Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!


I've been on vacation this week and have spent the last two days cleaning out the attic at my father's house. There have been a lot of memories rediscovered - old toys from my childhood and many pictures, newspaper clippings, etc. 

This has been a good thing. It's like the whole family, many long gone, have been gathered back together one final time at Thanksgiving and that is a good thing. I'll be going through the totes of items I saved in the coming weeks and will be sharing some of them here and on Facebook and Instagram.

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for those of you I first met through blogging so long ago and I am looking forward to what 2018 will bring for all of us.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I'm not ignoring just you. I'm ignoring everyone!

I think I hit peak social media at about the middle of this last week. I had been doing well with my NOtification policy but kept missing stuff and felt like I had freed up more time than I really needed  so, like a forgetful fool suffering from a serious case of FOMO, I turned most everything back on at the start of the week and by Wednesday notifications were lighting up the screen like crazy and I was once again finding myself constantly distracted by bleeps and bloops.

As of yesterday, I went back to my previous settings, turning all of the notification sounds off except for my work emails (which I am paid to read), my iMessages (which is the main way my children pester me about things). I turned off lock screen pop ups from all social media apps on my phone since it sits on my desk while I work and just having the pop up catch my eye was a distraction. I left them on my iPad since I only look at it when I want to. These changes give me control over my notifications (again).

The only way I know I have a social media notification on my phone is to unlock it and look at the badge app icon. On my iPad, I have to open the cover and see the lock screen. Nothing buzzes. Nothing beeps. Nothing bloops. I work or read or sit staring at the wall oblivious of everything happening in the world unless I choose to look.

Of course, I instantly started missing things and fell behind on Twitter conversations (which sort of stinks because I don't want to exclude myself from having the chance to communicate with my far-flung friends) and missed news events (which is actually a blessing).

I've discovered that I can't have it both ways. Social media is either ON or OFF. Even with the limited notifications I get (For example, I have never been notified of every like on a Tweet or Facebook post), I still get a lot of notifications if I leave it all on. If I turn it off, I can somehow feel the pile piling up. Yesterday I looked at my iPad at lunch and the lock screen had at least 30 missed messages between just Twitter and Slack. It felt overwhelming but it's better than having my concentration broken thirty separate times when I am trying to work or not trying to think, both actions that I had forgotten are of equal importance.

I toyed with this Thursday, reducing my frustration a tad over Wednesday and went full in yesterday, starting this day of change ironically by posting a tweet explaining my intentions:
That graphic goes with this great post by Austin Kleon, explaining each step a bit further:
  • Log off (get out now)
  • Mute all (turn off notifications)
  • Carry on (without hope and without despair)
By yesterday afternoon, I could feel my time freeing up again. I was very productive at work and I again had a decision to make. I could enable a couple of notifications and stay caught up with the onlines or I could try to think of what I used to do with free time before I had social media and an endless internet to waste occupy my time.

The choice was clear. I opened a book and read for a bit. Then I started charging some batteries and pulled out my old Eton E5 shortwave radio. Instead of aimlessly surfing the internet all evening (I did a bit, I have to admit), I tuned up and down the bands and marveled at the distant voices coming through the static. It's been a long time since I did that.

I think NOtifications is going to stay for good this time, especially during my work days. I'm even adding this line to my Twitter profile: NOtifications off 7AM-5PM CST, M-F.

It's not me. It's not you. It's everyone!

So, if you tweet me or send me a Slack message or tag me in an Ello post, don't be discouraged if I don't get right back to you. I'm probably busy being busy or busy not being busy. Both are equally important, both actions that I also had forgotten are of equal importance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The faux coffee community

A little earlier this afternoon, I started thinking about coffee and then I started thinking about Starbucks and how I thought back in August that regular Friday mornings at Starbucks might turn into a thing for me.

They didn't.

They didn't because I immediately questioned my motives behind wanting to go sit in Starbucks and work, read, write, etc. What is the advantage of going to Starbucks over just staying home? I am more comfortable at home. The chairs there are hard and the tables a tad wobbly. The coffee here is a lot cheaper and I don't have to worry about someone stealing my laptop if I need to go to the bathroom.

I considered some of the people I saw in Starbucks. Some tables were full of people, probably study groups or work colleagues. I get that. But the people I saw alone were either reading or feverishly typing into laptops. None of these people were talking to anyone else. Most tables of four had only one person seated.

We were all there alone, sitting at our own little tables, sipping expensive coffee and doing things we could be doing anywhere. Why choose that place? Is it the music? Is it the desperate need to escape for a bit from our cubicles or classrooms or dorm rooms? Or do we simply just want to be seen as the type of people who can afford to buy and sip expensive coffee while we work, read, write, etc.? Or do we simply wish to convince ourselves that we are the type of people who can afford to buy and sip expensive coffee while we work, read, write, etc.?

Regardless of our motives, for a few dollars spent on coffee that most likely originated in a place we'll never be able to afford to visit (and maybe also a pastry) as the price of admission, we can temporarily buy into another life, admitting ourselves for a half-hour or so (that's as long as I last since the seats are so uncomfortable) into this faux community of jazz-listening, espresso-drinking sophisticates and hipsters that doesn't really exist. It's all a facade that is being sold to us and we will happily sit there working, reading, writing, etc. and adding to the mirage of this faux community by our presence, another actor paying to play a part in the big show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Knowing when to fold 'em!

Several podcasting pals and myself gathered around the glowing computer screens last night and tried to resurrect an old podcasting project that had been lingering in our minds for a few months. I think it was no more than ten minutes in before we realized why this podcast had gone away in the first place but we trudged on until the end so we could make a clear, final judgement.

That judgement was that it's a no go.

As a creator, the toughest and best decision you have to make from time to time is to NOT do something. Maybe it doesn't fit in with the overall trajectory of your creative life. Maybe it's just not fun. Regardless, it's best to invest the short time we have here doing the things we really love and sharing the creations that add something unique to the creative communities we find ourselves residing in.

The last thing I want to do is create something that ends up feeling like a "to-do" to me and to the consumer of whatever I create. I want to add a little levity to someone's tough day. I want people to not shake their head and feel apprehensive when they see a new post from me pop up in Twitter or a podcast I am a part of download to their app. I want to be a part of podcasts that I don't dread when I see the clock getting closer and closer to recording time.

Creators need to know their strengths. Having the courage to admit that our strength lies elsewhere is not giving up or a sign of some sort of failure. Spending more time doing what we love and less time doing what doesn't work is actually the opposite of failure. It's part of the pursuit of excellence that should dictate how we do everything we do, whether it's something we do to make money or something we do just because we love to create.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

We are not that busy so why are we so busy?

As I finished the fourth of four loads of clothes yesterday, I thought to myself, "Wow! We must have had a productive weekend!"

It makes me wonder what we would do if we were normal, normal meaning having our children in tons of extracurricular activities. I don't know how some people get anything done with their schedules and I get stressed out over my own from time to time although we have always purposely tried to limit what our children are involved in so they could have time to just be kids and rest and even waste some time now and then. My thought is that there will be plenty of time to have no time to waste later. No point in going full blast until you have to.

Yes, they are busier these days and we had band-related activities Saturday, Sunday and even Monday evening. And let's not forget their social schedules including seeing friends in plays, birthday parties, etc. etc.

I'm looking forward to a few weeks without much of anything on the evening schedule. Starting today, we have until December 3rd before our next out of the ordinary event (another day in the concession stand at the NFL game).

It's the first prolonged break/return to normal since July and as much as I look forward to the rest I don't look forward to being inactive and lazy and sluggish. I now have this need to do something, anything, other than just sit at home all the time and this will contribute to more dirty clothes that need to be washed but that's alright. I'm sure I'll preserve a few lazy days on the calendar to stay around the house so I can get them all done.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The holiday whirl

Today is the day I take a long look at my calendars, work and personal, and make sure everything is remembered, considered and scheduled for now until the end of the first week of January. After this week, the holiday season momentum will fire up into full swing and the rest of the year will be a blur of meetings, days off, band stuff, appointments and holidays. I even have some dentist and doctors appointments thrown in there to keep it as hectic as possible.

As of right now, I think (think) I have everything adequately planned out. I even printed out my calendar to examine more closely at the kitchen table. If I print something and take it to the kitchen table, you know I am investing full concentration.

In other news, it sure feels like Thanksgiving now. There is a definitely a chill in the air and today is another cloudy, dreary day. The sunshine returns tomorrow and a true sign of Thanksgiving will happen in the afternoon when I set out the inflatable turkey.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Another post that is all bread and no meat

Back on November 1, I declared that I would try to write one post a day here for the whole month and twice I have posted stuff so lazy that they fall under a new category I added called lazy post. This is not good. I don't want to post crap just so I can say I wrote something. So, the pledge to write each day of the month ends today. I'll be back when and only when I feel I have something worthwhile to share. That might be tomorrow. It might be next week. I'm just no longer going to force myself to sit down and write when I don't particularly feel like it.

Also, I had the whole @jasonwriteshere Twitter thing that I thought I would turn into a writing-centered deal. I've given up on that also and will just leave @jasonwriteshere as a place that all of the links to these posts go. I'm getting the inspiration/stealing the idea from Seth Godin's @ThisIsSethsBlog account. I also noticed that he never responds to anything on Twitter from that account. A list of links is all it is. I like it.

For now, @jasonwriteshere has been moved back to private. I had to clean out some spammy followers but will probably open it back up in a few weeks and just pretty much ignore it.

Why the Twitter change of heart? I got tired (fast) of swapping back and forth between accounts on my phone. I was following some people on one account and not on the other. I was accidentally tweeting on one account when I meant to use the other one. And none of this time-wasting or confusion was making me any money! It's all about the money, folks! I don't mind not making any writing here and recording on the podcast as long as I am not totally wasting my time and only wasting a little bit of yours.

Back to my no rules existence on the internet. I'll tweet, blog, record, etc. when I feel like it and only when I feel like it because I know that I enjoy tweeting, blogging and recording more when I'm not putting pressure on myself to do so.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lazy post number two

Yesterday's post was far too ambitious for the amount of time I ended up having to write it. To make up for that, today's post is not ambitious at all. I already recorded a podcast today so my daily creative impulse allotment is just about spent.

I have a slight update in my NOtification quest. I changed the email notification sound on my phone for the first time in years to something a bit quieter and shorter. I also got rid of most of the notifications on my Pebble Watch. It's all about minimizing distractions so I can stay more focused.

I don't have much else tonight. This is going to be another lazy post but that's what happens when I try to write every day.
Source: www.howardisms.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/lazycat.jpg
As much as I am phoning it in here, this is sort of a first, though. I am writing this while sitting on the couch at 7:22 pm instead of writing while sitting at the kitchen table first thing in the morning. It's pretty rare for me to do much more than stare blankly at the tv or the iPad at night.

Time for me to stop this so I can go back to staring at the tv.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The return of the roving reporter

For the entirety of the too brief return run of the Dicks 'n Janes zine, I submitted stream of consciousness letters under the non de plume of 'your roving reporter' and I typically wrote my letters from different places around town starting in September of 2015 at a Starbucks in Nashville.

Today I return to you with another entry in the series as I sit at the orthodontists office waiting for my youngest to complete her checkup. I could be interrupted at any time. These appointments don't typically take too long. As soon as she walks out, I'll finish the sentence I'm on and click on publish. That's it. No editing. If I'm in mid-thought, that's where this post will stay forever.

For this post, I'm going to use the list of blog ideas I keep in Todoist. I have learned that any time I have an idea, I need to put a short note somewhere as soon as possible or it will be out of my mind as quickly as it arrived. I'll start with the note "turning off notifications" which I did Sunday before I saw this tweet on the same subject today.

Since we were going to be at the Tennessee Titans game working a concession stand for a band fundraiser, I didn't want to get distracted by all of the notifications that normally pop up on my phone. Twitter. Facebook. Slack. You name it. Between all of that and email, I get buzzes all the day long.

I've been thinking of turning off most of my notifications for a while and it worked brilliantly Sunday. I didn't see the horrible news from Texas until I was on the shuttle bus heading back to the parking lot so I didn't fixate on it all day or start looking at people with more suspicion as we served them. Maybe I should have done both but regardless I welcomed a day with minimal distractions, not pulling my phone out over and over, subconsciously obsessed with what else was going on in the world so this morning I made some adjustments but have decided to continue on with my no notification (or should it be NOtification?) policy.

I turned off sound notifications for all social media on all of my devices. I left visual notifications and badge icons because I see my devices enough to notice anything that comes in but I have eliminated the "MUST LOOK NOW" reaction I automatically have when I hear a PING! or a BLOOP! or a TWEET! I now look at notifications when I choose to and have wrestled back control.

Whoops! Time to go. She is done! We'll go on with this another time!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Template tweakin'

When I started the blog back up in July, I wanted to think less about the template and more about the writing this time around. I have this terrible habit of not being content about the smallest design things like how the header looks or is the font 2 points too big or too small. It's the same thing I do with the living room furniture. It looks fine to me for months until the day I suddenly feel the need to move everything around although there are only three or four ways to move this room around and I've already done them all more than once.
What was bugging me this time about the site here was the header. It seemed so big that it was taking much needed space away from the posts. I tried to tweak the template but nothing I did reduced the space of the header so I ended up moving to a different template (of course, one I have used in previous versions of the site because I've tried them all over the years) which allowed me to shrink the header size and simplify the look of the page. I made a few font adjustments and changed the link colors and boom - here it is!

This site could be fancier. Also, the writing could be better but it's much easier and less ego-bruising to spend time obsessing over how I could have more gadgets and whatnots if I was on Wordpress or some other more robust platform but I would spend more time trying to get it right than actually writing and that would be pretty pointless.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Poncho-less football

We did it. Unlike the previous week in pouring rain, we ended the football season last night with no rain and above-average temperatures that made it feel more like early September than early November. Now I will have to adjust to quiet Friday nights, hopefully at home! It was a fun season travelling with the band and loading/unloading equipment but last night I felt just plain tired and that has continued right into today. I think I finally reached my limit so I have to admit that I'm a tad relieved that we're done.

Speaking of being tired, I haven't been worth a flip today. I kept thinking I would finish the book I'm reading (I'm so very close!) but I ended up wasting an afternoon on the iPad, mostly goofing around on YouTube. What a throwaway day. What a lazy post this is.

(I just added a lazy post label here on the blog so I can go back and see all of the posts where I knew I was just phoning it in when I wrote them!)

On a final note (no pun intended!), the hospice hilarity wasn't as hilarious in the series of Sally Forth strips over the past week. In fact, we see today that Ted Forth's dad will do absolutely anything to stop listening to Ted discussing their problematic relationship - ANYTHING!

Boop boop, my friends. Boop boop!



Friday, November 3, 2017

Turn Up Your Speakes: "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do" by Huey Lewis and the News

It's been over a month since our last (and only until today) Turn Up Your Speakes so I'm glad I didn't commit to doing these weekly!

For this rainy Friday (our second rainy Friday in a row) TUYS entry, we're going back to 1982 for a #36 hit by Huey Lewis and the News, released a year before the album that really made them, Sports. This song is off of their second album, Picture This, and it's one I certainly don't hear often. I like it and have heard it a bit over the years. I was listening to a classic Casey Kasem countdown this week and there it was at number 36!

As a bonus, here is my favorite Huey Lewis and the News song. Luckily, this one still gets played on the radio around here fairly often and I still have my Sports LP that I got brand new thirty-four years ago. Also, the video is fantastically 80's!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All of my memories are in HD

Steve sent me a link to a music video recently. The song was good but I couldn't stop thinking about how dated the video looked. It's just from 1998 and 1998 doesn't seem (in my mind) like that long ago!

Maybe it's because this is right before HD. Maybe it's the hairstyles and the fashion but the video looks like many of the other older videos that people post on YouTube. The difference is that most of the videos that feel dated to me are from the early 90's and earlier, not 1998!

The reality is it's been almost twenty years since 1998. Twenty years! It's hard to reconcile that with the vivid memories I seem to have in my head. 1998, what pieces of it I think I remember, looks pretty normal in my memories, almost like the world hasn't changed at all.

This, of course, is my mind playing tricks on me. The memory filter we all have makes everything look great and most memories are facts that have been converted into slightly better stories!

Watching the video above made me remember several videos I have saved on YouTube including this one recorded on a VHS camera in the electronics department of a store in the early 90's:

There is also this one, a favorite of mine from 1987 that shows footage of my favorite now gone store, Zayre!

Finally, I couldn't end this one without mentioning Nelson Sullivan. More of his videos from the 80's are being added to YouTube every week or so. He left behind an incredible time capsule and must be one of the earliest examples of what we would now call a vlogger!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trying to take the No out of November

I've gotten lazy, creatively.
I tried to write this entry at 6am but got distracted and threw my hands in the air and decided to try again later.
That would be the easy way to explain my absence from this blog and the shorter episodes of the podcast. It would be easy but untrue. My energies just shifted from creativity to loading band equipment and spending most Friday nights and Saturdays at football games and band contests.

The band season has been winding down (at least one more game to go) but I still haven't returned to the old pre-marching band schedule of recording multiple podcasts and tweeting most of my insane thoughts and blogging quite a bit and now I realize that I probably won't ever return to that pre-marching band schedule.

One thing I do want to return to is writing regularly. I'm not sure why. I think I miss the act of writing more than I have any need to get thoughts out of my mind or share any particular ideas with the world. I'm going to try to do at least one post a day each day in November. That's the goal because I need to A) write more and B) get in a writing habit.

I know that I could get more into a daily writing habit if I was participating in NaNoWriMo this year but I decided this week to not sign up. I want to enjoy writing and not stress myself out over writing. I think that trying to write 50,000 words in one month would stress me out big time!

A final piece of exciting news - I've decided to use the long dormant @jasonwriteshere Twitter account to keep all the blog related stuff in one place, at least for now. We'll see how that works at least for this month. I want to use @upinthisbrain just for my dumb thoughts and Instagram pics. I don't even autopost podcast episodes there anymore.