Profile: Hi, I'm Jake...and that's my dog! By day I'm founder and Chief Geek at MyUntangled Media, LLC. By night I am part struggling musician, frustrated writer, wanna-be chef and obsessed dog owner. I started this site mainly to learn Wordpress, work on my design and writing skills, and showcase some folks with all kinds of talents and great stuff to say. (Read the long version if you dare) and please introduce yourself over on my Google+ Profile!
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in one of its many affluent suburbs. I was blessed with a big house, a “safe” neighborhood, and a really high quality education, which exposed me to art and music and literature from all over the world. In high school I was introduced to Henry David Thoreau and quickly became pseudo-obsessed with him and his writing, particularly Walden. It’s so dorky to admit it, but I used to ride my bike to Walden Pond and read, or write or both. I have always cherished solitude and loved to go there to soak up Thoreau’s vibe. His words – his notion of sucking the marrow out of life, a real prioritization of values, simple living and self sufficiency, walking on a less-traveled path, to your own beat – have had a lasting effect on my life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
A few days ago I turned 42 and I’m so thankful to still be blessed, in so many incredible ways. But I’ve spent most of the hours of the last decade focused on working, working, and working. Working my way up the ladder in companies, then on to building up (and sometimes) tearing down my own companies, trying to “get ahead” and “get somewhere”, but where? I had not only lost sight of the life I always aspired to live, I had completely abandoned and turned my back on the person that I truly am. I wasn’t living to my potential. I wasn’t living to my value system. I wasn’t living. And I wasn’t happy.
That was me a mere two months ago, in the March 2013 blizzard, putting up the pending sign on my house near Boston, Massachusetts. Since then, I’ve averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I’ve packed all my worldly possessions into one portable storage container that’s currently living in Nashua, NH. I’ve driven over a thousand miles. I’ve whittled my traveling gear down to whatever fits in two duffle bags and my computer bag (which by the way can surprisingly fit my laptop, tablet, chargers, memory cards, travel chargers, earphones, camera AND an extra network cable. What, you think I have a problem? I DO have to work while on the road you know!) Which brings me to last Monday…when I dropped my Ruby and Mrs. Jacob Clayton off at the home we’re renting and then immediately left to work around the clock for 3 days on a launch for a huge re-brand/website/social media/everything project (announcement coming this week!) in a hotel where there was high speed internet, and no distraction, a vending machine, and free, unlimited coffee. I’ve dropped the ball on so many other MyUntangled Media clients. The company has grown. I spent too much time doing business with the wrong people. I made mistakes, but that’s how I learn. I don’t like goodbyes, so I kinda skipped them and I know that’s rough for many people. I’m so sorry to my peeps that fit in that category…Welly, Jose, Claire and so many others, please don’t be mad. It’s such a big move and it just got so crazy at the end. I’m also learning how to live with regrets.
This is me now, on an island off the southeastern coast of North Carolina. I crave solitude. I crave the ocean. I long for a place to write and play music. I got so tired of trying to fit a square into a circle, that I finally gave up. In Massachusetts, to have a home 3 blocks from the beach you need to be a millionaire, and I wasn’t seeing that on my horizon, despite my efforts. Those lucky folks are relegated to living in the fancy suburbs, and commuting in traffic for hours a day in and out of the city so they can spend a couple of weekends a year and a week or two here and there, sitting in more traffic, to get to their house on the Cape. (I know, first world problems here but I’m just baring my soul…so bear with me.) I don’t understand how I let myself start blindly following someone else’s set of “rules”. You know, the ones that say the only correct path in life is to go to college, then go get a big job, then go buy a big house (with a good school system, and of course you’ll need a big mini-van or SUV), then rinse and repeat until you’re 62, then (supposedly) you’ll get enough money to live off of. Then what? THEN you move to an island in North Carolina? I’ll be 62 in 20 years, and since I make my own rules, I say “my time is now”, and I’ve never been more sure of anything.
When I first visited the island a year ago, on the coffee table at my hotel was a copy of the book Desiderata for Dog Lovers: A Guide to Life & Happiness. I had never seen it before and wasn’t all that familiar with the poem either. I opened up the book randomly to this page and snapped the picture above which has served as my constant reminder ever since. Of course I immediately Googled the poem, which begins:
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
I’m not sure what my religious beliefs are but, at that moment, I definitely felt something powerful washing over me. I cried like a baby and I promised myself I would get back here someday, that I would drown out the noise with the sound of the ocean and throw everything up in the air for a chance at happiness and peace and what I know is a better life for me. It’s so hard to know if you’re making a mistake, especially when you’ve made so many. It’s so hard to trust your own voice, to trust that it’s OK to choose happiness, whatever that means for you, whatever your age. Well, it was hard until 5 days ago when sitting alone in that hotel room somewhere in North Carolina, working on a website, delirious with exhaustion, smelly, hungry, beyond stressed, I received the following email:
“Hi Jacob, I know this may be a weird place to do it but I couldn’t find you anywhere else. My name is [deleted]. I am an alumni of UML and you were my adviser. I am sure you had many students walk through your door in those years so I don’t expect for you to remember me. I am emailing you to say Thank You…. whole heartedly I remember having chats with you about what I was going to do as a career, music, art, poetry, food, and just life. I remember every time that you see me you would say to me, “big things man, you, your going to do big things”. I use to laugh it off. I remember you telling me to go do whatever it was that made me happy, that I was meant to share (poetry). I remember our last conversation where I told you that I would always stay in contact with you… I’ve been looking for you ever since. Your kind hearted words and in your face advice really had an impact on me. So I just wanted to let you know what I’m doing these days..with the poetry. My friends and I have successfully started our non profit [name deleted] we teach young people in the city of Lowell to “write” their wrongs and find voice in verse. I have also moved on to becoming the Teen Program Director at my local Boys&Girls Club. So once again Thank You Jacob for the impression and the confidence you left with me.
Sincerely, A guided soul”
This email touched me so deeply and affected me so much, I cried like a baby and felt something incredibly powerful and wonderful wash over me again. I haven’t been able to talk about it or even respond to it, until now. So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you so much, guided soul. I’m sorry we lost touch and let’s not let it happen again. Of course, I remember everything about you and, more importantly, I remember everything inside you, your beautiful poetry. I wanted to let you know what I’m doing these days…I just walked the 3 blocks it takes to get from my house to the beach. I’m pretty much all alone out here as it’s late in the day and the tide is high. I just sat down on the sand and pulled out my notebook and a pen to write some wrongs in this post, old-school style. But I’ve gotta sign off now to go watch the sunset over on the other side of the island. I’m trying really hard not to miss any of them. Every single day is a gift and I’ve wasted too many. I’ve changed a lot since we last spoke. I’m not just advising it anymore, I’m living it. I’m living. And I’ve never been happier. I hope you’re as proud of me as I am of you.
We’re thrilled to welcome back guest blogger Carla Boucher to share her experiences fostering Greyhounds as we participate in Blog the Change for Animals.
“April is Adopt a Greyhound Month” How often do we see that type of headline, sign or internet meme? But, no…really…it IS Adopt a Greyhound Month! I look forward to seeing this each spring, as I HAVE adopted a greyhound and fostered 10 of them, to help them prepare for their forever homes.
I have loved the breed for years and was finally able to begin fostering in 2008. Our first foster, Boca, became a “foster failure”. So called because we failed at fostering and made him a member of our family.
I don’t know a lot about how foster parents of other breeds do, but it seems that greyhound foster families “fail” at it quite often. The group that I am involved with, Greyhound Options, sees this happen fairly frequently. The foster program is, in my opinion, the best way to learn about a dog’s personality and then match up the right greyhound with the right family. Our group encourages a home visit, for up to a month, in order for the adopter to see how the dog fits in to their lifestyle.
There is just something about this breed that makes even non-dog lovers fall in love with them. Is it the soulful eyes, the elegant demeanor, the legends (urban and otherwise), that make us so passionate about these dogs? We do crazy things with them like buy them special apparel, pose them in hats, use their photos on our Christmas cards, have reunions and cookouts, and countless web pages and Facebook groups.
I admit, I did not used to be a dog person. I was a cat person because cats are so cool and aloof. They aren’t needy like dogs and don’t really seem to know if we are around much at all. Then I met Amber. A friend asked me to dog sit and being between jobs, I thought, “why not? I can tolerate a dog for a week.” Amber was a beautiful, fawn-colored greyhound and the queen of her house. Like most greyhounds, she would spend 14 to 16 hours a day sleeping. She was not at all high maintenance. Sure, she needed 3 or 4 walks a day, but since we were dog sitting at the beach, it was not a chore at all. Amber loved her human and looked suspiciously at me for the first day or two. Once she warmed up she was a love. Most greyhounds “love the love” and will sit happily while they are petted, groomed and generally worshiped.
One of the wonderful perks of adopting a greyhound is that they are very used to their crate when they come into a home and are almost housebroken when they arrive. Their crate is their safe place and most are very happy to be in them. Greys are generally very healthy, having been raised as athletes, and can live 12 to 14 years.
Many greyhound groups, like Greyhound Options, host “meet and greets” nearly every weekend. As they are based in Weare, MA, there are more events in the western part of the state, but the eastern branch of the group also hosts meet and greets in the Boston area as well as around the Merrimack Valley. May 5, 2013 is our eagerly anticipated annual Spring Fling at Northwest Park in Windsor, CT.
I can’t say enough good things about these dogs and would encourage anyone to “meet” a greyhound and “greet” him or her into your home. It was the best thing that I ever failed at.
Have you been buried under a pile of work recently? I have! It has been a crazy bunch of weeks in the MyUntangled world and I find the best remedy for stress is definitely humor (actually the best remedy is probably alcohol but I digress). So…to start off this edition of Things Worth Sharing, I offer up You Had One Job. It’s my kind of meme site all the way, filled with brilliant distractions of insanely easy jobs humans just couldn’t seem to pull off. I can’t look away.
Like the writers at theKitchn, I have also found Rachael Ray’s garbage bowl to be one of the simplest tools to make cooking efficient. Without this, I feel the counter is less tidy, my movements increase, and there is a greater likelihood of some discarded bit making its way into a dish. If you haven’t tried this, please do. I bet you’ll quickly adopt this practice too.
I like to play by the rules, if at all possible. Sometimes we use images in our blog posts that other folks have created and allowed to be used through a Creative Commons license. I found this really handy infographic about Creative Commons license with all sorts of great tips and details from foter.com.
If, like me, you are a fan of dystopian novels (ex. 1984, Brave New World, Zulus), then reading Feedby M.T. Anderson is a must. The population in the prosperous 1st world America of Feed all have a built in “feed” connecting individuals to a never ending stream of what can be compared to the contemporary internet. Relationships, amongst other things, are not based on intrinsic worth, but rather materialized worth. At its core, Feed begs the reader to examine the epoch we live in now and what could be in store for us, if we continue to stand by apathetically, as morals and ethics decline while objects take their place.
I am completely smitten with Today’s Letters. It is a sweet and uplifting blog about a married couple and their journey through life together.
My mom, dad and most of the neighbors seem to think I live the good life. I thought so too, but then I came across this article about pet owners in Japan and the types of homes they are designing with and for their furry housemates. I expect the architect to arrive any day now!
Long before Xbox, Super Mario, Facebook games and the millions of apps for mobile devices, there was a funny little red toy called the Etch A Sketch. I was never able to master it (or really even produce anything half decent) but that didn’t stop me from spending hours trying. A few months ago inventor André Cassagnes passed away and the New Yorker Cartoonists put forth a very funny tribute they called Kvetch A Sketch.
Do you wait eagerly every year for the new IKEA catalog? Do you flip through it imagining how your life might be more organized and cozy? Now you can imagine what that experience has been like through the decades. Behold the evolution of IKEA catalogs. What I really want to know is whether or not the store has always had that intoxicating cinnamon roll smell.
This is one of those things that you love to hate. Essentially a coffee table book, this dictionary that uses Google Images for the definitions makes you aggravated someone actually took the time to create it but at the same time you’re aggravated it wasn’t you because it’s really kind of cool.
Unlike this dog, who likes to blog (and compose haiku), cats seem to want to prevent people from writing. There is a whole website devoted to cats on laptops. It turns out, that this mischief has been happening since the 15th century. Who knew? I could teach them a thing or two.
Pinstrosity is a HYSTERICAL site that is essentially a blog showcasing how and why “pins go wrong”. Learn from the mistakes of others before your next pinning project!
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had a chunk of time to totally revamp myuntangledlife.com. Oh…and I alwayswant to tear up myuntangledweb.com (I’m SO over it), yeah and myuntangledmedia.com needs love too. But the reality is, my calendar says none of that is a reality right now. And so I mope.
I was recently moping about it while staring at the screen and then it occurred to me there is actually a pretty simple way to address one of my major pet peeves on this blog, these little icon thingies that we’ve been using for years as the WordPress Featured Images (often referred to as Post Thumbnails) for posts, archives and on the homepage.
My dog is really cute, but all the bloggers agreed they had to go. Times have changed in the years since we rolled out this most recent blog design, and pictures are everything on the web now. Not cute little pictures, bigger beautiful pictures. We wanted Featured Images more like we have now!
You’ll notice we also decided we wanted to add some more info to the homepage like WordPress Categories and Tags. So how does it all work? A few minutes and a few simple steps under the hood is really all it takes to switch up your WordPress theme, here’s how we did it.
First Stop: Functions.php
The functions.php file is located under the Appearance > Editor menu (on the left-hand side of the WordPress Admin screen) and is the place where you tell your theme to enable the Featured Image with this code:
add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
This next set of code is what I recently changed in order to increase the size of the images. (The 400, 200 numbers represent the new Featured Image size of 400px wide by 200px high.)
set_post_thumbnail_size( 400, 200, true );
Next Stop: Homepage.php
Now that you’ve told your theme to create 400 by 200px Featured Images, you need to tell your pages and posts where and how to display them. I started with the homepage and also made a few tweaks to the archives.php and single.php. These are all located under the same Appearance > Editor menu. Wherever you want the images to appear, add the following code:
Add in your post title, author, tags, categories, etc to finish off the new look and you’re done! Unless…
Final Stop: Regenerating Thumbnails
If you’re just starting out you can skip this step! But if you’re like us and changing sizes of your already existing thumbnail images, you won’t get any love from your new code without regenerating your thumbnails. I used a great plugin aptly named Regenerate Thumbnails and it did just that with ease.
Take it a step further and include these images in your RSS feeds and email campaigns. There is so much flexibility in WordPress and this is just a minuscule example of a way to make a big change to your website layout. Thumbs up to the_post_thumbnail!
In honor of the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Intelligent Life magazine asked seven authors to comment on the enduring appeal of Mr. Darcy. Allison Pearson’s first column is a great opener to the series. It might even inspire you to (re)read Pride and Prejudice.
I love the library, it’s such a perfectly simple concept, but I have a tough time finishing the books before they are due, it’s always been that way for me. I haven’t used BookSwim yet but it looks like another terrific concept. It’s like Netflix but for books. You can pick the plan that works for you; create your wish list of books to read; the books are shipped to you; read them with no due dates, shipping fees or late fees. When you’re done, send them back and get a new batch. So you don’t have to worry about having space to store books you may never read again, add to that they also have textbooks, it sounds like a perfect win-win!
A fellow poet, Emily Dickinson, wrote a poem called, “I started Early—took my Dog” and then PBS and the Poetry Foundation made an animated film of it! Great title, don’t you think?
Much like his other novels, Percival Everett is not bound by genre or even literary form in Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel. In this novel, within a novel, within another novel, Everett takes on what the role of the narrator is, if any, and does so through the lens of multiple characters within multiple stories. Much like his recent efforts, Everett urges the reader to challenge the ideas of postmodernism, structuralism and philosophy and to ask if the ideas behind them matter or if, much like everything else in the 21st Century, is it no more than just bullshit?
Sometimes I miss the good ole days of the 56k modem. Back then, the standard website design principle was to keep the graphics to a bare minimum! Otherwise folks would have to enter your URL in their browser, and then go run some errands to pass the time while your site loaded. Not the best internet marketing strategy, unless you were preparing for what would happen over a decade later!
You may have noticed that things have changed quite a bit since the late ’90s. Cable modems, DSL, Fios, and the 3G, 4G networks attached to our front pocket computers can handle images pretty well. Load times are still important for websites (probably more important than ever), but imagery is the standard now. Pictures tell a story, logos brand the story, social media spreads the story and icons, timelines, profile images and gravatars come in what seems like a million different shapes and sizes.
I dabble in a little teaching and during a recent round of beginner social media classes the winner of the recurring question contest was “so how am I supposed to know what size to make all those things?” Great question. There have been many charts and graphs throughout the years and you could easily pull them up on Google or by following some good folks on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I personally have grown accustomed to keeping various cheat sheets and snippets of code or links in a whole notebook dedicated to this topic in Evernote. But the reality is they all go outdated before they even go viral and you never have everything all in one place. That answer doesn’t make you feel very untangled, right?
And then just like that BOOM! – the ultimate complete final social media sizing cheat sheet appears. This brilliant piece of work comes from LunaMetrics, a Google Analytics consulting company based in Pittsburgh. They are kind enough to create and share it PLUS they plan on maintaining it as sizes and platforms change. Bookmark this page, drag it to your desktop or file it in Evernote – whatever you do, with this cheat sheet you’ll always be on top of your social media game. Any questions?