Ranndy Random Name Generator

Ranndy.com is a random name generator for use in fiction writing and baby naming.

The site is mobile friendly and presents an infinite scroll of random names with hundreds of millions of possibilities.

Year, Race, and Popularity…

Ranndy uses US Census data, so you can get very specific about what sort of random name you want.

  • If you’re writing a character who should be roughly 30 years old, you can ask Ranndy to only show you popular names from 1984.

  • If you’re writing a character with a specific racial/ethnic background (Native American sheriff, African American businessman, etc.) you can ask Ranndy to only show you surnames associated with that racial/ethnic group.

  • If you’re looking for a truly out there name, you can ask Ranndy to only show you unpopular names. For instance, only five unlucky babies in the US were named Ranndy with two n’s in the year 2005.

Names That Start With…

Ranndy can show you names that start with certain letters.

  • If you enter “Jo” in the Starts With field, Ranndy will only show you names that start with “Jo” like John, Jordan, Jose, etc.

Excluding Names…

Ranndy can also do the opposite, showing you names that DON’T start with certain letters. Just use the * character.

  • If you enter “D*, S*, P*” in the Starts With field, Ranndy won’t show you any names that start with D, S, or P. This is useful when you’re writing a screenplay and don’t want too many characters whose names sound or look similar on the page.

Forcing a Name…

Ranndy also doesn’t have to be quite so random. If you already know a first or last name that you love, you can force that name with the ^ character.

  • If you enter “Smith^” in the Last Name Starts With field, then Ranndy will show you random first names but every last name will be “Smith”. This is useful for baby naming and also creating family members for characters.

Every first and last name generated by the app contains a link to a Google search about that name.

For example, if I generate the surname “Swisher” and want to know more about it, I can click on the name and quickly learn that the name is Austrian and originally meant “person who lives near a hill, stream, or church.”

Change Log

v0.4.0 - 03/12/2015

  • Added “Search Links” feature

v0.3.0 - 11/29/2014

  • Added “Starts With” features.
  • Reworked first name popularity system. Now there are only high and low popularity choices instead of high, medium, and low. This should give a better variety of names in default searches without including too many weird names.
  • Changed how Ranndy reacts when a request brings up very few results. Example: If your parameters only brought up 10 possible last names, Ranndy will now repeat those 10 names over and over with randomly generated first names, rather than only showing you 10 total results.

Technical Details

Ranndy’s front end is backbone.js and its backend is node.js/express.


Friday Night Lights Reunion

Partway through last year, I got an amazing opportunity to work on a secret project for NBC. Today that project is out. It’s a crossover between the cast of Friday Night Lights (one of the best dramas of the last ten years) with NBC’s Parenthood (one of the best dramas on TV today).

If you’re a fan of FNL, I think you’ll really dig this little reunion. It’s called Friday Night at the Luncheonette.

I wrote episode three.

[Youtube] – [NBC Video]


Walk Score for Redfin Chrome Extension

I’ve written a Chrome Extension to show Walk Score rankings on Redfin.

Background

Walk Score® uses Google Maps to calculate how walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly a house or apartment is. Redfin.com is a real estate site that lists houses and condos for sale. I’m house hunting, so I’ve spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between these two sites.

How to Use It

While browsing Redfin, clicking on the extension (or using the keyboard shortcut Alt+W on the Mac) pops up a small window displaying the Walkscore.com page for that house.

The extension also supports TheMLS.com, a site that real estate agents use to email listings to their clients.

How to Install

You can install the extension directly from the Chrome Webstore.


Ben Affleck Won‘t Ruin Batman vs. Superman

That’s the Studio’s Job

Ben Affleck is going to be the next Batman. And people are angry.

But if Batman vs. Superman ends up being a terrible movie, it won’t be because of Affleck. It will be because of this:

Batman wearing a Red Sox cap is the least of this movie’s problems.


Everpix Review

Everpix is a subscription photo service that promises unlimited online storage and automatic organization.

Short Review… It does the first part, storage and sync, perfectly. The second part is still a work in progress.

Much Longer Review…

The Life and Death of iPhoto

If you want to see what a perfect photo collection looks like, just visit an Apple store. On each display computer, you’ll find a copy of iPhoto1, pre-set with Apple’s idealized vision of a family photo library.

Apple’s sample library is organized along every axis. Each image is tagged with Events, Albums, Faces, Keywords, Locations, and even a Five-Star Rating scale. Each sample album is an idyllic vacation or outing, populated exclusively by beautiful, multicultural families who never take bad photos and whose trips happen in confined locations, with no stranger’s faces in the background.

This is the dream world of iPhoto, as well as its mission statement: All of your photos, organized.

But throw a real family with real photos at the program and it chokes on every word of that statement.

  • It can’t handle all of your photos because there are too many of them and they’re too big. You’re taking 8-megapixel pictures and shooting 1080p video with your iPhone. And god forbid you shoot a DSLR in RAW format. Suddenly that 128GB SSD hard-drive in your Macbook Air is full and you’re rationing photos to save space.
  • And once your photos are in iPhoto, they’re no longer your photos. iPhoto buries them in its own convoluted file system. It only begrudgingly lets you share them using aging plug-ins to services like Facebook and Flickr.
  • And it’s not organized unless you obsessively do the work of tagging every photo yourself. I like to imagine that the fictional mom in Apple’s sample iPhoto library is suffering from OCD. Are you coming to bed honey? “One minute! Just need to rate all the vacation photos on a 5-point scale!”

Everpix: F**k Organizing

The goal of Everpix is simple: All of your photos. That’s it.

Everpix gives up on the idea that anyone is going to organize anything. The service is a giant, bottomless bucket into which you quickly and easily dump every photo you take.

If the service had a motto, it would be “Upload Everything and Let God Sort It Out.”

Yes, Everpix claims to organize your photos automatically, but this is happy talk. A fantasy.

We’re developing image analysis technology that understands your photos and helps you manage your collection.

We’re building new ways for you to enjoy and rediscover your pictures.

Notice the present progressive tense (“-ing”). Automatic organization is something they’re working on, but what’s in the product right now is at best a proof of concept.

Everpix hides duplicate photos, tries to guess which photos you’re most interested in, and tries to categorize photos by broad categories like People, Nature, Food, etc. It doesn’t do any of these things particularly well or accurately. But that’s okay.

Because what Everpix does do is great. Everpix syncs, stores, and displays decades of photos quickly and effortlessly.

Install the Everpix app on your computer and your phone, and soon every photo you’ve ever taken is available everywhere. Despite the complete lack of organization, Everpix’s approach has put me in touch with more old photos in a week than iPhoto did in a decade.

Like this hilarious, random New York couple in 2004:

Or my little brother-in-law’s smile in 2007:

I hadn’t seen either of these photos in years. Probably not since they were taken.

Alternatives

  • Flickr now offers one terabyte of free storage, but that number is more of a dare than reality. As in “I dare you to somehow manually upload one terabyte of photos when our service caps each upload session to 200 photos.”
  • Facebook is designed for sharing. It’s great at that task, but it doesn’t keep high quality copies of your photos and it’s impossible to use the service without sharing everything.
  • Dropbox has added some fantastic photo sharing and photo album features. But I have 70 gigs of photos going back a decade. At current prices, that means spending $100-a-year and eventually $200-a-year once I add another 30 gigs of photos.
  • iCloud Photostream is barely a photo service. It’s useful in that it quickly moves photos from one device to all of your devices, but it only stores your last 1000 photos and cannot be upgraded or relied upon.

Conclusion

Everpix is a solid service. They offer 18 months of photo storage for free and unlimited photo storage for $49-a-year. The website and iOS apps are barebones, but each is being rapidly updated.

Having all of my photos backed up and instantly accessible is well worth the price of admission. Any other features they add over the next year are gravy.


Update: November 14, 2013

Sadly, Everpix has announced that they are shutting down and refunding their customers’ money. The Verge has a longform piece on their final days as a company.

Though I did not use Everpix every day, I loved the security that came with knowing all of my photos were being synced continuously and effortlessly to the cloud. I also loved being able to dig out a photo from years earlier whenever I wanted using their web and iOS applications. As of now, I have no idea how I’ll replace the service.


  1. iPhoto 2011 to be exact. Apple hasn’t updated it in years and it doesn’t sync with its newer iOS counterparts at all.


Get a Free Gigabyte from Dropbox for Using Mailbox on iOS→

Free space on Dropbox is worth its weight in gold. You get to keep it forever, and every additional megabyte postpones the day when you’ll have to switch to their $100-a-year paid plan.

Thankfully, this week Dropbox is giving away free space if you try their iOS Gmail client, Mailbox (also free). If you have an iOS device, download the app, go to settings, and link it to your Dropbox account. You get the free gig of space immediately.


Using Ambient Noise to Drown Out Distraction

Three Tools I Use

I struggle to work in silence. My mind gets crowded with ideas. But I also struggle to work with music. My mind begins to follow the lyrics.

Ambient noise is a way to drown out your thoughts without distracting your focus. Here are three tools I recommend:

SimplyNoise

SimplyNoise is a site that plays white, pink, and brown noise. There are many sites and many apps that do this, but in my opinion, SimplyNoise has the “cleanest” noise. I find other digital noise generators to be harsh or grating. Other generators also tend to loop in distracting ways.

If you don’t like using an iPhone app or a web browser to play the noise, you can pay a dollar to download a 60-minute MP3.

Pros:

  • Creates an intense sense of focus.

Cons:

  • Difficult to use alongside music. The noise is quickly overwhelmed by the lyrics.
  • Eventually drives you insane, like being locked in a hyperbaric chamber.

Get Work Done Music

Get Work Done Music streams fast-paced music from SoundCloud. The songs tend to be electronica/trance music, usually with pulsing rhythms.

Pros:

  • Variety.
  • You might actually discover artists that you like.

Cons:

  • Depends on accurate SoundCloud tagging. Sometimes you get crazy demon-screaming garbage.

Coffitivity

Coffitivity is a site that plays coffee shop noises on a loop. This feels like a dumb idea. But when combined with music, it provides a pleasing mix of noise that is just enough to balance out your music’s lyrics while still drowning out stray thoughts.

If you don’t like using a web browser to play sound, you can just download the MP3.

Pros:

  • You can play your own music.
  • You don’t feel like a total psychopath.

Cons:

  • None: This is what I use most of the time.