Friday, January 26, 2018

Less stuff, less music

When I got my first iPod years ago, I got caught up in the burning frenzy. Every CD I had got burned into iTunes. Many CD's I gave away long ago still live on in my computer and creating playlists of music I actually wanted to listen to had been overwhelming for a long time until I took having to replace my hard drive as an excuse to clean it all up.

A great CD I own that I would definitely keep if I decided to start reducing my physical music collection.

I started that clean up by dumping my backed up music into a folder separated from the music folder on my laptop. I reinstalled iTunes and it was happily 100% empty. Years of purchases, some good and many dumb, nowhere to be found.

Then came the tough part - rebuilding my library with songs I wanted to end up on my iPod. For a while I did nothing because I thought this meant looking through everything, song by song, and dragging what I wanted over from the old folder to my nice, empty new iTunes folder. The task was way too daunting. There is way too much music for that.

Yesterday, while scooping dog poop, the idea hit me. I would take my current iPod playlists (that were about 60% decent) and go through them to find what I really wanted. I took screenshots of certain great songs that came up and finally sat at the laptop this morning, iPod in hand, scrolling down the playlist and importing artists and albums that I wanted on my brand new playlist - a playlist filled with music that won't drag me down. Also, a much smaller playlist than I'm used to. Between my yacht/soft rock/pop playlist (obviously called The Jason Mix) and my jazz playlist (obviously called The Jazz Mix), I chose just 424 songs, a mere fraction of all of the stuff that has made it into my collection since I first started burning CD's and buying music online.


At this point in my life, less is more. I've applied that to things I own and stuff I keep and now to the music on my devices. There is a tinge of guilt that runs through me when I think about having things I don't use, things sitting around collecting dust, just in the name of having things. And, since I am listening to most music streaming or on HD radio these days, I don't need to own more music, physically or digitally. Never mind the shelf of vinyl I have that sadly hardly gets listened to. Don't get me started on the big binder of DVD's I have that I never watch.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday check in

I don't have any particular topic to bring to you this morning so I'll just call this a check-in. How's it going? Are you staying warm? Everyone staying healthy at your place?

After a hectic Monday, here is Tuesday and I'm starting out the morning at the kitchen table with my new to me HD Radio which is a symbol of my laziness since I now have this one in the kitchen and an identical one back in the home office. Why carry one back and forth when you can just buy another!


We had a really nice and warm weekend but we're back to normal here today. Normal means chilly but not the freezing cold we've been dealing with most of the month so I'll gladly take it.

The days are getting longer. It's not warm enough to sit out on the deck and read yet but I got my Fitbit back out and have been doing a bit of walking. Spring is just around the corner (I can feel it!) and gloomy 'ol January is almost over. Sure, that leads to gloomy 'ol February but we can handle it.

We got a peak of sun for about three minutes right as I was about to publish this post. I stepped out and got a picture right before it vanished and everything went back to gray gloominess.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The smart speaker purchase that ended up being not so smart

My brief experiment with smart speakers is over. I took my Google Home Minis back to Walmart Thursday. What prompted me to do this was the stories I was seeing about how they were impacting Wi-Fi routers, especially TP-Link routers like the one I have, and, oddly enough, I had noticed drops in my home Wi-Fi speed especially when streaming music on the Minis but I just hadn't connected the dots. I assumed it was getting slower because my kids stream video a lot and they've been home a lot between the holiday break and all of the snow days.


I had gotten so annoyed by the slow speeds (I checked my cable modem connection at first and it was fine) that I had ordered a cheap HD radio off of Amazon so I could play something different than lousy old commercial radio during the day without streaming on those days I was out of podcasts to listen to.

I finally noticed a story about this for the first time on Monday and immediately disconnected the Minis and there was an immediate and noticeable improvement and I hadn't even used them in several days. Of course, my HD radio arrived the next day but I'm keeping it because it works so well and I like the stations available here.


I think I got lucky in all of this though. The Google Home Mini back in my home office space had only been used a few times since I got it. The main one I used in the kitchen hadn't been spoken to in over a week. The novelty was just wearing off for me. There were many times I would ask it to stream something on TuneIn or iHeart and it would say "Ok, streaming so and so on TuneIn" but there would be nothing but silence. Some days it worked, some days it didn't. Also, there were many things I would ask it and it would admit it had no idea how to help. I use Google Calendar and it was clunky at best with that. Most of the time the Mini was no help at all, just a toy that didn't consistently work as well as the bluetooth speaker in the kitchen that I thought it might eventually replace.

The minis seemed destined to just sit on shelves mostly unused, listening for the words "OK, Google" all day long and hearing who knows what else. What I thought they would be and what they ended up being were two different things and I'm glad they had a real bug that gave me the prompt to send them away. I doubt I will try any other type of smart speaker again any time soon.

One final note and this is probably a silly thing to complain about. The power adapter on the Google Home Mini drove me nuts. It had a big round plug that meant it would take up two spots on most surge protectors I had. How dumb! On top of that, I bought a white one for the kitchen and a charcoal one for the home office. I thought the charcoal one would go better with my black work desk and dark furniture but it came with the same white power cord and adapter as the white one. Why sell the unit in different colors and not the cord and adapter?! How silly!

Source: https://tomstek.us/usb-power-adapter-specs-google-home-mini-smart-speaker/

Friday, January 19, 2018

We've remodeled!

I've taken the blog out of 2008 and moved it into 2018 using one of Blogger's newer themes which is both tablet and phone friendly and doesn't look so, I don't know, HTML?


This new appearance doesn't mean the content has changed. No, it is sadly still going to be the same as always but at least whatever boring thing I decide to share here will now look sharp and snappy on your choice of device!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Reducing the interference

I'm been talking on the podcast lately about wanting to reduce the noise in my life. For example, yesterday I focused on my workspace. I took everything off my two bulletin boards and got rid of everything that was not needed. I was surprised at how my bulletin board had turned into years of catchall materials, most I had absolutely no use for. Once I had separated out what I did have a use for, I consolidated as much as I could. Four scraps of paper became one nice small print out.

I did the same thing to my cups of pencils and pens. I can only use one writing implement at a time but I had two coffee cups stuffed with items. I dumped those and kept out only a few pens and pencils (still more than I probably need but about 10% of what I had out) and stored the rest.

My goal was to reduce the noise from anything visible in my workspace and it took most of the day to do this in between work and other things going on. Next, I have to get into the drawers and the files - all those things somewhat out of site but not out of mind. Even if I can't look up from my desk and see inside the storage items that contain clutter, I know it's there and it weighs on me.

As I was considering the plan for what I want to accomplish today, I realized that noise is not the best term to describe what I'm trying to eliminate. A better term is interference because all of these extra unused items sticking out of everything and all of the unneeded words yelling down to me from the bulletin boards interfere with the flow of what I am really wanting to accomplish and the peace of just sitting in silence during those breaks in between trying to accomplish things.
Source: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Sound/interf.html
The more I can reduce the interference in my life, the more I can clearly focus on what I need to do at any particular time and the less distractions I will have when trying to work out what I need to do next in order to stay on the path of change, renewal, and growth that I want to try to stay on in 2018.

One final thought - it's obvious that interference comes from many different sources. While I am currently focused on my environment, I realize that a major source of interference is social media, which I have talked and written about many times and I've been working on figuring out the best way to make social media constructive interference for a while. I'll write and talk more about that once I have a good system in place for that. It, like most things, is a continuing work in progress.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Pondering plus Your Favorite Blog Feature (The Weather)

Maybe after "The Pondering" will come "The Awakening" and then "The Transformation" but it's really too early to know for sure. What does this statement mean? It's thirteen days into 2018 and I'm definitely in the pondering stage of the desire for change, renewal and growth typically associated with the start of a  new year.

For me, I think The Pondering (now without quotes since we have already established the idea in paragraph one) would more truthfully be referred to in my specific experience lately as The Realization or maybe more accurately as The End of Ignorance and if the end goal of change, renewal and growth is really going to be realized, the proper stages might be:
  • The End of Ignorance (Realization of Truth)
  • Acceptance
  • Reaction (Change or Embrace)
  • Pathway to Growth (based on Reaction)

Oh, well. I'm sure we'll come back to this topic in later posts and upcoming podcasts.

Let me write a bit about what I know folks really come here for - the weather!

The snow was pretty much a bust but the rain and sleet left a nice glaze on just about every surface. The little bit of snow we got has added at least a touch of traction for walking. I don't think there's enough traction for safe driving though.
My view from the kitchen table as I write this

It wasn't long ago that we were standing out here in the heat watching the eclipse!

Have a seat! Your coffee will stay warm for about 30 seconds.

Not much snow but plenty of icy glaze!

I have no plans to drive the Buick today unless I really, really, really need a cup of Starbucks and we know that in emergencies Starbucks is worth the risk!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Practice makes perfect?

Can I really accomplish all things?

Example: The driver side rear view mirror on the Buick has been dying a slow death for a while. It's a heated mirror with some sort of fluid that slowly turned rust colored over the years. The same thing happened to the inside rear view mirror a bit ago and I replaced that and now this outside mirror was becoming unusable. The problem slowly gets worse until the mirror is solid rusty brown and you can't see anything in at all. I realized this months ago and bought a couple of mirrors (I always buy more parts than I need because I am really good at breaking things) at the scrap yard but I've been too lazy to replace it knowing that this would not be a simple plug and play deal.

I was right. I went out to the car Sunday and the mirror was totally ruined after a week in the freezing cold after being at least 75% usable up to that point. Mr. Bravado thought to himself, "I can quickly do this. Pop the old one off, pop the new one on." NOPE!! You feel like you're breaking it apart to get it on and then it is almost impossible to snap back on especially because there are three things to line up - the middle bracket type holder that it snaps into plus two little arms that interface with the motor in the mirror that lets you adjust it.

After an hour in the cold, I finally got the middle bracket on but the two little arms didn't snap in so it was a tad unstable and I had to aim the mirror by hand. This didn't seem too bad - it's almost twenty years old. I can live with that, right? WRONG! Driving down the road would vibrate the mirror making keeping it adjusted just about impossible.

So, today I pulled the car in the garage and pulled the mirror off again and got a big light out there and painstakingly lined up the little arms first. After tons of trial and error, I got one in, then the other and then finally the center mount. WOO! A like new mirror after thirty minutes of futzing (great word I plan to use continuously in 2018).

As I was cleaning up, I was thinking of all of the things I am capable of doing - things I have taken apart and put together over the years. It seems like I can do almost anything (WOO!) but not on the first try and sometimes not on the second, third, tenth try either. Practice makes perfect, I guess but by the time I learn how to do all this stuff, I'll be too old to do any of it!

Speaking of practice, I recorded the latest episode of Up In This Brain as sort of a try out - more long-form talk, less avoiding current topics in the news, just sort of a brain dump. Going back and listening to it, I'm not sure it's the way I want to go but I wanted to give it a shot and see where it led. Who knows - 2018 is wide open and, as Doris Day sang, que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Everything is pouring in

It's not pouring outside although it is still raining a bit and Jack Kerouac is playing on my Google Home Mini. I wonder what Jack would think of this technology? I had a box set of these recordings years ago on cassettes and a couple of years ago I got them on CD's and now I just have to say out loud "Hey, Google." and then wait a beat (how appropriate) and say "Play Jack Kerouac" and there he is, on demand, turning a cloudy, dreary day into something manageable.

I got out in the rain at lunch to take some stuff to the thrift store. We finally went through all of the winter clothes and were able to donate gloves that once fit my kids but are way too small now along with hats, scarves, coats, etc. Hopefully it will all help keep someone warm now and maybe they they will pass it on if it's not worn out. Then I was off to the UPS Store sending back a couple of Amazon returns, two bags I bought that I really didn't need - a temporary bag habit relapse, I guess, although I found a couple of better bags this weekend at the local outlet store and now my closet is almost bag free, the extras moved to the hall closet and only what I really use all together in one place although, and here is the killer, I rarely use a bag. I rarely go anywhere that I feel the need to take anything more than my book or my Paperwhite and I don't need a whole bag for either of those.

I still have more cleaning out to do and I'm going to get to all of it eventually. I know I'll never have empty closets but I'd like to have some space and then I need to attack the attic. I need to remove some of the things that left my parents attic and ended up in my attic because I just didn't have the emotional energy to toss more stuff that my mother saved with the holidays and all. Why did she save it all? Who knows? Have I ever seen all of this stuff before the last few months? Nope. I don't need it but there it is in totes stacked up in the attic.

I listen to Kerouac and all the thoughts come out. I just need a typewriter and my own scroll of paper.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pipe Watch is over (for now)

I was finally able to turn off the garage heater this morning.

The faucets are no longer dripping.

Warmer weather is here and I consider anything above 32 degrees during the day warmer at this point so today's upper 40's felt like a heat wave. Thursday's 61 will be like summer. I might sit out on the deck in a t-shirt. Even next Saturday's chilly, possibly snowy day will be better than 5 degrees or 10 degrees at night.

Now I will try not to think about our upcoming water, gas and electric bills.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reclaiming a little social media sanity

My ongoing quest to reclaim a bit of my time and even my sanity when dealing with social media goes on in 2018. Today, I decided that Facebook and Messenger needed to go off of my phone. This is after a couple of weeks of vacation during which I spent quite a bit more time on social media including scrolling up and down the Facebook wall daily and what I've found is that Facebook is full of opinion (mostly ranty political opinion) with only bits and pieces of real people's lives sprinkled in and typically those sprinkles are not good news. It's news of people being sick and dying and I would hear these things from people in my immediately circle through other means typically so most of what I am seeing is bad news from people I really don't have much of a connection to except maybe an old connection many years ago. Also, a lot of what I see has to do with people I don't even know thanks to the way Facebook shares all sorts of stuff in order to get us to spend more time there and let them dictate what content we consume.


It makes me wonder (and I believe I've either written this here or said this on the podcast before) - is it healthy (mentally healthy) to expose yourself to the bad news of hundreds of people each and every day? It is worth sifting through all the angry political posts and bad news to maybe see one post out of ten that I find worthwhile seeing?

This doesn't mean I've quit Facebook. I'm keeping it on my iPad. I'm just not taking it with me when I leave the house and making it a bit more inconvenient to look at Facebook will mean I will use it less. I do have access to what they call Facebook Lite via the browser on my phone so I can still share check ins or pictures if I really want to so they end up being recorded for my kids to look back at one day if they choose to.

Oddly enough, with my attention shifting further away from Facebook, I've opened myself up to using Twitter more now that I've narrowed down the folks I follow and I muted tons of words and phrases in order to eliminate seeing topics I don't want to read about. There is a lot more control now on Twitter which makes it much more usable (and sane) for me although I open it only a few times a day now, typically only first thing in the morning as I eat breakfast and in the evening when I am winding down.

Less time mindlessly scrolling means more time reading, creating, thinking, and growing in 2018 - hopefully.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Chilly New Year

2018 has arrived and we're still in the deep freeze.

This is quite unusual although we're still not near the record low of -5 from 1977.
For those of you following along outside of the US, here are the forecast temperatures in Celsius. We get a break by the end of the week.
As predicted, my life revolves around worrying about the pipes and making sure the house stays warm enough. So far, knock on wood or whatever other hard surface might bring luck, things are working out fine.

To try to keep my mind off the weather, I started book #1 of 2018 today and I set my Goodreads reading challenge goal at 30 books for this year. I had it set at 25 last year and read 46 or 47, depending on whether Goodreads is totally accurate in their reporting, so I felt comfortable moving my goal up to 30. I don't want to set it higher because I don't want to stress myself out trying to achieve some crazy goal. I will be perfectly happy if I make it to 30 and don't even come close to 2017's number as long as I read some good books this year.

My vacation is continuing but I have to admit that it doesn't feel like I'm on vacation. I haven't gone anywhere out of the ordinary and I've worked on a ton of stuff around the house. I can't even say I've gotten more rest than normal. I'm up early and I stay up fairly late. I almost welcome the structure that goes along with getting back to work - almost!