Thursday, August 31, 2017

Post-Twitter cleanup thoughts

Just over a week ago, I wrote about how I had finally cleaned up my Twitter account, shedding followers that I thought would care less about being dropped and locked out. Well, guess what! Not one of the almost 200 followers I punted have tried to add me back!

I must assume that the majority were bots or had followed me because they used some "purchase followers" scheme and the rest had no idea they still followed me because they, like most folks, have been barely using Twitter in the last year or so. It seems to me that the beginning of the Twitter decline started at the beginning of 2016 and our wonderful election pretty much finished it off.

The result of my clean up is odd. I no longer cringe when I open Twitter now, which is great, but I also open it even less than I did before the clean up. I guess with fewer people to follow, I can get caught up much faster so the need to look at Twitter is reduced even further. This is probably not helpful to their business model.

Now, if I could just figure out how to make Facebook enjoyable. And don't get me started on Instagram's algorithm!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Latte time!

I'm coming to you from on location yet again. This time I am at the Dunkin' Donuts for lunch although this trip was more about an excuse to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte than it was about getting lunch. Sure, for lunch I did get my recently returned favorite Maple Sugar Bacon breakfast sandwich and it was quite excellent but the real reason for coming over here and setting up the Asus Transformer was to taste the first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season and it was so worth it.


Ahhh, the first of many this fall, I hope. I am ready for cooler weather and falling leaves!

This is also the only nice day left in the forecast this week. Starting tomorrow, the remnants of Harvey are forecast to start heading directly toward us and firing up storms and heavy rain that will last into the weekend. I'm not looking forward to that but it could certainly be much, much worse. The images coming out of Texas are horrible and even with the advance notice the forecasts gave, many people don't have the option to pack things up and leave ahead of these storms and you end up with what we are seeing now - people trapped and many stuck in shelters. It's just a terrible scene.

Here, things are normal. Aside from waiting for the rain, the days are fairly quiet at work with the holiday coming up on Monday.

That's all I've got today. I have to finish this excellent drink and pack up to return to the home office.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday morning at the kitchen table

This week flew by. It started with the eclipse and ended with our first away football game. I am zonked.

At least the weather has been decent. It was downright pleasant last night - no humidity and a fall feeling in the air. This is deceptive, of course, since September here is typically quite hot.

I keep meaning to come here and write something but I either get all of my thoughts out on the podcast or I draw a blank. I've been spending a bit of my free time playing Atari on my laptop. For some reason I got the urge to reinstall Stella and I keep going back to Megamania, a game from Activision that is a lot tougher than I remember. Maybe my reflexes were better when I was 9. I also think my old gamepad might be holding me back a bit so I am on the completely not urgent lookout for a decent USB joystick when I visit Goodwills.


I think I'm going to set up an emulator for the Atari 5200 next. Why? I have no idea but there is something about spending time with classic games that makes me happy lately.

Also, I'm still reading like crazy - 32 books so far this year. I again thought about taking a break from reading earlier this week when I finished a book of short stories by Haruki Murakami. My break lasted about an hour before I started Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. I've been wanting to read it since I saw The End of the Tour.

I guess that's all I have for today. The sun is out and we're going to get out of the house and make the most of a nice Saturday before all of my Saturdays are filled with band contests!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Closing the Twitter front door

Yesterday was the day I took on something I have been wanting to take on for a long time - I finally (FINALLY) closed the front door on Twitter.

What does that mean? First, I went private with my tweets. Second, I blocked everyone I don't know in real life or have some reason to follow. Third, I unblocked all the folks I blocked but they no longer follow me because my profile is now private and they can only follow me in the future if I approve them. Fourth and finally, I pulled a Taylor Swift and deleted all of my old tweets, leaving only the last month of tweets. Oddly, my profile still shows 21,000 tweets although you can only see my tweets back to July 18th now.

Why do this?

First and foremost, I have nothing to promote and no need to have tons of followers or really any "social influence" whatsoever. Getting more listeners for Up In This Brain doesn't concern me at all and the other podcasts I am on have their own Twitter accounts. I know that no one can retweet me with my account set as private but, like I wrote earlier, I don't have need for nor care about "social influence", whatever that is.

Second, the lack of privacy as my kids get older was concerning to me. About 75% of my nearly 400 followers were bots that had followed me and never unfollowed me over the years. There were also quite a few folks who might have been real people I bumped into somewhere along the way but there was no real need to keep in touch or I already follow them on Instagram where they are more active and the environment is less rant-friendly than Twitter is.

I am now private on all of the "big 3" social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and I know that doesn't ensure total privacy. That's unrealistic. However, it does give me a bit more control over who can interact with me and a tad more peace of mind than I would have if everything was wide open.

Third, I don't see my tweet history as having any real significance at all. The expiration date on a tweet is just about as soon as you hit send. The world is moving that fast. Also, searching back through tweets for something is clunky. I will keep using Facebook for the rare post of milestones I or my kids might want to look back on one day.

Finally, I had too much noise going in my Twitter feed and it was sucking the joy out of being on there. Now I have sort of redefined it for me. I can focus on a more limited group of people and use Twitter as a private community of ideas and sharing instead of the wide-open free for all that it has turned into, especially over the last couple of years.

This last election just about ruined Twitter for me and I had gotten to the point where I dreaded opening the app. I am hoping that using it in a different way will lead to a more positive experience and more interaction with folks I truly care to connect to.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This old blog

Sure, this is only post #20 here so I can't really refer to it as an old blog. But if you consider the posts that were eliminated when Up In This Blog was deleted a few months back, we'd would be adding nine years and over 2000 posts to my Blogger "legacy" and that would be something.

Source: http://neucare.net/blog/
Sometimes I regret deleting the blog and all of the posts but there was a lot I didn't know about making a blog manageable when I started out in 2007 and I had not used labels consistently which resulted in a really big mess, a mess most people probably would not have noticed but I did. I had tried to go back through the posts and fix labels, reduce the number of labels I used, etc.

For this time around, I am trying to keep labels as simple as possible although I know that it was only in my head that people actually use labels to look at old posts especially since it is darn near impossible to get people to look at new posts! Blogging doesn't have the "umph" it once had, especially when it's a blog like this one, filled with sort of pointless rambling.

I was thinking about blogs I read this morning (I use Feedly to read blogs every morning) and I realized that although I read Robert Dyer's blog in Feedly, I didn't follow it here in Blogger so it did not appear under Blogs I Read over on the side of this page. That is fixed now and I highly recommend you check it out. I wish there was a comprehensive blog like that for where I live.

I feel like I know more about Bethesda, MD than I do about my own town! I am in awe of the amount of work Robert puts into his information gathering. To me, it's a great example of a blog that stays relevant and I wish I had the time, energy, focus, etc. to perform the same service for where I live.

And yes, this is the same Robert Dyer that makes the excellent/funny food review videos on YouTube!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cloudy skies

Here I am, exactly one week until the meteor eclipse, looking out the kitchen window to a very cloudy, rainy sky. I am hoping a week from right now finds us gazing up at the sun through a completely clear sky but the extended forecast simply reads "partly cloudy" at this point and at least that is an improvement over what we have today.

The weekend was fairly busy but the real band stuff starts this week and it's going to be crazy busy from now until the end of October. Every Friday evening and most Saturdays are completely blocked out on the calendar along with all of the practices and everything else that happens during the week.

Finally, in non-important news (the real news is filled with all of the important news, most of it horrifying, so we won't get into any of it here), I found a bit of a use for the @jasonwriteshere Twitter. I went out to the New York Times Books Twitter and followed everyone they follow. I think that will add a bit of variety to what I see when I am bored with my main Twitter. Maybe it will keep me a bit more in the loop on the literary things that are happening in the world. I'm still not tweeting over there so don't bother following it unless you just want your following count to go up by one for some reason.

That's it. I have a bit of lunch break left and I am going to spend that time reading.

Friday, August 11, 2017

On location

It's my first "remote" post here on the new site! I am coming to you today from Starbucks on a very overcast Friday morning. Hopefully the weather will not be like this on eclipse/meteor day!

IMG_0915
I don't typically work remotely even though I work at home and my boss has told me multiple times that I can work from anywhere so I should get out from time to time. It's just always been a hassle in the past, having to unhook and lug by big work laptop out of the house. I no longer have to fool with that now that I have my much-faster recently installed work router. Now I can connect into my work laptop via Teamviewer and just take my Asus Transformer with me wherever I go.

And, I finally used my brand-new backpack which was purchased just for stuff like this and I am happy to report that everything fits in there perfectly. It is just the right size for my Transformer, Kindle, notepad and canned ham.

Don't you always carry an emergency canned ham, just in case?

Finally, a song for Friday. I was sitting here in the unusually noisy Starbucks – I guess it is because it was packed with people or maybe the music is turned lower than normal – and I could barely make out Hippo Campus coming across the speakers. Hippo Campus is an excellent band that I discovered earlier this year on WFUV and I highly recommend them.



Have a great weekend! I will be in the concession stand at the football game tonight so jump on a plane and get down here and buy a hot dog from me!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Afternoon Soundtrack (8/9/2017)

I don't think this will be an everyday thing but here are three more songs for an afternoon with a few clouds mixing in with the sun and rain on the way...



Of course, we have a little Glen Campbell here today - a huge loss for Music City yesterday.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Afternoon Soundtrack

Some music for a cloudy afternoon...





Recorded this day in 1962...

The robot shall tweet for me (maybe)

I finally decided, after a few weeks of writing here, to automate the post tweets @upinthisbrain using IFTTT. I've been doing it manually so far but I am pretty sure I would eventually forget to do one or two or ten.

Also, I am trying to only look at Twitter in the early morning, at lunch and briefly in the evening. I don't want to purposely go there during the day and get sucked in.

There is a @jasonwriteshere Twitter but I still haven't figured out a use for that.

Update! I noticed that yesterday's automated tweet came hours after the post went up so this post is a test. I have it scheduled to post at 7AM Central time (which is about 14 minutes from the time I am writing this) and I'm going to keep an eye on Twitter and see when IFTTT does its magic and posts a tweet. If it's going to take hours for that to happen, I'll probably fire the robot and go back to pushing the tweet button myself! So much for modern technology!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The KonMari Method™ was the breakthough in my struggle with stuff

I discovered over the weekend that there was a KonMari app. I had no idea. I am not sure how I missed it. It would have been great to document the before and after when I went through the tidying process here at the house a few months back.

It all worked out fine though. Using the book Spark Joy as my guide, I went through the categories and followed Marie Kondo's process to decide which items to keep (they spark joy) and which items to part with (they do not spark joy).

Reading her two books was truly a life-changing awakening for me. For many years on the old blog and on the podcast, I bemoaned my relationship with clutter and how I used material things to "buy my feelings" and Marie's two books finally helped me put my relationship with stuff in perspective.

Showing your things respect, just as thanking them for their service when you decide you no longer need them, may seem a bit odd to someone who feels they have it all together but for someone like me that has struggled with the burden of stuff for many years, it was a breakthrough. I was finally able to make peace with my stuff and with my own past buying habits and finally move forward, no longer feeling I needed stuff to make me happy.

Of course, the truth is that stuff cannot make you happy. It is the pursuit of stuff that we use to take our minds off of the negative aspects of our lives.

Back to the app - although I have finished the tidying process, which the app is designed to help you go through, I did sign up and I answer questions other people have when I see a question that is going unanswered and that brings me joy. I get to use my experience in reorganizing and deciding what I truly needed and what needed a new home to help others who are currently in the middle of the process.

I think the KonMari method is about far more than just organizing and clearing clutter. Once the distraction of unneeded material objects was out of the way, I was able to tackle some real issues I had and re-open some doors I had closed such as writing here.

I am more content with what I have and I have new criteria in mind when I do decide I need something new, such as the backpack I wrote about here a few days ago.

Finally, although the tidying process is complete, I am still discovering items that I realize I can part with now although I thought I needed them just weeks earlier.

Maybe a more narrow focus on what you truly need leads to more understanding of which items truly spark joy and which do not so you are able to let go of more and more as you move forward? That seems to be what is happening for me.

Coffee is important

Coffee is so important here that I have a whole area dedicated to it, a shrine to coffee.

Yes, I put all of that up there on the wall. It felt necessary. And, for the coffee purists out there, I have a few traditional coffee makers in the garage. K-cups are easy and I'm lazy so my K-cup machine gets daily use but there are special occasions when the Cuisinart gets pulled out and put into service. I'm also the only one that regularly drinks coffee here so there is not much use in brewing an entire pot.

Looking at the picture, I notice that the cordless phone looks out of place. I took it out of the kitchen for a while and every time the phone rang, I walked to the blank wall in the kitchen to answer it. Within the month it was back up in its place. I guess I could do something better with the cord, though.

Coffee makes me long for cooler weather although I drink it year-round, even on the super hot days we have here from time to time. I enjoy fall most of all although fall here seems to get shorter and shorter. We jump from blistering hot into freezing cold with little warning.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I bought a new backpack

After months of getting rid of things, it's tough for me to justify buying something, especially another bag. I've had a bag problem for a long time and the problem is that I really like bags and I have always had this unachievable dream of the perfect bag. The perfect bag would have just the right pockets, like a dedicated and quickly accessible pocket for my iPhone. It will have just the right amount of padding. It will not be too big like the Swiss Army backpack I use for work. It will be, as Goldilocks would say, just right.

I've bought a lot of bags over the years in pursuit of just right and I've been let down many times. There is the thrill of getting a new bag and stuffing it with pens and notebooks and stuff I will end up never actually using. Then, I get the new bag out into the world and the flaws quickly reveal themselves. The bag is not sturdy enough. It's stuffed too full. There is no place for the book I checked out from the library. The zippers are too tight. The zippers are too loose. My water bottle does not fit. Blah, blah, blah.

A few months back as I read the Marie Kondo books and did my tidying, I took all the bags I had out of various places in the house (I had bags in two closets, behind the door on a hook and in a tote in the attic. I told you I had a problem!) and I dumped them all in one pile and made the tough decisions. 75% of them went off to the thrift store. I had my work backpack, my personal backpack which I have taken to different school events the kids are involved with and to the coffee shop or the doctor's office and even to the scrap yard when I was looking for parts for the Buick. I also kept a little bag for the car. That's all I need, I told myself. There was more than a little relief when I bagged up the rest of the bags for the thrift store.

Fast-forward to Monday when I packed my personal backpack with various tech stuff so I could work while the kids had ortho appointments, a book, and a water bottle and the flaws revealed themselves after two years of use. The bag is still usable but is getting flimsy. Although I pack my Asus Transformer and iPad in padded sleeves, the bag is still just a tad too lightweight for everything I was stuffing in it.

Short story long:
My old bag has served me well for two years and will still be used for light, non-tech duty.

I went to Walmart Wednesday and bought a new bag from the same company that is a little bit bigger and features a lot more padding.


Why write about something as mundane as buying a new bag? Because, in the pre-tidying, pre-purging days, I probably would have endlessly scrolled eBay and Amazon listings until I found something that just might work and I would have ordered it and probably been disappointed. No more! I went to actual stores (I know, that's so old-fashioned!) and examined the bags in real life, going through them, zipping, unzipping and trying them on until I found the right bag for my needs. As Marie Kondo asks, did it bring me joy? I had several that I found at Staples and Office Depot that almost brought me joy but just didn't seem quite right. 

It does take a lot of time going store to store to find something but I still feel like I saved time going place to place versus spending hours of surfing websites and then having to possibly deal with a return or, even worse, getting a bag that ended up in the closet or in a tote until it eventually went to the thrift store. I've done that way too many times with bags, radios, you name it.

Plus there is the anxiety I get of being overwhelmed by choices online. I know that might sound silly but in the past, I have woke up in the middle of the night thinking about something I need and some new parameter I can search on to narrow it down so I would end up in the bathroom or living room on my iPad in the middle of the night shopping. It sounds silly to admit that here but I can't be the only person doing it.

At a time when Amazon seems to be taking over the world, there is still a place, at least to me, for bricks and mortar retail stores. Online shopping is great but it can also be overwhelming and can result in a lot of "almost just right" purchases that I know from experience can end up being quite wasteful.

(Grammarly found 10 issues with this post - 5 WordChoice, 4 Punctuation in Complex/Compound sentences and 1 Wordy Sentence. For about $12 a month, they would show me exactly where these problems are. I'm good. Hopefully, you don't mind my apparently lousy writing skills. If you do, my apologies.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

According to the school system, summer is over!

Today is the first day of school and even though August 1st or very close to it has been the first day of school here for all the years my kids have been in school, it still takes some getting used to.

This summer seemed to especially fly by and I guess that is because we didn't have time for a real trip anywhere. High school band started the second week of July so our summer break really only lasted about six weeks.

It takes a few days to get used to being here at the home office completely alone. There is a third dog now and he is sitting right beside me in the floor and I'm sure he will do his best to keep me occupied during the day while the other two dogs, that act more like cats, ignore me as usual.

The last week went by in a blur with various school functions, last minute shopping and other things that needed to get done before school started back so I decided to go ahead a take a week away from the podcast and a few days away from writing here just so I could clearly focus on getting things done. I also finally finished the last book I was reading. It was a struggle but I made it!

Now I have to get back into the school year groove, planning solo lunches and thinking about some of the projects I've been putting off until I had the house to myself like touching up paint here and there and doing a bit of the spring cleaning I was too lazy to do in the spring.