methods to move money across borders. Here, there a number of immigrants, like me, sending money home. Wire transfer services, apps and websites can move money just about anywhere. The exception is the US. Obviously, Europe has mostly open borders and these things are a daily occurrence with your neighbor. The US and Canada are neighbors, right?

The Tax Shelter That Is Chris

The reason I am having so much trouble is because I'm a person, not a corporation. Wait, aren't corporations people now? Does it work the other way around? Am I Burger King? Did I move to Canada to escape the evil US taxes? Well, since I now have to file for taxes in two countries, hell no. Yet, that's really how I am being treated, as a criminal.

The assumption is that I fled to Canada to escape taxes. It wasn't love, happiness or any other ridiculous notion. I'm a US citizen, and complete criminal element. The thing that really gets me about the whole situation is that we live in this weird, new sharing economy. Again, sharing is in reference to the peons, us people at the bottom rung. The Uber drivers are so very happy to make their own hours and a living driving a car. The execs at the top of Uber are still playing the age old capitalism games and could care less about the sharing economy. Perhaps young startups begin with the sharing ideals, but they take on shareholders and fall into the well.

Fees, Fees, Fees A.K.A. PayPal

Search "don't use PayPal," or the classic "PayPal sucks" and you'll find a load of reasons to steer clear of them. You may even find a 14 year old rant by yours truly. I had a falling out with the service and have never used it or it's partner in crime, eBay, ever again. Guess what? It does actually work in Canada and the US. Despite my misgivings about the company, things are looking brighter, right? Setting the past aside, no. Things are probably going to get uglier.

When I made t-shirts for our podcast, Cotton Bureau only accepted PayPal, but wouldn't let me connect my account. It was that Canadian address issue again. Damn me for being an upright citizen and not lying. So, I signed up for a Canadian PayPal account.

My Canadian bank account says I can get a US account with their bank in the US and move money between the accouts without hassle. Sign me up! "No, you actually have to go to a US branch and sign up." Shoot me now. Instead, I opened a US dollar account here in Canada. Any US dollars I put in it are mine, without conversion! So, Canadian account plus Canadian PayPal, but payments in US dollars coming to a US dollar account! I win. Except for all of PayPal's fees that I can't list here because they're completely obfuscated on their site.

Oops. I celebrated too soon. It's a Canadian PayPal account. PayPal charges a fee for converting USD to CAD and vice versa. They really want that fee. Now, my option is to get paid, convert the USD to CAD and deposit it in the USD account which means another conversion by my bank. Or take the conversion into my CAD bank account. Tell me again, how I will pay my US student loans?

My Money, My Future, My Loyalties

As a freelancer, stress often comes from clients not paying your invoices. This was a whole new level of stress, not finding a method (in 2016!) to receive payment. Now, I brought this on myself. US friends reading this are thinking, "You're the one that moved there." My Canadian friends are wondering, "Why not get a Canadian job and ditch the US clients." Well, thank you for giving constructive advice, fake Canadian voices in my head. That's more helpful than the brash statement by the pompous American voice in my head.

A Canadian job would be pretty wonderful. I do what I do now based on opportunities and who I know. It's not based on me trying to avoid Canadian or US taxes. I don't mind pay taxes. Even before I moved here and had this amazing health care. Taxes give us roads, services and all sorts of things. Even if you don't agree with how the money is spent, you still owe it, in my opinion. Since I live in Canada, I owe that money to the government here, not the US government that assumes I must be a criminal for moving.

This whole episode has me seriously thinking about my US citizenship. What does it really afford me, aside from this hassle? I have family and friends back in the States, but I could still visit if I had Canadian citizenship. In the future, will my wife and I want to retire in the States? It's an option, but it's not looking very good right now.

If you read this far, hello. All of this just boils down to a reminder that Canada is a foreign country. As much as people around the world, and in the US, assume North America is basically the USA, it is simply not true. I would go so far as to say, we're not even that neighborly when it comes to money matters. Really, it's the difference between socialism and capitalism. Canada let me open a US dollar account and I can send money practically anywhere. The US doesn't want money to move outside its border.

If, for some reason, you enjoyed reading about my financial woes, you'll enjoy my next blog series. Riding the line between stupid and brave, I plan to post monthly income reports as I continue my career change journey. I don't really look forward to sharing how little I make. Yet I think it would be nice for others to see, a realistic look at writing articles rather than a carefully cultivated social media presence proclaiming that I am a successful entrepreneur.

Tools to Ease the Switch from Mac to PC

8 min read

 

Previously, I covered some of my journey making the switch from Mac to PC this year and now here's some of the utilities and applications that made me more at home in Windows 10.

tinySpell

Seriously, what the ever-loving f**k, Microsoft? Why am I installing a 3rd party utility to have my computer check my spelling as I type in the year 2016? This functionality works across every app and window in Apple's OS X. Not to mention, every single smartphone on the planet. I just don't get it.

Years ago, I know that typing classes focused on speed and doing all the corrections at the end. However, that's just not how I work. I'm trying to switch this mindset now. Especially since Windows 10 supplies very little help. It makes sense that you continue to finish your thought, rather than backspacing, correcting an error and losing your flow. Yet, I still think highlighting incorrect words as you type is far superior than right-clicking and running a spellcheck application. You could still type your entire document and then go back to make corrections to the underscored words within the document, versus the extra steps involved in those clunky spellcheck windows in applications. For one, you can ignore the highlights that you know are correct, like brand names & products instead of having to punch the "ignore" button a dozen times.

I researched a few solutions and so far I have settled on tinySpell. This utility isn't perfect, the idea is that it uses one of those yellow tool tip things to highlight misspelled words, rather than the trusty underscore. I imagine this is a way for it to function in every application? Either way, I am somewhat happier with this installed. Unfortunately, the tool tip only appears after you type the word briefly. So, correct it now or you'll forget about it by the time you get to the end of this sentence.

Seer

I'm sure many of you prefer icons to descriptive lists, but I've never favored that. As much as I love being able to preview images and files with a click of a key in OS X, I didn't really set out to find a way to do this in Windows 10. I easily accepted defeat and tried to get used to using the file exporer setting which displays a preview of docs or images in a pane. This function pretty much halves the size of the file explorer window, truncating the details pane, but what are you going to do?

Then, I saw that a previous podcast guest, Alan Henry posted an article about Seer. Same as on a Mac, press the space bar on a selected file and get a preview. Boom. Color me happy.

Free Commander XE

When I was a windows user in a previous lifetime, I used Windows Commander (now called Total Commander) because I really liked having a dual-pane file manager. This allows me to move things quickly with only one file explorer window open. Total Commander and so many other dual-pane file managers also do FTP and have built in zip compression/decompression. This makes them excellent solutions as a file explorer and FTP application.

On the Mac, I used Forklift which did everything I needed it too. I even used it to rename thousands of images with a click of a button for a work gig. Currently in Windows 10, I'm trying Free Commander XE. Back when I was using Total Commander, it was a free beta. Now, it's $42 and the last time it has been updated was in 2015. So, I decided to try something different. Free Commander is missing FTP, but most of my HTML is still on the Mac. There is a beta of Free Commander with FTP and I can donate to get it after I finish testing this free version.

Launchy

Did you see that menu on Windows 10? And, that's after I did some edits and tweaks. (I should probably remove Internet Explorer's cousin Edge, because I don't use it.) Honestly, I rarely use the menu at all thanks to the Task Bar and Launchy. With a keyboard shortcut, you can launch anything you want. I'm loving this free thing! I've mapped the keyboard shortcut to my middle mouse button and that's how I open everything. Forget that terrible, nasty menu. The keyboard shortcut is ALT + Space and you get a nice clean blank asking for you to type a few characters in the document, file, bookmark or application you want to start.

Mailbird

Outlook? Yeah, no. On the Mac, I was using the great Airmail for my email needs. I'm part of the 1%. We're not rich, we just don't use Gmail. For Windows 10, I found something very comparable called Mailbird. The app is free with ads, or it seems to be heavily discounted all the time. The pro version removes the ads and gives a few more functions that don't appeal to me at this time. Of course, I've only been using it for a few months and I am tempted to buy the lifetime pro option to support the app. I feel like so few developers let you upgrade infinitely, these days. "Sorry, your license was for version 1, not version 2. Please cough up the $50 again. That's what is really tempting me, aside from supporting them.

Pidgin

When it comes to chat and messaging, I have friends spread out through many services. Apple's iMessage worked, for the most part. I use Slack for our podcast (you can join it by becoming a patron). I also have a separate app for IRC which we use to chat with folks during the live podcasts. On Windows 10, I decided to play it safe with an application that's been around for ages, Pidgin. I can chat with the old connections on Instant Messenger, and with my employers and wife who trust Google Hangouts. Obviously, using a 3rd party app for Hangouts means no video, but we don't have a webcam for the desktop.

There's a new kid in the game called, Franz, but the site was down when I recently looked at it. From the screen cap at the site I've linked, it connects you to WhatsApp, Grape, Messenger, HipChat, Skype, Telegram, Hangouts and Slack. It's an interesting combination for developers, but I don't use any of those services regularly. So I might test the Windows beta eventually, but for now, Pidgin.

Writemonkey

A recent OS X app find was the amazing Byword for writing. My co-host on the podcast, Paul, got me into Markdown which is just a way to format your plain text easily. I love it. Byword supported Markdown and is what I used (and continue to use on the laptop) to write for work, my personal sites and the show notes for the podcasts.

I poked a few different apps, but I really liked the look of Writemonkey because it was similar to Byword. Both apps convert my plain text Markdown to HTML so I can drop them on blog sites, fully formated with links. Kids, never write your posts, articles, blogs or whatever in the editors on the web pages themselves. Trust me. It only has to fail once for you to lose everything.

Calendar

This is where I need some help. Recent updates to Baikal have made it more complicated for me to continue using it. They had a package you could FTP to your site and it would just work, but have since discontinued that. Therefore, I would have to get a VPS & install the new Baikal with no guarantee that my current calendar data would survive. I'm not opposed to doing this work, but I've already got OwnCloud running for my files and it has a calendar. Thus, I moved everything to it.

The problem is, Windows 10's calendar app doesn't allow you to use an OwnCloud calendar. I haven't found many calendars at all for Windows. It would seem people are stuck using Outlook or Google. There's some workarounds and hacks to get the Windows 10 calendar to work, but they haven't been all that successful for me. My current setup is using Chromium (boo Google) to make a web app that connects to my Owncloud calendar at the click of an icon. Personally, I don't want a browser window open all the time with my calendar in it, so I would love to find a calendar application.

Function Over Form

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