What is Jon’s “Short Story A Day?”

List Updated Through #70!

For the past month two and a half months I’ve been posting a variety of original stories and poems here. If you aren’t a regular visitor, you probably haven’t noticed them since I haven’t published them to Twitter or any other network. But since we’ve gotten to the 1 month mark (even if it is a small month), I figured I’d unveil them to the public.

We’ve got 29 stories so far, if you want to check them out. A few focus on a cast of recurring characters that live in the Woods, a few are serious, and some are quite odd poems. Here’s a quick roadmap based on grouping. Enjoy!

The Jim The Bunny Series

The Stories

The Poems, Drawings, and Other Stuff!

There you have it – the first month. I do have a goal in mind for how many Short Stories of the Day to write. But for the immediate future, feel free to check back here regularly to see what new things I’ve written in the series. I’d love to hear your comments as well!

Update! We’re now up to 70(!) stories, many more than the 29 I wrote about in February! Here’s the new items!

The Jim The Bunny Series

The Stories

The Poems

#29 Leap Day

Jim the Bunny hopped everywhere. He hopped to his rabbit hole at night, he hopped out in the morning, and then hopped around all day. He hopped to his job as a Bunny Knitter, and he hopped to his part-time DJ’ing gigs on the weekend. He hopped repeatedly, rapidly, quickly, furiously, and furriously. The point is, he hopped everywhere.

So imagine his surprise the day in the Woods when everyone hopped. He’d never seen anything like it in his 3.75 years of life. Every animal, from Bob the Turtle to Jay and Kay the sheep, even Jabberpaw, was hopping all over the place. The only one who wasn’t hopping was Sylvester, the snake. He bopped his head up and down a bit as he slithered along, but no hopping.

“Hey Syl, what’s up – what’s with all the hopping today?”, Jim asked his snake friend.

“It’s Leap Day, stupid!”, Sylvester said with a hiss.

“What’s that?”, Jim said incredulously.

“It’s some weird day that only shows up every 4 years. Someone heard about it on the Internet and introduced it to us Woods residents about 20 years ago. We’re not exactly sure what it is, but every 1460 days or so we decide it’s time to hop around for a day. For all we know, it’s the only reason this place hasn’t gone up in a full-on forest fire.”, Sylvester explained.

“So you do something that makes no sense to you, to avoid a threat you aren’t even sure would happen, at an arbitrary time?” Jim asked.

“Yea, that sounds about right”, Sylvester said as he bopped his head up and down.

“If I wanted to that, I’d just join a religion!”, Jim said as he hopped away.

Author’s Note: Religion is great if it has meaning to you. Going through the motions, however, leads one to more confusion than satisfaction!


#28 Changes

“Wow, I didn’t see that coming”. That was the line of interior dialog that Martha kept hearing, rolling around her head like a marble trapped in a jar. She hadn’t expected it all to turn out this way. She felt confident that things would have gone differently, but years from now she knew she would look back and see the event as inevitable. The culmination of a lifetime of struggles, hardships, excitements, victories, actions and inactions. Now she couldn’t believe it had happened, but farther off she knew it would all make sense. For now though, the world had changed around her, and she began the process of putting it all together as she could now comprehend it.

She only had one question – why was she so sure things would never change? She saw her previous self relying on the static world, and wondered why she didn’t appreciate it more while she had it. After all, she lived like she would have time forever, and it wasn’t until the heart attack today that she realized she didn’t.


#27 Monday

It’s Monday again, the work week does start
Once more we wish it Friday, with all of our heart
But perhaps if we try
To revise our view
We’ll see it isn’t that hard, to make it through.


Encryption – It’s Not Just For The Paranoid

Recently I purchased a few external hard drives for backup purposes, and the first thing I did with them was to encrypt them using TrueCrypt. When I mention this to people, I generally get a sorta weird look. Sort of a “If you aren’t doing anything illegal [which I’m not, if you care], why do you need to encrypt your drives?”. While one could use encryption for nefarious reasons (and claim 5th amendment rights against forced decryption), there are a number of reasons why encryption of even non-sensitive data (i.e. my music collection) makes sense.

First, let’s talk about the costs of doing this. Using TrueCrypt, my product of choice (and a proven and secure open-source solution), the cost in dollars is $0. TrueCrypt is free, and runs on pretty much any operating system. The only other cost is time. On my computer, I was able to encrypt an entire 1 TB drive in just under 12 hours. To read or write files to this drive, I must mount it in TrueCrypt (Which takes about 5-10 seconds), and unmount it when I’m done (5-10 seconds). The speed of data writing/reading is a bit slower, however since I’m storing files there (and not doing video editing), it’s a negligible difference.

So those are the costs – a few seconds here and there, and an initial 12 hour investment if you want to encrypt an entire 1 TB drive (Encrypting smaller drives, or creating encrypted ‘containers’ (which look like files but act as small encrypted drives within a drive) takes less time).

And here are the benefits:

  1. Peace of Mind with Offsite Backup. You’ve probably heard before that you should keep a copy of your data ‘offsite’. This means, practically, ‘not in your home’. While online services are out there that can do this, for large chunks of data that you want to keep handy, the easiest way I know to do this is to keep a copy at your office or place of business. If that won’t work, your car (assuming it wouldn’t get burned up in the same fire that got the house), or a friend’s / parent’s house would also work. (Fireproof safes, while a good idea, shouldn’t be your only line of defense. Even if they protect the data, it might take days or weeks post-fire to get into them, so a true offsite solution maintains data security and data availability).So you have your offsite location picked out, and you have your external hard drive sitting there. Great. Now just schedule a task or calendar appointment to remind yourself to back up to it regularly, and you’re good to go – right? Well, maybe not. Most of us don’t have exclusive control of our workplaces. While we might have desk drawers that lock, or private offices, someone else usually has a key or can easily obtain one (If you don’t believe me, check out this site that will sell you any desk key you want, provided you can give them the number from the outside of the lock. Not exactly hard to get information!). Now imagine that someone gets into your desk, finds your external hard drive, and decides to power it up. Now they have access to your files, and while you might not have anything all that important in them, do you really want a stranger to have unbridled access to those files? They could peak at your resume, your vacation photos, your home movies, any backed up emails, word documents, budgets, etc… Nothing that will cause you to go to jail or compromise state security, but still – unsettling stuff.
  2. No Worries When Obsolescence occurs. So eventually that shiny 1 TB (or 2 TB, or 3 TB or whatever) drive is going to seem just as great as a 100 GB drive did 5 years ago. When that happens, do you really want to go through all the work to securely erase all of your personal information off of it? Or are you content to throw it out and let someone access everything because all you did was a quick format? If the data is encrypted in the first place, it’s never in danger or in need of secure deletion, provided the key is unretrievable by the finder.
  3. Got company data worth legal action over? Have you ever signed a Non-disclosure agreement? Ever read the fine print about what a company could do to you if you ‘leak’ out any of their information / databases / lists of customers / etc…? No one intends to break a NDA, however one of the most unfortunate ways one could be broken is through unencrypted hard drives. If you’re storing company backups with your own (because, say, you’re the IT guy at a small shop and it’s just easier to have a copy of the backup for piece of mind), then you need to secure it. Otherwise, bad things could happen.
  4. What’s the downside, exactly? So I’ve just made three good arguments for keeping your data secured. I told you that it takes me about 5-10 seconds to open my encrypted drive, and that read/write speed isn’t greatly impaired (If you’re encrypting a system partition, you might take care to use just 1 level of encryption with TrueCrypt, such as simply AES, since it’s secure and reasonably fast). So really, what is the excuse for not using some form of encryption? Remember, if someone gains access to your data, you can’t simply tell them “Sorry, I was ignorant and too busy to secure this stuff – can you please delete it and give me a second-chance?”.

So there you have it – some very good reasons why you might want to take a bit of time this week and encrypt your backup hard drives. It’ll give you some piece-of-mind, if nothing else.

This is Why You Save Everything Locally!

So earlier this week I was googling something related to SQLite databases, and came across a rather interesting topic on reading them locally using Javascript. At the bottom of the ‘answer’, I found a link to a blog with more information: http://blog.developeronhire.com/create-sqlite-table-insert-into-sqlite-table/

And what did I find when I went there? This:

An unhappy message saying that the owner of the blog had exceeded their bandwidth. A google Cache of the page seemed to be a good alternative, until you realize it doesn’t contain anything useful. So in other words, I have no idea if the content on that page would be useful or not in my quest!

This is why these days, when I do find content that’s useful, I immediately fire up Evernote. I’ve written before about how I use Evernote for scanning, and other neat things, and if you weren’t convinced then, just wait till you hit a 509 error in the future – then you might want to either start using Evernote or, at the least, the “Save page” feature of your browser to grab an HTML copy!

#26 Flash

It had been 6 months since the day when Mark found the list in an old hoodie he was putting on for the first time that September. It wasn’t too remarkable – just a list of chores for the day, 11 months ago.

call insurance agent
buy eggs
call Kelsey’s school
drop off Jo’s car
print resume

Mark paused as he recalled the day he wrote the list. He’d just been in an accident the day before, hence the call to his insurance company. Jo was having her boss over for dinner, and needed the eggs. Kelsey had been caught smoking in the bathroom at school, and her principal wanted to speak to her father. Jo’s car was acting up, and he was tasked with getting it fixed. On top of that, he had been told a few days earlier that his temporary assignment, which he hoped would be made permanent, was ending. He’d have to get his resumé out there once more. It was just another rough day after a series of rough months in the life of the 43 year-old divorced father of 1 troubled teenager, who was trying to make it work with his fiancé of two years. The previous 6 months had been hard on her as they struggled with her parent’s deaths. Kelsey could care less, but Mark had grown to think of Jo’s parents as the ‘good’ in-laws he’d never had with his first wife.

But all of that was before he got the call that changed everything. He remembered that his phone rang while he was buying the eggs listed on the note. He could barely hear the voice on the other end as he stood in the supermarket, and he didn’t recognize the number. Finally after a few moments of exchanging whats and huhs, he figured out it was Jo. She was at the doctor’s office, and needed him to pick her up. He didn’t understand – she had his car while he drove Kelsey’s old beater. Why couldn’t she drive home? When he reached the doctor’s office, Jo’s doctor took him into her office. They exchanged pleasantries, and while they talked for at least 30 minutes, Mark couldn’t remember anything after he heard the word “cancer”.

She hung on for 5 months, but it was aggressive and it took her. Today, six months after the funeral, he found himself thinking how 11 months ago, dozens of tiny annoyances kept him aggravated and upset.  In a flash, all of that changed. Somehow during her struggle, he found a job that was sympathetic to what he was going through, allowing him to start a few weeks after the funeral. Kelsey came out of her ‘rough’ period and tomorrow he was scheduled to drop her off at school. It was hard without Jo, but he was getting through. He crumpled up the old list and threw it out as he replaced it with the shopping list of things to buy for Kelsey’s dorm. Life wasn’t less hectic now, but given the alternative he experienced in those 5 months, he was happy to have a mile-long list.

“Ready to go, Dad?”, Kelsey said as she came bounding down the stairs. “The stores might be crazy busy today!”.

“Yep, I’m ready for anything”, Mark said in reply.


The Bookmarklet Combiner is Awesome – and So Are These Bookmarklets

A bookmarklet is a small piece of javascript code that is run by clicking on a bookmark on your browser’s toolbar. Lots of sites have them, and I use a bunch in my daily life. One thing that’s annoying is the requirement that each has it’s own bookmark on your toolbar – so after 3-4 bookmarks, you’re out of space! Thankfully there is a really cool tool named Bookmarklet Combiner which allows you to copy the javascript code from each of your bookmarklets into one “super” bookmarklet.

Here’s how it works. Load up the Bookmarklet Combiner and put in the Title and URL of each Bookmarklet you want to combine. You can get the Bookmarklet’s URL 1 of 2 ways.

  1. Open up your browser’s bookmark manager, locate the bookmarklet, and copy the code. It probably starts with ‘javascript:’
  2. I was able to drag the bookmarklet directly from the toolbar to the URL field in my browser (Chrome). It kept the “URL” text in the box, so you’ll want to remove that so that ‘javascript:’ is the first thing in the URL box.

Now add in all of your Bookmarklets and use the rest of the page to customize the combiner to your liking. Finally you’ll drag your new bookmarklet to the toolbar. Clicking on it should produce a full menu of bookmarklets you can then choose to run! Better yet, the Bookmarklet Combiner will give you a special link you can use to come back and edit your bookmark in the future!

So you say you’d love to combine some Bookmarklets but you don’t have many of them? Well here are the ones I use, they’re pretty awesome

There you go – a great collection to get you started!

#25 Road Warrior

He settled into the seat with the drink.

“That kinda tastes like chocolate milk”, she said as she glanced over at him. He nodded in reply, and she went back to her papers.

He opened up the lid of the laptop and connected the wireless. A few dozen new emails poured into his inbox just as quickly as the coffee had poured into his cup moments earlier. He braced himself – it was going to be a long afternoon.

That morning, he’d visited several clients, each more demanding than the last. He found himself with several different notes from the morning, waiting to be entered into the customer database he was logging in to. A quick scan of the emails revealed three that would need immediate attention, the rest could wait until the notes were entered. Given the loud complaints of two of the clients he’d met this morning, the faster the notes were in the system, the better. They were the type that would call up this afternoon and demand access to the perks he had recently capitulated to. No notes meant the representative on the phone would have no idea what they were talking about.

A quick sip of the drink and a long grimace as he found that Client number 1 had already called, and met with resistance by an uninformed rep. The coffee grew cold as he wrote three quick emails of his own to put out the fire he knew was starting.

He had been in this position for far too long, driving his life away, visiting clients who couldn’t care less about his life, immersed in their own struggles. About two hours into his work, he looked up at his surroundings. No one who he had seen when he arrived at the coffee shop were still there. The attendants were different, shift change had happened an hour ago. He had lost himself in the world of his work, unaware of the changes. Honestly, this coffee shop, in the middle of his territory, was more familiar to him than his own office, which he only saw in the mornings during the meetings.

“Hey Rob, back here again?”, the night manager said as he wandered out from the back.

“Yea, I suppose I should leave a bigger tip!”, he man said wearily to the manager, Joe.

“Eh, you’re not the one we wish would leave!”, Joe said with a smile. “You at least buy something, or several things, depending on how long your work keeps you here. And you do tip, which is very much appreciated by my staff”.

“Everyone has to make a living, right Joe?”, Rob said. He had just written the last email of the day, and was packing up his laptop.

“You want a refill for the road?” Rob gave Joe his cup in an appreciative manner. Joe knew that Rob seldom asked for a refill, even though his loyalty card, punched religiously, entitled him to a dozen or more if he asked.

“Joe, do you mind if I ask a question about your work?”, Rob said as he walked up to the counter.

“Sure Rob, you’ve hung around here long enough to notice how everything works though – not much I could tell you about!”, Joe said as he handed Rob the coffee.

“How many emails do you write a day?”, Rob said, half jokingly and half serious.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe 4 or 5 – just stuff to the day manager, emails to our regional guy, nothing major, more FYI stuff”, Joe said.

“Really… and how often do you have to deal with difficult people in a day?”, Rob asked. He assumed that retail must be a special sort of hell, given his experience in business to business sales. People must be even worse to cater to, especially those seeking their daily caffeine rush.

“Actually not too many”, Joe replied with a smirk, “1 less if you leave”.

Joe’s grin made Rob laugh as he started walking out. As he got to the door, Joe called out

“Have a good night Rob, see you tomorrow!”. Rob waved back as he left.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the man spent his usual hours at the coffee shop, working and drinking enough coffee to keep him awake through the drive home. He was growing more and more tired of his job, but honestly couldn’t conceive of doing anything else. He’d been in sales for a long time, had an income to maintain, and while it wasn’t perfect, there wasn’t anything else he could do.

Until the day Joe came up to him around closing time. It had been a pretty bad day email wise, and Joe could see that the man was emotionally destroyed by the demands of his job.

“You know Rob”, Joe began “Our day guy is leaving next week – he’s going off to become a regional manager somewhere. Want to apply for his job?. Rob was surprised by the invitation. He’d never managed anything in retail before, never even worked in food service or retail in his entire life. Why would Joe ask him this.

“Oh you can’t be serious”, Rob said in reply. “I don’t know anything about this job”. Joe smiled.

“Actually, I think you do. I’ve been watching you and realized that you spend probably 90% of your time doing just one thing – trying to make your client’s happy”. Joe said.

“Well, a happy client is one who will stick around, and not darken my email door quite so much”. Rob said in reply.

“This job is really no different – managing this place is just about keeping people happy, employees and customers. There’s a small amount of corporate junk to deal with, and some annoyances, sure, but it’s not as bad as one would think.”, Joe said as he walked over to the door to lock it.

Rob looked at Joe, and for the first time realized that he wasn’t just a kid working here till he got a real job. Joe was a man, about the same age as Rob.

“You have any kids, Joe?”, Rob asked.

“Three”, Joe replied, “One in college, two in high school”.

Joe could see the skepticism in Rob’s eyes.

“The job pays enough – you’re not going to get rich, but you may add some years back on to your life in exchange for a little bit less money”, Joe grinned, “After all, what would you rather be, rich and dead or comfortable and able to attend your grandkid’s weddings?”.

The man started the new job a few weeks later. It was surprisingly easy to transition into, since he spent so much time there already. And it helped that the day shift remembered his generous tips, and were open to listening to his experiences while telling him theirs. After a few months, Rob noticed a man had started frequenting the shop in the early afternoons, sitting where he used to sit, and feverishly pounding away at his keyboard as Rob wiped the counter and counted the cash drawer. He couldn’t ponder the man for long though, a family he knew walked in the door and waved to him before they even reached the counter.