Chris McMichael

Trash Talk

There was an article passing through my social networks recently titled Trash is for Tossers. The author talks about her insanely conscious trashless lifestyle. This got me wondering what was in my trash. So I started trash digging to see what I could find and how I could improve my trash tossing skills.

The top items that I found in my trash: paper towel, product packaging, and greens plastic produce bags. I spent a moment brainstorming and searching the Internet to discover ways on how I could reduce my trash. After a few Google searches here is what I discovered.

A quick search on Google for ‘paper towels’ presented me with this sponsored sidebar link.

Wow! Was I really making unconscious purchase decisions? Apparently so. Next, I searched for ‘Kitchen Towels’ and I found a website which offers Cheap Kitchen Towels (89¢ for 6 towels).

There is a catch, since this is a wholesale website, a minimum purchase of 50 units is required. In total, that’s $36 with free shipping and 300 towels! Ok… 300 towels sounds a bit extreme and maybe it is but the order could be split with friends. For the price that I am paying for throw away paper towels, this is a no brainer and will last for quite a while. Speaking of buying in bulk brings me to my next point which is product packaging.

We have all purchased something with an unnecessary amount of packaging. Usually excess packaging can be found at wholesale establishments such as Costco. What if there is another way to reduce packaging? I believe there is but would involve a change in the behaviors of our manufactures, wholesalers, and consumers.

Imagine if products were shipped to stores in reusable shipping containers. Then imagine that inside of these shipping containers contained reusable packaging.

Now imagine how much money a manufacturer could save just on shipping their products alone. Reusable containers is not a new concept. If fact, large cargo ships with reusable steel containers can be seen entering the San Francisco Bay everyday. Yet, manufacturers still want to ship products in disposable packaging. Makes ZERO sense to me. Stores such as Costco could even change customer behavior by encouraging their customers to purchase and use plastic shipping containers to a customers residence. Is this achievable or this process too big to change? I don’t have the answer but I do believe that manufacturers have opportunities to save big if they are willing to make changes. This change will involve everyone’s participation. The last item I found in my trash was green plastic bags.

I frequent Trader Joe’s with my reusable trader Joe’s bag.

In recent years, California has begun charging a tax for plastic and paper bags at grocery stores. I think this is a great idea. However, This doesn’t entirely address the problem of the green plastic produce bags.

Apples, oranges, lettuce, avocados, you name it, there is a bag in my trash for it. Why hasn’t Trader Joe’s or any other grocery store started selling reusable produce bags? A quick Google search for ‘Mesh Produce Bags’ returns results for reusable bags that will cost you under $10 for 3 bags.

If you work at Trader Joe’s please send along my request to start offering reusable produce bags and lets change customer behavior!

Starting today, I am going to become more conscious of my trash tossing habits. It is nice to see environmentally conscious folks who are creating awareness about the trash we toss. Collectively these types of behavioral changes will help us move towards a trashless society!

Life With Less Social Noise

In my last blog post I talked about the changes that I wanted to make in my life to free up time being spent on social networks. I mentioned logging out of social networks after each usage to serve as a reminder not to waste time. In theory, it sounded like a great idea. In practice, it didn’t really work. I even found a chrome extension called Simple Blocker which prevents viewing socially addicting websites. The reality is that we live in a socially rich era which requires us to stay plugged into our social networks.

According to this article, the average user spends more than 2-3+ hours on social networks. Why are people offering up so much of their time to meanless activities? Or do these activities really provide value? So far I haven’t found any extra value in my life. My problems was getting sucked into online debates which never provided resolve. Topics such as racism, gun control, political garbage, hatred, anger, an so on… How I fixed social addiction was easier than I thought.

Instead of getting caught up in those posts that waste my time. I found this little triangle in the upper right corner of each post.

When clicked a dropdown appears.

I don’t necessarily want to unfollow a particular user. If there is a post that will end up wasting my time, I will choose to hide it. There’s even an option to hide all from a given media source. This feature has changed my life! I recommend other to try it out. It really cuts down on the noise. It’s not that events in our media don’t matter but when it’s the first thing that is blasted when you open your news feed. It gets old. I’m glad to finally be seeing the things on facebook that actually matter, what’s going on in friends lives.

Signout from Social Networks, Log into Life

Do you find yourself spending way to much time on social networks? You are not alone! Starting today, I am trying out an experiment for 30 days which is to Sign out from all of my social networks after each use. This includes phones, tablets, and other portable devices. I’m hoping this simple signout experiment will serve as a subtle way of correcting impulsive behaviors.

Requiring login each time, in theory, will serve as a reminder for the time that will be wasted while signed in. I’m hoping this simple act will improve personal time management. Let’s share conversations with other people again instead of sharing them with a technology device who does not share anything back. Time is valuable. Do not waste it contributing to someone else’s cause. I challenge everyone reading this to try out my experiment for 30 days and see how much of a difference it makes in your life. This is day 1. I will follow up with my experiences.

Introducing AppRabbit Studios

Today I am proud to officially announce the launch of AppRabbit Studios. We are a team of three software engineers and two designers and I am the CEO and director of product development. Collectively, we are striving to create award winning software.

Our Specialties

  • Mobile Applications.
  • Web Applications.
  • User Interface & Design.
  • Marketing and Business Strategies.

Great software pairs with great design. Those who can achieve both are the champions of product creation. We are an independent software creation studio. If you are in need of talented designers and engineers send us a message over at AppRabbit Studios. In the months and years ahead I encourage you to follow us on Twitter & on Facebook at Facebook.

Blogging better with Jekyll

Over the summer one of my fellow software engineers approached me bragging about how his Blogging platform was way better than the one I was using and making claims that I should should switch. If my Blog were converted, it must happen in a single day and must preserve existing functionality. So we spent a single day doing just that. Surprise! The following day I was proud to say that I was up and running on Jekyll! Those of you who aren’t familiar with Jekyll let me share with you a high-level overview.

What is Jekyll?

Jekyll is the name given to a Ruby framework. For those of you non-software nerds, Ruby is a programming language and Jekyll is a framework which is used to generate websites. I like to think of Jekyll is a compiler; similar to a tool that engineers may use to develop mobile or desktop applications. However, instead of generating a binary files, Jekyll generates static HTML files.

Writing & Maintaining

The main advantage, in my opinion, is how blog posts are written and maintained. Posts are maintained in a single text file without the clutter of inline HTML and other template logic which tends to get in the way of the actual writings. Blog posts become much easier to maintain since a simple text editor such as SublimeText is all that is need. Other frameworks such as Rails or Django may require the installation of libraries, databases, and caching services which are overkill for something as simple as a Blog. Below is a simple example of how a typical blog post might like look like.

Site (Re)Design

Jekyll offers an easy way to update the design of your blog. There are plenty of websites these days which offer beautifully designed layouts which provide easy integrations into an existing blog. Checkout out: html5up. If you have some extra cash lying around head over to Pixelarity for a wider selection of beautiful layouts!

Plug-Ins

Jekyll comes with quite a few handy features but sometimes you may find that you need something more than Jekyll can provide. Luckily, Jekyll can be extended through plug-ins! During the conversion process, my blog required a plug-In called Jekyll-gallery, which takes care of image thumbnails as well as the presentation of the actual images in the gallery.

I actually spent some time modifying this plug-in in order to match the same functionality that I currently have. Instead of pointing to an image directly, I modified plug-in code to create an individual page for displaying an image. Instead of this:

/gallery/awesome-trip/awesome-trip-image-001.jpg

I modified the code to do this:

 /gallery/awesome-trip/awesome-trip-image-001/

Ok, what’s so special about that? It basically preserves my current functionality but also provided a better way to navigate through my gallery. Hitting back buttons on a browser or using a bloated JavaScript gallery framework was not something I wanted to deal with. My custom plug-in can be found here: Github-Gist.

Disadvantage

Since Jekyll removes the need for server side processing. This may pose as a problem if simple form processing. In my case, my contact form. But wait… my contact form appears to working. Yes, and it was implemented using nodejs. Don’t let looks fool you! If hosting you own blog and are in need of a simple contact form, take a look at this node-mailme-maybe. Otherwise, there are a few services which will handle contact form submission but requires JavaScript to publish the form.

Deployment

If you choose to host your own blog, the only service you need to worry about installing is a webserver such as Nginx. For non-techies Github offers a free service for hosting your website called: Pages. There are a few things a non-techie will need to know but if you can follow a few simple directions you will be up and running running quickly. Don’t forget to checkout the following article as well: Using Jekyll with Pages. If you don’t have the time or would rather someone help you, I recommend: AppRabbit Studios. We would love to help!

Conclusion

I’m happy with the new solution. Thanks Mark! I converted my blog to something that was way easier to install and way easier to maintain. I’m hoping that this will inspire me to write more.