The Drink Well December Challenge

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One thing I’d love to give up forever is unhealthy drinks. Between iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts, chai tea lattes from Starbucks, Diet Dr Peppers, and similar deliciously unhealthy drinks, I probably have about one per day. Not good.

In an attempt to remedy that, I’m going to try a little challenge in December where my goal is not to have any of those things for the entire month.

In order to hold myself accountable, I’d like to make you all an offer (that is, all ~5 of you who read this blog 😃): if you hit Like on this post or add a comment, I’ll PayPal you $20 if I fail the challenge. 

I could cheat of course and you’d never know, but I won’t.

Wish me luck! Or don’t, depending on how badly you want that $20….

Check out LICEcap to make GIF screencasts

LICEcap is a slick cross-platform app that lets you create GIF screencasts.

When you load it, you’re presented with a resizable frame that you can adjust to fit the portion of your screen that you’re interested in recording:

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Hitting the Record button gives you a few options:

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Once you hit Save, it begins recording. When you’re done, you simply hit Stop (or Pause) and you have yourself a GIF:

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Hat tip Sandy McFadden and Adam Weeks for the suggesting it.

Johnny Lodden Thinks

“Johnny Lodden Thinks” aka just “Lodden Thinks” is fun little game you can play while you’re sitting around with friends or family.

The game is named Johnny Lodden Thinks because it originated when two pro poker players, Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari, began betting on what fellow pro Johnny Lodden‘s answers to their questions would be. YouTube has a clip:

Here’s how it works:

The game requires three people. Lets say I’ll be playing with my friends Adam and Ryan. One of us comes up with a question whose answer is a number. It then begins like this:

Me: Ryan, how many countries do you think border the Pacific Ocean? Think of the answer in your head. Don’t say it out loud. Let us know when you have a number.

Ryan: Ok, I have a number.

Once Ryan has a number, Adam and I start going back and forth saying what we think his guess is. After one of us says a number, the other player can say “less” or say a higher number. If the person says “less”, then we ask Ryan what his actual guess was and if it is less then the person who said “less” wins. Usually you’d bet money on it, but you don’t have to.

Me: I’ll start with 5.

Adam: I’ll go 10.

Me: 20.

Adam: 25.

Me: 26.

Adam: Less!

Me: Ryan, what was your answer?

Ryan: My guess was 20!

In this example Adam would win because I had last guessed 26, he said less, and Ryan’s original guess was 20. Had Ryan’s guess been 30, I would have won.

The key when guessing is not to start off too high. Had I initially guessed 100, Adam would have immediately said “less” and assuming Ryan’s answer was less than 100, won that round. Also, the real answer doesn’t matter, only what the person guessing thinks the answer is.

After each round ends you start again, usually with a different mix of people guessing and answering the question.

A question like “How many countries border the Pacific Ocean?” is just one example, but any question with a numeric answer will do. Usually folks wind up getting pretty creative (and often NSFW).

Here are a few more examples:

  • Ryan, what’s the population of England?
  • Ryan, how much money would you require to completely shave your head?
  • Ryan, if our other friend Joel had to obtain a live chicken and started his search right now, how long would it take him?
  • Ryan, if Joel was in the middle of an infinite field with no trees and no weapons, how long would it take him to catch a squirrel that initially starts 20 feet away from him?

… and so on. The more creative the better. :)

Give it a shot next time you’re sitting around with some friends and looking for something to do; I think you’ll really enjoy it.

A Ruby script to download a backup of your Heroku app’s Postgres database

A little over 5 years ago I shared a script that I had written to download a local backup of a Heroku app. Heroku’s CLI and its capabilities have changed a lot since then so I want to share an updated version for anyone who might find it useful.

You can check it out on Github: Heroku Postgres Backup Downloader.

For example, I have a cron job set up to generate a daily backup of Lean Domain Search that uses it:

$ ruby heroku-pgbackup-downloader.rb leandomainsearch "/Users/matt/Projects/LeanDomainSearch/Heroku Backups/"
Running backup script for leandomainsearch...
 Capturing a new backup...
  New backup id: b282
 Downloading new backup...
Done

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I’ve never had to use the backups and hopefully never will, but having them provides an extra layer of protection in case any of my sites are compromised and the data winds up corrupted or lost.

If you have a different backup strategy for your Heroku apps, I’d love to learn more – drop me a note or leave a comment below. Thanks!

How to subscribe to keyword mentions in HackerNews via RSS

If you’ve ever wanted to get notified via RSS every time a keyword is mentioned on HackerNews, there’s a neat service called HNApp that allows you to do just that. You can use it to follow mentions of your product or even just to follow discussions related to topics you’re interested in.

For example, I subscribe to a feed for the term “Strong AI”. This happens a few times a week and is almost always is part of an interesting discussion about the future of artificial intelligence.

If you search for “Strong AI” on HNApp, you’re presented with a list of recent discussions that include that phrase as well as links to subscribe via RSS or JSON:

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You can then plug the RSS URL into your favorite RSS reader and voilà, you’ll now be able to keep track of future discussions that use that term:

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I usually add the RSS URLs in the Feedly web app then use their iPhone app to read when I have downtime.

Here are a few other examples to get you thinking: WordPress, Calypso, Tesla, React.

HNApp searches occasionally time out so if you perform a search and it errors out, just try again later (RSS readers should automatically do this so there’s no issue there).

HNApp also supports following specific users which I use to learn from insightful commenters such as Patrick McKenzie, Ed Weiss, Jonathan Rockway, TokenAdult, and several others.

If you get use out of HNApp, give a shoutout to Nikita Gazarov on Twitter for the work he put into building it.

I’m going to write more often. For real this time.

One of my coworkers, Luca Sartoni, is trying an experiment this month: every day his goal is to publish a post on his blog but spend no more than 10 minutes writing it. He sets a timer when he begins and at the 10 minute mark he puts a quick final polish on it and hits publish.

I really like that approach because it forces you not to overthink things. The majority of recent posts on this blog took a long time to prepare (I’m looking at you, backpropagation tutorial) and while I enjoy writing longform technical posts like that, if I limit myself to those then it’s unlikely that I’ll post very often. This year, for example, I’ve only published 8 posts which is less than ideal considering I work for a blogging service :).

I’ve tried this before, but always wind up falling back into the trap of spending too much time on the posts which leads me to not write very often. So lets try this: Joel, Ryan, and Adam, oh great coworking buddies, if I go more than a week between posts or if I start only publishing long posts, I’ll buy you all coffee next time we meet up. Hold me to it!