Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The wave of calm

I don't want to get on here and say I have a totally new attitude about life or anything but there has been a wave of calm in my life lately leading to at least a slightly more aware attitude that seems to be taking me into new directions.

OK, so we can play some Patti LaBelle, let's say I have a New Attitude!

We should take any opportunity we can to play some Patti.

I don't know. I think realizing I needed to throw the brakes on the podcast at the end of August was a huge step for me. Not quitting in frustration. Adapting.

It took me a bit longer to figure out how this blogging thing fits into my life but I feel like I'm in a good place here now also and I think NaNoWriMo is going to be another big step because I feel like I'm going to do it differently than I have in the past.

In fact, I feel like I'm doing a lot of things differently than I have in the past.

I'm not saying that I don't get frustrated from time to time and that things are always going perfectly 100% of the time but I find myself retreating to that calm place more easily lately when things do get out of whack and I believe the reason is that I've been better about making rest a priority and setting realistic limits.


Friday, October 12, 2018

What vacation?

I was on vacation this last Monday through Thursday. You would have never have known it if you had followed me around. I was insanely busy. There was not one day, not one waking hour, without something that needed to be done. I'm actually thankful to be at work today so I can take a break from my vacation.

Remember the excellent movie "What About Bob?"

Dr. Catherine Tomsky: Relax, Leo.
Dr. Leo Marvin: I'm relaxed!
Dr. Catherine Tomsky: Take a vacation.
Dr. Leo Marvin: I'M ON VACATION!

That's about what it was like.

And I see NaNoWriMo looming in just over two weeks and I wonder how on Earth I will have enough free time to do it.

I did finish a book I was reading this week and I am not going to start another one. That will save me some time.

And, marching season ends on the last Saturday of the month so I won't be gone all day on Saturdays once November rolls around.

Time will slowly free up.

It's just hectic right now. Mighty hectic.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A lesson learned from stepping back a bit from podcasting

Once I stopped the weekly podcast, I realized that the nice gift of not having to analyze my daily life in order to pull out the "good parts" to share. By the "good parts," I mean the entertaining or opinionated little snippets from an otherwise average, mundane life.

This is why in podcasting weekly and mainly about my own life, I felt the need to present the exaggerated parts of myself and got quite frustrated when my days were routine and not productive for material.

No one wants to hear a line by line analysis of my grocery list compared to a line by line analysis of the receipt showing what I actually bought versus what I went into the store to buy.

OK. Maybe there is a weirdo or two that would find that fascinating. I started to find it fascinating just writing that out but, of course, I am also a weirdo.

I know that people do enjoy the exaggerated, irregular parts of life such as stories from my Taco Bell days or the guy that spun around in the department store bathroom stall while peeing and laughing. But, these are not normal occurrences and they are finite.

There is not enough material in my life to sustain a weekly podcast of just the exaggerated.

So, I go through most of my week now thinking occasionally about the next show (the next one is already planned but nothing has been done yet) but not fixating about which snippets of my daily life will or will not make the cut and that is how I had been living my life for most of the last five years.

A Harlan Ellison quote about cop shows applies perfectly to how I now feel about the grind of weekly, personal podcasting: "It just gets to be a drag after a while."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Split online personality

What is a split online personality?

This blog was once titled "Up In This Brain" but I wanted to use that name for the podcast in 2013. So, this site became "Up In This Blog" just on the basis of keeping it similar. It sounds a lot like this is the colonoscopy of blogging which as true as that might seem was not my intention.

Both sites have separate Twitters because, as I mentioned Wednesday, I got into my head that sharing everything in one place was sort of spammy. I don't know why I felt that way but I did. So I have two Twitters to maintain which seems dumber and dumber as I go along.

I've also had websites, blogs, Tumblrs, podcasts, etc. all under separate names. Sometimes the names have changed right in the middle of doing something. URL's have been bought and cancelled. It's all confusing.

I don't know why I did it. I think that I sometimes hide my creative projects in different places, maybe afraid to truly be who I am to everyone all at once. I control who sees what by keeping things separate. It certainly has to do with self-esteem or lack thereof. It also has to do with worrying too much about what other people think.

However, I am slowly getting my act together. I moved my NaNoWriMo account back to upinthisbrain this week and I have a request pending with Instagram to get my user id there corrected back to upinthisbrain.

Symmetry? Cohesiveness? I don't know. I do know that slowing down the podcast and stepping back a bit has given me the chance to do some in-depth observations about who I am as a creator and who I want to end up being.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

It’s so busy

After yesterday’s post, I was looking at Tumblr and, like Twitter, it’s just busy - non-stop streams of information assaulting your senses. It’s also a fantastic way to do no work at all. Just scroll through posts all day and avoid doing what you are researching to do.

All in and zero out.

I was thinking about the olden days when we didn’t have the constant stream of information, we had to purposely seek the information we needed. That typically meant a trip to the library or the bookstore or even taking classes. These were accessible things but not so accessible that the inflow of knowledge could lead us down endless rabbit holes and result in us wasting hours and hours.

I guess I am saying there must be a better way.

I guess I am admitting that I learned a bit more about how to outline a novel today but produced zero actual work.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I have figured out what is missing on Blogger

Community.

Writing on Blogger is like yelling into a closed department store. There's plenty of those around. Go try it.

I have a Twitter for this site with a handful of followers and maybe one will see a post about an entry and come here. My tweet about the entry prior to this one had a whopping 4 engagements. 4! And, only 1 link click. 1!

I assume the rest of the visitors are bots or are lost, sent here by Google while looking for something else.

Sure, it's a lot my fault. I've quit blogging, resumed blogging, quit, resumed, changed the name of the site, etc. I think I've done all of that because it's so quiet here - creepy quiet.

Is it the lack of interaction that is frustrating? I don't know. I don't really need interaction. I am writing to write. I think it's the lack of possibility of interaction. I write something here and I know that most likely no one will see what I wrote even before I click on publish.

Blogging is certainly not what it once was but Blogger is the Blockbuster Video of blogging sites. There are no community building tools at all. You publish it and you try to grow a following on a site like Twitter which has plenty of its own problems.

And, I've done myself no favors on Twitter by not sharing my blog to my main account. I feel, maybe stupidly, like I would be spamming people if I did.

So, what are my options?

With Wordpress, you get a built-in community but a lot of the interaction there was spam when I was on there in the past.

With Tumblr, well, let's face it - they're not much better off than Blogger but it doesn't feel as empty as this place does.

So, then what? Do I pick up this site and head off somewhere else or do I keep plodding along and maybe if I build it, they will come?


Who knows. I'm just starting to get tired of standing out in this cornfield all by myself.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Desperately seeking structure

I am thinking about NaNoWriMo a whole month ahead this year. In fact, I thought about it during most of September also but I haven't done a bit of what I would call real preparation. All I have done is worry myself in the realization that I know zip about how to structure a 50,000 word story.

I've "won" once, way back in 2014 and I put that in quotes because the story that came out of that was 100% crap. OK, maybe 90% crap. 10% of it was acceptable.

I would like to go in this time with an idea (I have a basic one) and an outline (I am nowhere near even beginning that at the moment).

I need some structure!

I like structure - lists, index cards, something!
Some of my actual index cards patiently awaiting my story ideas once I figure out how to organize them

Without structure, I feel listless (no pun intended at first but then I went with it) and I think that's why my NaNoWriMo attempts start strong and then end up feeling like an out of control battery-operated scooter that is about to burst into flames.

So, I'm searching for some basic structure or outline that I can use to start organizing my thoughts.

It's already October 2nd so time is ticking down.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Getting out of the house for NaNoWriMo

If I'm going to be successful at NaNoWriMo next month, I'm going to have to leave the house to write.

Part of it is there is no place in this house where I can hide from interruptions, mainly the three four-legged interruptions that constantly need things such as attention (usually involving tennis balls) or passage in and out of the house. Also, they each have different levels of sonic hearing which can cause barking outbursts at any random moment depending on who hears what.

I'll be saying this a lot in November!

The big problem is my never-ending, self-replicating to-do list. I just got up to fix toast and noticed two other things that need to be done this morning. Yesterday was a day of to-do's - one to-do leading to another and no time to slow down, just go, go, go.

That's not going to work when I've trying to type out hundreds of words of nonsense every day for a month. That's why I'll be in coffee shops, libraries, restaurants, parks - you name it - all through the month of November.

Dogs and to-do's out of sight, out of mind.

Friday, September 28, 2018

It's pretty quiet out here

I'm thinking this site will pick up a bit once NaNoWriMo starts. I have some basic ideas. I'm looking forward to writing even if it is all garbage.

An advance preview of my NaNoWriMo 2018 project

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Subscribe!

What's more old fashioned than reading a blog? Getting an email every time there is an post here!

We have the technology!


It's over there in the side menu under our hi-tech handy-dandy search function.

Get an email every time I post. Exciting!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Watch it now before they take it down!

I read Arbitrary Stupid Goal earlier this year and loved it. Best read so far of 2018.
I just finished Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir and loved it also.

Kenny Shopsin left us last week and someone posted the documentary made about him, his family and his famous/infamous restaurant on YouTube. Better check it out ASAP before the copyright police find it and remove it.


Idea gone. Poof.

I had an idea for something I was going to write today. This idea materialized when I was driving back up into the driveway after lunch.

By the time I got parked and got the sunshades up, POOF! GONE! No more idea!


I strained my brain until now trying to think of what it was. I believe it was a pretty good idea.

Oh, well. It's gone. Another one of my pointless, pithy thoughts is lost, never to be shared.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

If I'm not wearing my watch, it doesn't count

I keep not putting on my all-knowing Apple Watch first thing in the morning so I rarely hit any of the fitness goals it has set for me.

In its mind, I am just a slob. I never exercise at all. I barely function. I am destined for poor health and eventually a much-deserved demise.

Maybe Apple Watch constantly reminds me of its health goals for me because it wants to keep me alive longer so I will buy more Apple products and so it can collect/sell as much data as possible about my slovenly ways.

A heaping plate of filler

I don't understand the obsession with Marvel movies.

I've seen a few of them and not because I wanted to. They seem pointless to me. They're all the same. They end with cliffhangers to lead you back to the theater for the next movie. It's expensive to go the theater to see them. The acting is not that great. The writing is no better than most television shows. I've seen elementary school plays that were more entertaining.

A typical Marvel audience on their way to the theater.
© Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 2002 / 
I think they are pumping them out so fast to keep the momentum going. They keep throwing it at us so we don't have time to figure out this isn't good.

We keep spending more and more money on it so we exclude other movies from having a chance. Marvel takes up three or four screens of the theater so there's no room for anything else.

Maybe one day people will wake up and decide there is more to life than watching mass-produced pointless fluff.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Adjusting, not quitting - Part three: The Blog

I really have to get over the word blog.

I just don't like it. It sounds antiquated like "phone book" or "castor oil."

I also have to get over the "rules" of blogging, such as having labels which I have already stopped doing.

Also, blogging once a day seems to be the norm so I was writing two or three posts some days but scheduling them out over multiple days. As you can see, that rule is out the window. If I want to write ten posts in a day, I will post ten times on that day. If I have nothing to write about for two weeks, nothing will be posted for two weeks.

No labels. No schedules. No rules.


via GIPHY

Finally, there is a Twitter account for this blog. Cool, huh?

I had an IFTTT robot running that Twitter and I never liked that idea. From now on, I am going to write my tweets there and I am not going to post every link to every post. When I feel like it, I'm going to go out there and tweet something like "Catch up on my posts to read about toothpaste, fire and frogs" even if I haven't written about any of those things.

I might even share some writing-related things that I have found on the interwebs that might be of interest to someone choosing to follow a blog on Twitter.

I still don't like the word blog.

Weblog sounds slightly better.

Call it what you want. I write here. I like it and I like it more without the rules.

Adjusting, not quitting - Part two: Twitter

Oh, Twitter, how you frustrate me!

I thought I had the solution back in June. I was wrong!

It's so hard to stay connected to people who I think are basically good but are so very angry and use Twitter as their anger toxic waste dump.

And I'm so tired of seeing likes sprinkled through my feed. Likes are tweets that you nod at but aren't good enough to retweet.

And the ads, oh, the ads! They pop up every third or fourth tweet and 90% of them are about things I don't care about at all.

So, at 2AM last Friday morning, I declared to the world that I was temporarily done with Twitter and during the five days I was away, I figured out a solution.

The solution for me that brought back my enjoyment of Twitter has two parts.

First and most important and something I never tried before -  I turned off ALL Twitter notifications.

If you DM me, if you like a tweet, if you retweet me, etc. None of it pings my phone. I even have the badge icon turned off. I go to Twitter when I want to. When I open the app, the internal notification icon shows if I have something there to look it. I am now totally in control of the app. Before, anyone who interacted with me controlled the app and controlled the pings on my phone and it was downright distracting.

On my tablet, I have some notifications on but my tablet is not always near me. I don't have sounds on. I do see the notifications on the lock screen when I choose to go to the tablet (which sits nowhere near my home office desk) and open it.

The big lesson from this: I am in control.

Second, I am using lists like never before and I have multiple ones, all private. I rarely see my feed now. I go straight to the lists. In lists, you don't see likes. That's a big plus. My lists are filled with people I don't actually follow so they don't clutter up my main feed if I want to look at it. I have a list of creative people that I love to browse through. Most of my retweets come from there.

My muted folks are all in one list together. These are the angry tweeters. I still look in there about once a day because I do want to stay connected to them. I just can't handle all-day bombardments of negativity any more.

I'm still tweaking my lists but between removing notifications and adding the lists, my enjoyment of Twitter has really increased.

I adjusted.
No more quitting.

On to the next "problem" - this site!

Adjusting, not quitting - Part one: The podcast

The podcast was destined to be my next victim. I had already removed this site and was planning my "sabbatical" from Twitter. I was going to become a non-creative and begin a new life sitting in my recliner each evening staring at the tv like a zombie.

OK. Maybe it wasn't going to happen exactly like that but who knows.

I've been podcasting for a while, over five years. It's not a good podcast but it is fun. It's just no longer as much fun trying to do it every week.


Instead of walking away or shadow quitting (Shadow quitting is sort of like shadow banning, which I hear happens to insane talk show hosts. It's quitting for a bit only to come back in a month or so once I realize how dumb I've been), I looked for a solution.

The solution was to make a plan and schedule when I would post episodes based on whatever ideas I have. Right off the bat, I had three ideas. The first, for episode 394 (which drops tomorrow), is something I do annually to celebrate the birthday of fast food hero Colonel Sanders. It also happens to be the birthday of some other knucklehead.

The second and third ideas have been in my Todoist for a LONG time but I have never had time or taken time to get them done. By setting realistic dates and no longer trying to make a weekly podcast, I think they are doable. I'm actually looking forward to them.

The stress is off. The podcast continues. I solved a problem instead of closing the door on the room in which the problem sat. Most of my problems look like this. Imagine opening a door and having to deal with this. The shedding would get all over everything. No wonder I normally just left the door shut.

On to the next "problem" at hand, Twitter.

Back and forth

I enjoy Twitter. I can't stand Twitter. I stop using it. I come back.
I enjoy writing here. I stop writing here. I disable the site. I reenable the site. I start writing again.


WHY?

As life shifts back and forth, my priorities get tossed askew. What I had time for yesterday, I don't have time for today so I get it in my head that it's better to shutter something than to neglect something.

WHY?

What I leave out there neglected serves as a reminder that I should be creating and it's the creating (writing, podcasting, etc.) that sustains me and I feed off of that energy. Knocking it down puts the frustration out of sight but then the dust clears and I realize I need that energy so I get back to it until the cycle inevitably repeats.

But this time is different and the next three posts, one on each main creative outlet I have, will explain why.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Rules


via GIPHY

Some people seem to take incredible pride in controlling some tiny thing and they seem to feel more important by inconveniencing others with their complicated and unnecessary rules about that tiny thing they control. I encountered that a week ago this very evening. Of course, I went over their head and found someone with real power who overrode them, reducing their pride to sawdust.

It made me feel good.

Not tired

I could have gone back to sleep. I'm off work today - a pre-birthday day off, rewarding myself with a three day weekend.

But, I always get up to see the kids (in reality, young adults) off to another day of high school. I fix my toast. I read the comics online. I read the blogs I follow in Feedly.

Then I edited episode 394 of the podcast so it will be ready to be delivered to you invisibly via the internet superhighway on Sunday.

And now I am here, writing and tweaking and about to publish this before I go on to the next task at hand, coffee.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

I hate labels

A real turn off of blogging for me is labels.

I hate labels.

In the early years of the blog, back when blogging was an actual thing that was fairly popular before microthought posting took over, I never used them. At some point, I felt like I needed to start. I don't know why. No one ever left a comment that said "You need labels" or "Where are the labels?" or anything like that. In fact, most comments were spam.

Now that blogging is no longer an actual thing, I don't even get the spam.

I don't miss the spam but I do despise labels so there will be no labels this time around. If you want to find something here, use the handy-dandy search function over there at the top-right of this page. If you are on a phone, you’ll need the view the web version to see the handy-dandy search function because Blogger is so antiquated that the templates barely work on mobile devices.

Although there are over 1,000 posts from before today (there would be more but I lost one of the archive files) that I did take the time to remove the labels from, as of today, this is a whole-new thing but it's not an actual thing since we've already established that blogging is no longer an actual thing.

So I guess that makes this a whole-new, not actual thing. With no labels.

Party Line Podcasting

Yesterday, I got to take a trip back to the past, to my great-grandmother's house. She's been gone twenty-five years this October but the memories flooded back yesterday when I tried to listen to a podcast.

It was not an unprofessional podcast. It was not an amateur production. It was an interview with a fairly successful author that I wanted to hear.

Unfortunately, it sounded like the interviewer and the interviewee and the person recording had all dialed in on my great-grandmother's party line. Do you remember party lines? That's back when several houses shared the same phone lines. If you dialed my great-grandmother's number, it would ring at all of the houses connected to the party line but with a specific ring identifying it for my great-grandmother.


The audio quality on the party line was horrendous just like the podcast I got through about five minutes of before I tapped unsubscribe.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

That's so 90's

I've been on this Harlan Ellison kick lately so I was watching a video of him on YouTube over the weekend and this graphic in between segments caught my eye:

It looks like something made with Windows 95 or 98 to me. It's so 90's. I love "the new Corolla" and if you watch the video you'd see that this whole thing is in motion, of course.

It makes me miss stuff like this. Everything is so easily professional looking and clean and crisp now that the personality seems to be sucked out.

Of course, my mind was so self-focused in the 90's that I missed a lot.  I wish I had paid more attention to culture back then and had been creating things and not just going through the motions. I also didn't watch much television in the 90's so I'm thankful for people posting videos like this on YouTube.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Hospital Time Warp

Today begins week two of my life centering around the hospital and it's like there are two different worlds. Normal world is filled with the normal day to day stuff that needs to be done or that I would like to do and it has structure. Hospital world is filled with the uncertainty and we can only react to whatever needs to be reacted to.

Both worlds keep going. You just get pulled back and forth between the two. One moment you are in normal world taking out the trash and the next moment you are in hospital world packing the car for the nearly hour drive to the hospital.

I was in my hometown last Friday night at 8PM checking the house. I can't remember the last time I was there at 8 o'clock at night. Everything feels off and no wonder - hospital life is the same at 3PM as it is at 3AM and it is the same at 10AM as it is at 10PM. It goes on and on and the phone could ring at any time. It probably won't but it could so my hospital bag remains packed near the door filled with paperwork that I hopefully won't need and snacks in case I go up and get stuck for a while without food. 

And today I am also back at work so now there is normal world, hospital world and work world all vying for attention and all I can do is stay patient and know that this too shall pass!

I keep thinking of this song for some reason. It sort of fits so here it is.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Twenty-Eighth July 29th

A short poem to mark this twenty-eighth July 29th


If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have spent more gentle, and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
I would have brought more warmth into the place,
If I had known.


If I had known what thoughts despairing drew you;
(Why do we never try to understand?)
I would have lent a little friendship to you,
And slipped my hand within your hand,
And made your stay more pleasant in the land,
If I had known.


                                                            Mary Carolyn Davies

Friday, July 27, 2018

Discouragement or reality?

I've had a lot of idle time over the past few days as I have sat either in various waiting rooms or my father's hospital rooms (rooms because he has been moved several times but this is a sign of progress so that is a good thing) and I've been filling quite a bit of that time goofing off on my iPad. I should have been reading one of two books I checked out but it is hard to concentrate for too long with continuous interruptions.

Twitter is perfect for very short chunks of concentration so I have been spending a lot of time there and I have a new appreciation for Twitter after the last few days. It was on Twitter that I found someone had shared an article called "No, you probably don't have a book in you" and I've been thinking about that article on and off since I read it.

At first, I took it as discouragement and as a way to gatekeep. "These are the real writers. You are not and will never be one of them. Stay out of the way of the real writers and let us keep our exclusive club to ourselves!"

As the somewhat intelligent side of me took over from the typically reactive side of me, I moved from considering this as discouragement to acknowledging that what the author, an agent, is sharing is reality, albeit a disappointing one.

Take, for example, this quote: "Writing artfully so that someone enjoys what your're writing is even harder."

How does one write artfully? I have no idea. I obviously have no book in me but I have known that for a long time.

If you do want to write artfully, you can take the author's class and probably find out how.

Obviously, it boils down to being a commercial author in pursuit of monetary success instead of just pursuing the art out of the joy of just making art. I make podcasts. None will ever bring me monetary success unless I make major, major changes that I may or may not have the skill to make but I don't make podcasts for any reason other than my own person enjoyment.


The author mentions options to apply my podcast way of thinking to writing. "There are many options if you just want a copy of your story that you can hold in your hands," she writes, although she doesn't share any of these options. I assume you might learn them in the above-mentioned class.

To me, I find it important to create, create and create some more. I love the process from the idea popping in my head to the moment I hit publish either here or over at the podcast. I don't give much thought to what happens afterward nor do I have to. A lot of people give a lot of thought to what happens afterward because they are depending on what happens afterward to put money in their bank account. Some people give so much thought to the slim chance of being financially rewarded for their creativity that it stunts their ability to actually create.

I think that creators will and should create regardless of the discouragement or the reality but I do realize the freedom that comes with me not having the pressure of my creations having to be used to pay the mortgage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

They WILL Write!

I spent most of my Monday at the hospital (and yesterday and today, of course, and this will go on for a few more days) waiting while my father was in surgery. To pass the time, I listened to Tom Snyder interviewing Harlan Ellison over the years on old Tomorrow Show clips posted on YouTube.

I watched one a few weeks ago after Harlan Ellison died and I was just blown away. There is so much good stuff that he says, great stuff in fact, that I think people need to hear.

Of course, only a very few people listen to my podcast but I decided for the benefit of those folks that it was important enough to go interview by interview and write out the starting and ending times of certain clips so I could go back at my earliest convenience and edit them into one nice, consumable audio file.

That file is right here: http://upinthisbrain.com/up-in-this-brain-388-tom-and-harlan

It's probably in the top 5 of the most important episodes of the podcast I've done in 388 episodes. Maybe it's even in the top 2.

I keep returning to this quote. It opens the podcast. I've been feeling guilty about not writing ever since I heard it.

"It's a very simple philosophy. Anybody who can be deterred from writing should have been. People who want to write really want to write and they WILL write." - Harlan Ellison


I have not been writing. It's not that I don't love writing. Maybe it's that I am distracted by life lately and maybe I shouldn't be letting life distract me. Maybe it's laziness. Maybe it's lack of focus. Maybe it's all of the above.

Whatever it is, the wheels are turning in my head and my fingers are moving across the keyboard again. I'm writing and it feels good.

Now, if I could just harness one percent of Harlan Ellison's confidence and conviction:

"Are you loyal to the United States of America or are you loyal to your writing? Forget it, jack. The country could sink into the ocean for all I care. I only care about the integrity of the work. That's really all I give a damn about and I'll kill to keep those words that way. I spent twenty years of my life doing what I do and I think I do it very well indeed and I'll be damned if I'm going to let people mess with it. That's my religion. That is precisely where I am." - Harlan Ellison


Thursday, July 19, 2018

There is no time to waste

I keep being reminded of this lately, over and over.


The latest reminder came early this morning. The early morning text message is the early morning phone call of the past. Neither typically bring good news and when I heard the notification go off this morning my first thought was "this cannot be good."

The news was of the sudden passing of a friend from high school, a friend who was younger than me and had dealt with so many health issues while I have gone through my years relatively unscathed (so far). We last spoke at a funeral and that seems to happen more and more. Funerals are the main places we all seem to come together these days and there is nothing that made me think that the next funeral I attend would be hers.

So, what lesson do I take from each loss or each struggle I read about on Facebook or Twitter? That I am lucky enough to be able to complain about getting worn out mowing the yard. That I get to keep making memories and adding on days even if I know I am not always making the most of each gift of a day that I get.

I wonder sometimes why I get to keep going. I have no answer for this, of course. It's all science, I know, and it could change in a flash. The clock is ticking. There is no time to waste.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Out of site, out of mind

Something happened Friday and Saturday here. That something is nothing.

In fact, I didn't even think about this site one time either day. I didn't feel bad because nothing was scheduled to post. I didn't have any ideas for posts. I didn't even have the idea to have an idea for a post.

But, it is comforting to know that the site is here for when inspiration, no matter how paltry that inspiration is, hits.

The only person insisting on my posting here every day was me and it was an interesting, albeit unsustainable, experiment. Life is out there being lived and I have to briefly pause life to come here and write about life. The same goes with podcasting, sharing on Facebook, Tweeting, etc.

It's no different from when you were a kid and your mom expected you to write thank you notes for birthday gifts. Sure, I was thankful but I didn't want to put down the Atari controller long enough to write out a card!

It's a struggle. I want to create and share but there is so much life going on and the urge to play more and pause less is intensifying as the clock ticks down.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

The 5th

Today is the ignored day.

July 1st is Canada Day and I know the majority of Americans celebrate that just like I do. On July 2nd and 3rd, Americans are gathering fireworks and meat for their grills. July 4th is Independence Day. July 5th is ignored and a day of recovery.


And, when July 4th is on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, most people have to go back to work the next day no matter tired they are from being out in the heat all day and from how late their neighbors were up blowing up stuff.

For me, I'm kind of glad to be back on the schedule. Between vacation last week and holidays this week, I have been out of the typical daily structure and I've missed it. I like getting up at the same time every day and having my lunch at the same time and sitting in the house in the evening when it's steaming hot and not being out sitting in the driveway watching people blow up stuff.

Speaking of structure, I've been trying really hard to write hear every day and I'm not sure that's doable. So, if I miss a day here and there, that's because my mind was blank and I didn't want to just phone something in like this throwaway post right here!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A poolside holiday

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a picture that Steve from Saskatchewan posted on Facebook of the pool he had just put up in his backyard and that got me thinking about all of the pools I have put up in the past and how I put my foot down a few years back and said NO MORE!

There were three reasons for this. First, keeping the water clean was a nightmare. Second, the weather would never cooperate. It would pour rain. We would have terrible storms. It would suddenly get cold in August for no apparent reason. Third, these things ruin part of the yard. When you pull it down at Labor Day, you have a nice, stinky dead patch of yard left behind.

Our pool ownership was jinxed!

Of course, maybe posting stuff like this didn't help gain me any karma!

I did look at installing a real above-ground pool a few years back but we have a power line over the backyard so that was a no-go but I did miss the idea of going in the backyard and cooling off in a big vinyl bowl of water so...

There it is! We bought it on day one of our vacation so it rained for the next three days solid, of course. But, it was nice this weekend and we have all been in and out of it.

It has this one really cool "jet" that the previous pools I bought didn't have. The filter is underpowered and probably pointless but it is cool looking!

No matter how puny the filter is, the water is staying clear this year because I decided to not be cheap and I invested in the Clorox Pool&Spa strips that an app reads right on the iPhone (TECHNOLOGY!) and the app tells me exactly what I need so I bought the chemicals necessary to (hopefully) keep this thing looking great for the rest of the summer. I also have to skim it and brush the liner daily and so far, I am very pleased with the results.

This is where you will find me on Independence Day unless there is a torrential rain or hailstorm or tornado or it snows. You just never know.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Back from vacation, back to chores

I have to admit - I let it all go during vacation last week. Sure, I washed and folded a load of clothes here and there but the rest of the chore list was ignored. I didn't vacuum the floors. Someone else did. I didn't clean the bathroom counters. Someone else did that to. I didn't clean the showers. No one did that. I guess two out of three isn't bad.

Not only is this sexist (Note how the only chore the man does is chop firewood. I do all this stuff.) but it's also a lie. I do all these things and I haven't lost a pound. 

Since I work at home, I am also Head Domestic Engineer. I have daily tasks in my Todoist that have to be done to keep the house somewhat clean. When I am on vacation, I leave both of my jobs for a bit. I read when I would typically sweep. I sit outside at the park when I would typically clean a mirror.

I wish I could report that I avoided the weekly trip to Walmart but it seemed like we went there every day during vacation. There was always something dumb that needed to be bought.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tired

My energy is depleting.

I've been on this schedule for years. Up early in the mornings, no later than 6:10, typically up earlier as I tend to wake up around 5 and am then unable to go back to sleep.

Wind down around 9-ish. Asleep by 10, hopefully, barring a sleepless episode which can keep me up until midnight if I am unlucky and don't want to pop a Benadryl.

Being on this schedule is fine in your teens, twenties and thirties. It's a tad wearing on the downward side of your forties.

The big yawns catch me now, especially in the shower before the first cup of coffee and especially late afternoon. If I stay still too long, when reading a book for example, I can feel the drifting start and I yearn for a nap but I am not napping, not yet. Naps make me feel like crap. Naps are for being sick. I can't think of anything but sleep after a nap and I typically get a headache.

But, I feel the transition to being a napper coming. I'm at that age. The energy level is not holding up.

My go, go, go is just about gone, gone, gone.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Staycation!

I'm on staycation this week so I have decided to take a bit of a creative break. That means no blogging this week since I will be away from the onlines more than usual. I'm not sure if there will be an episode of Up In This Brain! or not. If inspiration hits, I'll hit record. If not, I'll take a week off from that also.

I'll be back here writing the typical daily nonsense starting Monday, July 2nd. Have a good week!




Saturday, June 23, 2018

Go in the library for one book, walk out with five

Yes, it happened again. I had one book on hold and walked back out of the library with six books. I don't know how this happens! If you are on Goodreads and want to connect, click here and add me!

Here's what I came out with:
I went in to check out this one. I just finished chapter one and I liked it. I almost checked it out and read it last year but did not for some reason. I follow the author on Twitter and she is currently running 1000 Words of Summer. I highly recommend the newsletter although I am sadly writing nowhere near 1000 words a day!

I saw this on the new release shelf and checked it out. I like Michael Chabon and it looks like a quick, interesting read. 

This and the next two books were on the book sale shelf for $1 a piece. I have always been curious about this book. It looks like someone got it new and never read it. Not a good sign but for $1, why not!

Oddly enough, this book was in my saved eBay searches. The cheapest copy was $4 shipped. Here it was for $1. I am not an alcoholic nor am I too anonymous but I have always been curious about the book and had recently read a bit about AA in an article so I picked it up.

I have been wanting to read this one. I was going to check it out at the library, probably in the fall, but there it was on the $1 shelf! Can't beat that. It's another book that looks like brand new. Once I read it, I'll donate it back.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The joy of my Nintendo 2DS XL

Several months ago, I got the sudden urge to get back into playing video games quite casually and this led me to buying a Nintendo 2DS XL.

Until last year, I had the regular 2DS which was fine but the screens were quite small and the handheld was sort of awkwardly shaped and hard to transport around without my being afraid of breaking it. It was also kind of slippery.

All of that is fixed with the 2DS XL. The screens are huge. It's comfortable to hold and not slippery. I've had a lot of handhelds over the years starting way back with the original Game Boy and, in my opinion, the 2DS XL is the best gaming handheld I have ever had.

The main reason I wanted to get one was because I missed playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf (referred to in the rest of this post as ACNL). A few minutes with ACNL is a nice way to wind down at the end of the day. It's sort of silly at times, it's slow paced, the music is fantastic and it's nice, calm fun.

In the game, you have the option to travel to an island so you can catch all sorts of exotic bugs and fish. Catching stuff is how you earn money in the game and I was always forgetting how much things are worth. So, I put together a nice spreadsheet and laminated it. Yes, I am that serious about ACNL.

I found all the data online and formatted it to make a one page front and back sheet. I have posted that in my Dropbox and you can download it by clicking here. The third tab, events, is just for your reference. I could not figure out a way to make all that data fit!

I don't take many screenshots in ACNL but I did take these to share on Twitter last Monday. This was my biggest accomplishment last weekend!


This is on the way to the island. You always get to hear a nice song on the way.

I was able to restore all of the games I have bought online over the years and one weird favorite of mine is Tomodachi Life. Of course, I put my wife and I in there and weirdness ensued fairly quickly. 

Please enjoy some of my favorite screenshots from Tomodachi Life:

Since we were the only two characters in the game at the beginning, we ended up getting married, of course!







It's creepy how much the game nails the personalities. You rate a few traits based on whoever you are setting up and it does the rest!






So now you have a bit of an idea of what I am doing with my 2DS XL. I probably only play 20 minutes every other day or so. There is no pressure. It's just a nice escape whenever I need it.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dealing with the birds

No, this is not an entry about trying to drive through Nashville although the title pretty much fits.

Remember the old Hitchcock film, The Birds? That was some scary stuff. When I was a kid, there was a bird that would sit up in the tree and wait for me to go get the mail. Then it would swoop down at me. Maybe I was getting too close to a nest? Maybe it did it for sport? Who knows.

There are birds out there today that are even more scary than the ones Hitchcock introduced us to. He can't even imagine the horror of - The Tweet Birds.



The tweets come in all day and night, one after another, and a lot of it is bad news and rage. How can you maintain at least a little control over it all? I have some recommendations.

First, use the handy mute feature. Mute annoying people. Mute companies that post ads over and over. I finally muted The Tonight Show because I got sick of seeing the same Dairy Queen ad every time I opened Twitter. Mute phrases like, I don't know, the name of our President? Mute entire conversations that I somehow end up in. If it wasn't for the mute feature, I'm not sure I would still be on Twitter.

Second, set up lists. I have two private lists. One is named news. Every news and weather organization plus various local school Twitters show up on this list. The other one is named Dogpound. The choice of name is a story for another time but within it are a few key people whose Tweets I try not to miss. Only 8 of the 161 accounts I follow have made the Dogpound list.

But, how best to see these lists? You can get to your lists fairly quickly in the mobile app. Also, you can bookmark the lists in your laptop browser and go right to them.

However, my favorite way to view lists is to have them set up as the first two columns in Tweetdeck.

Third, use Tweetdeck whenever you can.

Yes, Tweetdeck can be overwhelming. It all depends on how you set it up, how many lists you have, how many people you follow and how many accounts you are on the teams of. Plus, Tweetdeck is not the most intuitive thing to use. You get used to it over time. All the functionality of the mobile apps and desktop Twitter is there. You just have to dig around for it sometimes.

Having my lists set up as the first two columns in Tweetdeck is wonderful. I can pop it open, quickly see what is important and ignore the rest until I have the time and patience to scroll through the rest of the feed.

Fourth, if you follow someone that retweets way too much crap that you don't want to see, turn off retweets for that person. If they only tweet one original thought a week, that's all you'll see and I am just fine with that.

My fifth and final recommendation is to take a break from Twitter from time to time. For good mental health, you sometimes need to walk away from the bombardment. Delete the app before you leave the house for the day. You can always add it back later. Don't think you just won't open it. You will. Chuck it completely from time to time.

I know there are many benefits from having Twitter so I don't want to quit it completely but it's good to turn off the incoming flow sometimes and have a bit of time to process your thoughts without hundreds of other voices clamoring for your attention.

And maybe you'll end up limiting it permanently to just being on your laptop and not taking it with you outside of your home. Maybe I will get to that point eventually. Who knows. Right now, at this moment, the benefits of Twitter makes it worth it to me to find better ways to manage it instead of just throwing my hands in the air and giving up on it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A radio update

I haven't written about a gizmo here in a long time. I used to write about my radios from time to time because I had so many of them. Well, just about all of them are gone now so there hasn't been much to write about.

After the radio purge, I have two shortwave radios left.

One, my Eton E5, is stored in a tote without batteries. I just don't listen to shortwave anymore but that's a great radio and I am keeping it just in case the shortwave bug bites again one day or in case the preppers are right and the grid eventually goes down.

I also kept my Tecsun PL-398BT. A minor reason I kept it is the one-button ETM (Easy Tuning Method) tuning which finds all listenable shortwave broadcasts in a scan that takes only a couple of minutes. The major reason I kept it is because it can be used as a Bluetooth Speaker and it takes rechargeable AA batteries that run it for hours.



Lately, it's become my main Bluetooth speaker for music. It's not great for talk podcasts though. There is not enough bass. For music, it's great and it has that new crazy technology known as STEREO! Amazing, right?

It also picks up the rather weak local classical station perfectly and classical music sounds decent (could use more bass!) enough.

So, instead of languishing away in a tote, my Tecsun PL-398BT is getting almost daily use and it's nice to have things I actually use instead of more things than I really need that just sitting on shelves collecting dust.