I used to be of the mindset that because domain names are relatively cheap, there’s really no reason why a person’s assorted web projects shouldn’t stay online indefinitely.

And yet right now, I’ve got a couple of different domain names coming up for renewal … and I’m not so sure that I want to bother renewing them anymore.

In total right now I have about a dozen domains registered and I think if you twisted my arm, I could make reasonable arguments for keeping maybe seven of them. It used to drive me nuts when I’d see domains snatched up by spammers just looking to make a few bucks in bulk off the old site’s referral traffic as long as it lasted, although surprisingly if I lookup the last handful of names that I’ve let lapse … they’re actually able to be registered right now.

And not even for $1,200 from a reseller, either!

Maybe that bizarre bubble just finally burst, but it’s still increasingly hard to justify when A) the sites get almost no traffic, and B) if I want to maintain them, I can always throw them under a subdomain on this site like I’ve done in the past. At this point they’re just as good to my portfolio as xyz.scottsevener.com as they are xyz.com … plus, it saves me ten bucks for every one I kill off.

I’ve got four more days to make my decision… 😯

Late Night Productivity Tips

January 20, 2019 12:38am
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I shared this link a couple of weeks ago during a bit of a productivity binge that I was on at the time, but now that a couple of weeks have passed, I wanted to circle back to it and go through some of my favorite ideas and add a few comments about how they’ve been working for me…

Why Focus Is Your Greatest Competitive Advantage at Work (Plus 19 Ways To Actually Do It)

7. Schedule your email time.
It’s taken me a long time to get into the mindset that I don’t have to respond to something the second it appears in my inbox, but it’s incredibly freeing and helps me to dive deeper into important tasks when I give myself permission to wait until later in the day. I’ve also found that surprisingly it can help your co-workers to become more self sufficient because if it’s important enough that they need an answer immediately, sometimes that’ll drive them to start looking for the answer themselves!

…and nothing’s more rewarding than getting that follow-up email, “Nevermind – I just found this on your team’s website…” 😉

8. Keep a to-do list with focused, actionable items.
I recommitted myself to using the Todoist app at the beginning of the year and so far, I think it’s really helping. I feel more productive and less overwhelmed, and I can look across my work to plainly see that I”m getting more of it done, even when there are days when I feel like I just postponed all of my tasks to the following day!

10. Schedule your daily to-do’s.
I find this is a good way to spend my commute in the car … which I otherwise despise, but at least I can feel like I’m being somewhat productive if I take the time to go over everything I want to get done today and figure out what I’m doing first, what I’m doing after lunch, and so forth.

15. Keep a “read later” list.
This actually has been helping me to keep less tabs open in my browser, which in theory should lead to less distractions! I just need to also remember to make time to check back on it so that it doesn’t just become a list of stuff that I never got around to reading.

16. Keep a “bright ideas” repository.
This is easy enough to do in Todoist – if I think of a blog or column idea that I want to work on, I just throw it into my Writing project without a specific deadline … unless it’s something I want to write in the near future, then it does get a date attached to it. Again, here I feel like my biggest challenge is going to be simply remembering to look back every once in a while so that all of my great ideas don’t get lost to the void!

19. Forgive yourself when your day doesn’t go as planned.
And this one, frankly, is huge for me because I have toddlers at home, and sometimes work flares up in unexpected ways, and I know that in the past I’ve lost a lot of time just being angry with myself for not working on something that I was trying to get done in that particular moment. In reality, I know that stuff is still getting done, even if it’s not exactly what I had planned, and at some point it’s important to give yourself credit for that because otherwise it’s really hard to be productive when you’re also beating yourself up.

We were at a fancy, tropical resort nearing the end of our vacation.

Apparently said vacation had also been combined with a scout trip, which was now over, but some of their equipment had been left behind for us to bring back because we had rented a van that had lots of room. Still, it wasn’t something that I was looking forward to because they needed to be broken down in order to fit in our van – for some reason, they had big sheets of glass that needed to be cut and a couple of chairs that we needed to take saws to in order to make it all fit.

We stalled at the resort for a while because for the last night of our vacation we’d gotten put in a really nice room with a huge hot tub, and it was right next to the tiki bar, so you could hear the band playing Jimmy Buffett music from pretty much anywhere in the suite.

I really wanted to just lay around and relax because the last week had been spent doing stuff every day with the scout group, but we couldn’t afford to extend our trip by another day, so eventually we begrudgingly left our swanky resort behind and headed back to where the van had been left to deal with loading it.

But not before stopping off at Toys ‘R Us to kill another hour or two, of course!

So now we’re driving in LA in separate cars – I’ve got my wife and kids in my car – and traffic is really heavy, so we pull up to a light and I look out the window to surprisingly see Paul Rudd on a bike like I almost hit him.

After struggling to get the window down, I finally asked if he was ok and if he wanted a ride, even though the car was completely packed and there was no room for him or his bike. Instead, he instructed me to follow him and we drove a short ways down the street before pulling into a small parking lot with several large tents setup in it.

It was only then that I noticed he had been dressed like a pizza delivery driver and had several boxes of pizza on the back of his bike.

Following Paul into one of the tents, it was there that he revealed that the whole stunt had just been promotion for his new movie in which he played a bicycle delivery driver. The tents had several catering stations in them and we were invited to have some food. Dominos was a big sponsor, so there was lots of pizza and wings and some other dishes that they were experimenting with, along with candy and these giant peanut butter cups that cost $5.15 a piece and just all sorts of stuff.

We explored and snacked for a while until eventually it started to rain and we realized we really needed to get back to work because I was worried that it was going to take a lot longer than we thought to pack everything up.

Before we left, I wanted to get a picture with Paul because I thought that it would make for a neat Instagram post, and someone pointed out where other people had started lining up for pictures. Unfortunately when we got to the front of the line, Paul was nowhere to be seen and instead we took pictures with Dave Franco who was apparently promoting his own movie where people hung from ropes with their feet off the ground and whoever was the last to touch the ground won a car or something.

We all hung from pipes and other things in the ceiling of the tent using these ropes that the staff gave us, and I could barely keep myself up for the picture, so it quickly became clear that I wouldn’t have been able to win the car anyways…

ONE MILLION WORDS BLOGGED!!!

January 18, 2019 10:17am
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And so here we are, some seventeen years since my very first blog post went up back in 2002…

A million words … wow!

This is a number that I’ve been chasing for years – typically whenever I’d hit another groove and get back into blogging every day, I’d think to myself, “This is going to be the big year!”

And then it wasn’t. 😛

2012 was apparently a very good year for blogging when I averaged 1.4 posts per day and 156,606 words total!

Surprisingly, despite occasionally being a bit long winded, my average post length is only 284 words, which just shows that those little posts that you knock out in 15 minutes can really add up over time. 😉

One stat that I found particularly interesting was my most popular tags by word count…

  1. rants – 153,136 (293 posts)
  2. geek stuff – 90,574 (258 posts)
  3. summary posts – 79,726 (130 posts)
  4. creative-type stuff – 79,380 (195 posts)
  5. politics – 75,683 (184 posts)
  6. movies – 71,840 (187 posts)
  7. diet & exercise – 65,736 (161 posts)
  8. dreams – 49,736 (86 posts)
  9. video games – 48,056 (198 posts)
  10. technology – 41,673 (141 posts)

Note: All of these stats come from the WP Word Count plugin by Link Software – the pro version is less than twenty bucks for unlimited sites … I’ve been using it for years and I love it!

One more of interest – looking at the blogging platforms that helped me to write those ONE MILLION words…

  • Fusion PHP (2002) – 9,747 (<1%)
  • LiveJournal (2003 – 2011) – 462,133 (46%)
  • WordPress (2011 – CURRENT) – 528,670 (53%)

It’s just amazing to me to look back over everything that I’ve blogged about over the years – mind you, I don’t really make any money or anything from this site, but it’s immensely valuable to me because it really serves as a journal where I’ve publicly shared so many of the most important moments from my life…

…and of course, plenty of nonsensical, rambling or otherwise just plain weird moments and thoughts and ideas, too!

So what’s next???

The short answer is – I have no idea!

No more than I could’ve predicted any of what got me to this point, anyways. One of my favorite things about my blog is that by not locking in to a particular theme or topic, it frees me to write about anything and everything! One day I might feel inspired to write about video games or a movie that I just saw, and others I might be feeling a bit more nostalgic or want to share vacation photos or even, dare I say, share some thoughts about politics!

*shudder*

One thing I will say is that with my first one million behind me, I hope that this inspires me to write more … you know, so that maybe I can get to two million before I’m ready to retire! 😉

Blogging is something that I really enjoy because it’s personal, and yet it’s a way to share a little bit of me in a medium that I’m very comfortable with considering just how much of an antisocial, introverted hermit that I am. 😛

Over the next million words, I’m looking forward to sharing even more milestones, and ranting about things that bug me, and bragging about my kids, and everything else that has made the last million words so enjoyable. :mrgreen:

Only 998,905 words to go…

Healthcare Headache

January 18, 2019 12:30am
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At the beginning of 2019, we changed health insurance providers through my job.

I’ve pretty much had the same insurance back as far as when I first got it on my own (circa 2004?), so I’ve never had to deal with the special kind of hell that comes with changing insurance and making sure all of your doctors are still covered…

…and getting new pre-authorizations…

So said headache that we’ve been enduring for about three weeks now is due to issues that we’ve been experiencing with therapy for one of the kids. I’ll talk about it more in another post, but basically Christopher has been doing ABA therapy for autism at home since last summer and it’s been really awesome for him … and damn, has it been a pain in the ass getting the insurance coverage transitioned for it.

🙁

Case in point – today was literally his first session this year, and we still don’t entirely have everything worked out yet!

We tried contacting the new insurance company for information about the pre-authorization back in December, but they didn’t even know we were going to have insurance with them yet.

When we finally got the new cards and gave them to our therapy provider, first the paperwork was sent to the wrong company … because our insurance network is one company, but it’s being provided by another company and customer care is handled by a third company!

Because there aren’t already enough middlemen involved with providing healthcare in this country… 😛

Once the paperwork finally got sent to the right place, it turns out that the wrong codes were used … whatever that means.

And then the right codes got submitted, and it sat on somebody’s desk with the insurance company for two days, even though at this point Christopher had been without service for two weeks.

When they finally reviewed and approved it, it took another two days to get it back to our therapy provider because the department’s voicemail box was full for the two people who process these things.

Oh yeah, and when they got the approved documents back, someone discovered that the insurance company had somehow approved 2.5 hours PER YEAR instead of 4 – 6 hours a day FOR THE YEAR.

Grrrrrr…

And guess who got stuck playing connect the dots throughout this whole, entire cherade?!

Sara and I were joking earlier that we didn’t realize we’d be learning about medical billing this week, and quite frankly – we shouldn’t fucking have to!!!

Someone else on either side of this transaction should’ve picked up the ball and ran until not only it was done, but done correctly, too. It kills me that neither party looked at that approval and said, “Wait a minute … 2.5 hours??? That doesn’t sound right!”

By the way, did I mention that we’ve also got my company’s HR department amending the new insurance policy because it wasn’t clear what the limits are for # of sessions allowed in a calendar year???

As I type this right now, I think we’re now on the right track to getting this resolved, but it’s really been wearing the both of us thin. Healthcare is important, and no one should have to jump through this many hoops to ensure that they can get medically necessary treatments for their children.

And all of this was after having to ask the old insurance company to even cover it because it had been omitted from the policy and wasn’t legally required due to a regulatory loophole in how the policy was setup.

I hope that someone in my lifetime fixes this mess … American healthcare in general, that is.

I Need Better Sleep…

January 17, 2019 10:58am
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If I had to guess, I probably get 3-4 nights of “good sleep” a week. And honestly, sometimes it’s more just decent than good.

Because I always have so much do to after the kids go to bed, it’s a pretty regular thing for me to stay up really late one night and then pay for it by being super tired the next day and eventually crashing early when I get home. It’s a vicious cycle, and in the end I know that it’s more unproductive than, say, going to bed at a consistent time every night and then making due with the time that I have each day.

But I don’t know how to break the cycle…

Lately I’ve noticed bursts of energy, followed by lulls throughout the day. I’m good in the morning, then sluggish after lunch. Another burst late afternoon into the early evening, then slowly coasting downward as I go home and see the kids before bedtime. When they go down is when I really start to crash because Christopher likes to turn all of the lights out in the house before he goes to sleep, and in the event that I don’t fall asleep myself waiting for him to crash, I’m very tired at that point. Until around 11:30 pm when my night owl-ism tends to kick in and then I want to get to work!

Of course, if I start working on something just before midnight, that ends up leaving me with only a few hours of sleep because I have to get up between 8 and 9 am to take Christopher to school, and then I’ll be dragging the rest of the day until I can officially crash myself.

I’ve even gone so far as to map out what I think an ideal day with adequate sleep would look like for me, but I just can’t seem to execute on it and make it a reality. I can’t seem to find the discipline needed to implement a new schedule, so instead I’m doing this back and forth thing that can’t possibly be good for my general health and sanity!

Musing About Disney World and Stats

January 16, 2019 3:30pm
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There are some times when I would really love to get a glimpse of some of the statistics around Walt Disney World.

My curiosity this morning is specifically around Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and how many members there actually are in order to better gauge how many people are really fighting over the tickets to the Moonlight Magic events that are continuing again this year. Today was the opening of registration for the first two events at the Magic Kingdom, and even though I logged in about 15 minutes after the opening at 9:00 am, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually wasn’t difficult at all to get them this time…

I’ve been to a handful of these events since Disney started doing them back in 2016, but more often than not availability was always very limited and if you weren’t ready to jump on the email the second it showed up, you were plum out of luck.

Because if I remember right, the first few events didn’t have a scheduled reservation time, but just sent an email when it was ready … and sometimes it would come at three in the afternoon when everyone was at work … and others would get it a day or two later!

So I don’t know if maybe Disney just wised up and either beefed up the servers that host these sites or increased the capacity admitted to the events … or both. Even looking back further, it seemed like they were always having problems with demand for any Annual Passholder special events that they hosted as well … which always seemed odd to me for a $100 BILLION company like Disney to not invest more in their infrastructure to make their web experience absolutely flawless.

It’s really the same with the My Disney Experience app or guest wifi in the parks. I’m sure their hardware has to be beefy with possibly tens of thousands of concurrent wifi users online in a single park each day, but again … you’re Disney! You charge $100+ admission just to get in the door! Figure it out!

But just from a numbers geek’s perspective, it’d still be neat to know to what scale we’re dealing with for any of these problems – if the Magic Kingdom holds 100,000 people (hypothetically), do they let in 25% of that for the DVC events? Or any of the other hard ticketed events, for that matter???

It admittedly always amazes me how really any of the four parks can average at least 30,000 guests a day (according to TEA/AECOM’s reporting) and it doesn’t feel like you’re surrounded by such a sea of people because everyone is spread out across 100+ acres and eating/shopping/doing attractions to balance the crowds!

I think you could do some really fun stuff, and I’m sure that there are entire teams of geeks at Disney who do just that!, with access to the actual numbers of how many people walked through their turnstiles each day, or rode Space Mountain, or bought Mickey bars.

There’s a part of me that thinks it would be super cool if there’s a NOC-style room somewhere at Disney that has giant maps of each park up on the walls with heat maps showing guest flow around all of the lands and attractions.

They’ve got to be getting something more out of these MagicBands that we’re all wearing now!

As one often does at the beginning of a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity and ways that I can get more things done to make this year my absolute best yet.

It started with returning to using a to-do list app – in this case, Todoist – and along with the tracking and accountability, it’s also lead me to change how I look at my work not only to keep myself more upbeat and positive in hopes that it shows through in the things that I do, but also in carrying that perspective through to work that I maybe didn’t get done or needed to postpone to avoid The Negative Cloud of Failure from holding me back even further…

My new strategy is something that I’m definitely piecing together a little bit at a time, but here’s where I’m at right now…

  1. Always remember that postponing a task isn’t failure. Work sometimes gets delayed for a variety of reasons, and it doesn’t do any good to dwell on them. Plus, sometimes a task scheduled for today gets bumped for something else that ended up being more important – life goes on!
  2. Start and end my day knowing my priorities. I’m trying to get in the habit of making Todoist my first stop online, even before social media or email, because it helps me to mentally plan my day. I like to end there, too, as it gives me a chance to review what tasks are leftover and reconsider their priorities as I reschedule them.
  3. Keep my number of tasks manageable. The last time I used Todoist, it eventually got backlogged with literally years worth of old tasks until it became daunting and frankly depressing to see my list of incomplete tasks growing more than shrinking. So instead, I try not to put every little thing there, and if a single day has more than about half a dozen tasks, I know that I need to trim it up to keep from getting overwhelmed.
  4. Have multiple kinds of work available. I’m not always in the mood for working on certain kinds of tasks, so instead of spinning my wheels all day, I’ve found it’s helpful to keep a variety in my pipeline so I can work on things that excite me as productivity fuel as much as possible!
  5. Look at work as smaller pieces instead of one big task. A great example – my home office has been the place to dump everything for almost a year, so it’s a real mess. I’m trying to clean it up, but it’s certainly not a task I can tackle in an evening. Instead, I’ll put something like Office Cleaning, part 4 as a task on my list and when I get to it, I’ll spend some time filing or cleaning up a portion – something I can do in an hour or two. And only when I get #4 completed do I add #5 to the list – that way I’m not constantly tripping over tasks.

One other thing I’m thinking of doing is setting up a dedicated monitor by my desk that just displays my current task list (I like the Next 7 Days option in Todoist because it gives me a glimpse of a week or so at a time).

I could either just have a browser with the Todoist website open directly, or I see that DAKboard now offers integration with Todoist as well and I’ve really come to like them for my digital calendar.

Right now I tend to keep it open in a browser tab at all times, but I think something more front and center might also help to keep me more accountable when I feel like killing time around Facebook or Twitter instead of knocking out a quick blog post or something! Especially when you’ve got tasks of various sizes, being able to look at your to-do list and think, “Hey – that will take me about 20 minutes and I’ve got half an hour right now, so why don’t I do it instead of watching videos on YouTube?!” is great for being able to feel more productive at the end of the day because you were more productive!

Over time I’d like to slowly expand my usage to be able to track more long term goals and ideas – for example, right now I’ve got a project in Todoist for things I want to read/watch/listen to but didn’t have time to when I stumbled across them. It’s easy enough to just copy & paste a website link, but for ideas I’d like to add more context and notes if I have them – kind of like what you might do in Evernote or a totally different app.

think you can do that in the paid version of Todoist, and if my newfound momentum keeps up for weeks and months, I can see how it could easily be worth the whopping $3/month … but again, baby steps right now as I just ease back into things and really try to feel out a system that works right for me! 😉

Can we go on a cruise today???

January 14, 2019 6:31pm
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Remember that thing I said last week about following passionate people?

Tim and Jenn (TheTimTracker on YouTube) are a couple of likeminded Disney fanatics whose videos I’ve been enjoying lately because they really go out of their way to be positive and it’s hard not to have fun just living vicariously through their videos.

Case in point – last month Tim spent two weeks eating hotdogs at the Magic Kingdom for the 12 Days of Hotdogs promotion that they did at Casey’s Corner … because I certainly don’t think that I could eat that many hotdogs myself, but it sure was fun to watch! 😉

Anyways, apparently Disney recently sent a bunch of media guests on a complimentary Disney Cruise, so the last couple of days they’ve been posting videos about their cruising experience which have been a lot of fun to watch, albeit every single one so far has left me desperately yearning to go on another cruise myself! It’s neat seeing around a Disney ship because to date we’ve only done Carnival and Royal Caribbean, and although I think we’d both eagerly sail again on either one of them, we’re also very curious to check out a Disney Cruise for ourselves, too.

In fact, if it wasn’t for our kids currently climbing on everything in sight and worrying about them constantly falling off the boat, I’d love to take the whole family on a cruise…

…though admittedly another part of that cruise yearning is more likely than not also getting to spend a full week without responsibility!

Still … I do miss that decadent, blue water so…

*sigh*

Robots Playing Video Games???

January 13, 2019 12:50pm
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This is a really cool video of Super Mario World, and not just because it’s an incredibly fast speed run featuring all sorts of exploits that I’d never seen before, but also … the game is being played entirely by a robot!!!

So apparently what they’ve done here is hacked the SNES controller so that instead of sending inputs to the SNES via physically pressing buttons, they can have a computer send the commands … which is obviously much faster and can enable some pretty neat exploits that are (usually) too quick for a human to pull off.

For example, and I thought this was super interesting, apparently the fastest way to move Mario in Super Mario World is to rapidly change the direction that he’s facing as you move (i.e. pressing left, then right repeatedly). And we’re talking within a single frame of the game, so it’s not exactly something that a person could do, but when its just a computer sending signals to the console, it’s just another command.

Now as far as I can tell (and please correct me if someone reads this and sees that I’m wrong!), but the computer isn’t necessarily reacting to changes in the game – it’s essentially running a script that the designers have testing out and tweaked to get the best possible outcome, whether it’s triggering a Level Complete action before the level is actually complete by playing to an exploit in the game or defeating bowser at the end.

One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed watching speed runs is because I think it’s incredible to see people play that have such a mastery of a given game that they not only know where every last item or power-up is, but also things like which order to kill monsters in because they understand how the game tracks those kills and determines what power-ups to drop next. So to then be able to take it another step and know what location in memory various statuses get held so that they can exploit weaknesses to make the game do things that it’s not supposed to – just wow!

Just one more example – here’s a glitch in Super Mario World that somehow triggers the end credits less than a minute into the game…

You can read the link above to explain the glitch better than I can, but it’s pretty cool stuff. 😉

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