I Am Joe’s Blog:

December 31, 2013 • 8:30 PM

So Long, 2013

This past year was notable for at least one thing: I wrap up 2013 with a rare sense of accomplishment. For several previous years, what I mainly felt at the end of December was remorse over unfinished projects and unfulfilled ambitions, prompting me to catalog everything I did in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009—just to prove to myself that those years were more productive than I’d imagined.

But this year I feel pretty good about what I managed to do. On my Publications page, you can read about my five new Take Control books, seven updated books, and dozens of articles for Macworld, TidBITS, and other blogs—not to mention 23 speaking engagements, 15 podcast interviews, and a few other assorted gigs. I was also turned into a comic character and even a superhero! My wife and I started a company, survived our first year of homeownership, and got our kid into preschool. We were privileged to spend time in Hawaii, France, and Spain. And I’m pretty sure I broke my all-time record for TV consumption, which was a great way to balance out all that work! And, as usual, I end the year with an empty inbox. I think that’s sufficient for one year.

Although I rarely manage to keep New Year’s resolutions, I do have a number of expectations for 2014.

For one thing, it looks like our family will be growing by one, as Soren becomes a big brother! That will mean a 21-year age difference between my oldest and youngest children and, most likely, a complete cessation of sleep for the foreseeable future. Woo hoo!

Of course, there’ll also be the usual long list of writing and speaking activities next year, as well as some nontrivial home- and self-improvement tasks and, very likely, significant international travel.

But now that I’m just a few years away from turning 50, I’m scrutinizing my Life’s To Do List and thinking hard about undertaking a Big Fancy Project that I just might be able to pull off by then. We’ll see how that unfolds, but let’s just say it would make me very happy indeed to be able to add a certain item to my list of first-half-century accomplishments.

Oh, and I’d also like to fix that whole problem of people not being kind to each other on the Internet, if I have a few spare days.

History tells me it’s unlikely that I’ll post on this blog very often, so if you’re interested in keeping track of what I’m up to, I suggest following me on Twitter and/or signing up for joeMail using the form in the sidebar or on the linked page.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2014!

August 30, 2013 • 4:45 PM

An Online Privacy Primer

An acquaintance sent me an email message today remarking about how prolific I’ve been—he said it seems as though every time he turns around there’s another book out by Joe Kissell. It’s true that I have a new book, and it’s also true that “I have a new book” is as rare a statement as “I just got a haircut.” (Which reminds me, it’s been about a month…and…scheduled.)

What’s my secret? I’ll tell you: I don’t waste time blogging. Life is too short, and there are too many books to be written. In fact, I’m supposed to be writing two (or five, depending on how you count) at this very moment.

But this particular new book is, I think, especially noteworthy. It’s called Take Control of Your Online Privacy, and I think it’s one of the best and most important things I’ve written. Here, let me tell you a bit about it personally:

If you’ve ever wondered whether the information you send and receive over the Internet is really private—or what to do if it isn’t—this book is for you. It’s written for the intelligent layperson, not for propellerheads. I hope you find it useful!

The Internet is a scary place. Stay safe out there.

March 31, 2013 • 6:03 PM

Interesting Thing of the Day Turns 10!

Hard to believe, but 10 years ago I started a little site called Interesting Thing of the Day. The site has been on autopilot for a long time, and although I previously had grand plans to resurrect it this weekend with a flurry of publicity and bad puns, that hasn’t happened. In any case, to mark the occasion, I wrote an essay pondering the past and present of the site called Thoughts on the 10-year Anniversary of Interesting Thing of the Day.

March 14, 2013 • 10:18 PM

Pie in a Bottle

Of course I observed Pi Day (3/14, at least in North America) by eating pie. But this year I also got to perform product testing in order to provide a valuable public service. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow by the name of Ken Weikel wrote to say he’d read my old article on Interesting Thing of the Day about pie funnels. Had I, by any chance, heard of his product Pie in a Bottle? And if not, would I like him to send me some to try out? I hadn’t; I would.

A few days thereafter I received a box of goodies—apparently the entire Weikel Foods product line—including two jars of Pie in a Bottle. That’s right: Pie in a Bottle isn’t in a bottle, it’s in a jar. The jars came in a box. I received a box of jars of Pie in a Bottle. Just to be clear.

Pie in a Bottle is a mixture of corn syrup, sugars, honey, and flavorings. It’s supposed to be a substitute for all the tedious measuring and mixing that would otherwise be required to make pie filling. You mix a jar of Pie in a Bottle with two eggs, pour that into a pie crust with a cup and a half of your favorite fillings (dried fruit, nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, whatever), and bake for 35 minutes at 350°F. Let it cool, and voilà: pie.

Since I was quite busy today, I lamed out and bought a couple of frozen pie crusts instead of making my own. (I know. Lame.) I decided on a mixture of dark chocolate chips, dried cherries, and shredded coconut. And I have to say, it did indeed take only about 4 minutes to combine all those ingredients and get the pie into the oven. Can’t complain there.

At 35 minutes, the pie still looked pretty soupy, so we left it in another 10. Even after cooling for a half hour, it was mighty runny. It took an hour in the freezer before it could be cut without oozing all over the place. (So, take that “cool before serving” instruction seriously.)

Pie (left); Pie in a Bottle (right, in jar)

The pie was delicious. It really was. I can’t necessarily attribute the deliciousness specifically to the Pie in a Bottle, and to be sure, if I were making my own pie from scratch I would never, ever use corn syrup as an ingredient.

BUT. And this is, I think, the whole point: Had it not been for the Pie in a Bottle, I would not have eaten pie on Pi Day. It would have been too much work given my other commitments. So, whatever else you might say about Pie in a Bottle, it does certainly accomplish the fundamental task of bringing pies into existence rapidly.

It must be said that this trick doesn’t work universally. Pie in a Bottle won’t help you with a lemon meringue, pumpkin, or cherry pie, for example. I think the optimal usage case is pecan pie, or other nut pies. Still, for pie in a hurry, it’s hard to beat.