Desperately Seeking Normalcy…

February 2, 2019 7:17pm
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I’m not going to lie – I’m really, really overwhelmed right now.

I feel like I got a few things accomplished last week, but looking around and staring at my to-do list, there are more and more that got put off so that I could focus on the others … which just doesn’t work.

There’s only so much me to go around!

Our house is a disaster. I haven’t done dishes in a week and it’s almost impossible to use our kitchen sinks. I started cleaning up last night, but got distracted and stalled out mid-living room.

I wish that I could just pay somebody to clean the house for us, but money is so tight that it’s nowhere in the cards.

Our AC has been broken for two weeks. For a lot of the time it didn’t matter because it was freezing, but today was a little better and now the house is really hot. Not sure what’s going on with my go-to AC repair guy because he was supposed to come out last week and I never heard from him.

I’m kind of dreading picking another guy on Monday to try because the first one has always been good to us – prompt and great prices – but looking at next week’s forecast, we really can’t put it off any longer.

Also … money! I hate living on the edge like we have been for the past 6 – 12 months where we’re literally putting off one bill on a given week to pay another. I think we’re on a path to stabilize things, more or less, but any bit of turbulence (i.e. expensive AC repairs!) could easily fuck those plans up royally.

absolutely hate having to ask my wife the second she gets home from the store how much she spent so that I can update the running tally in my head…

And creative stuff has been going really good, for the most part, although I’ve got a list of about half a dozen things that I need to play catch-up on. I know if the list gets much longer, I’ll need to start abandoning things because otherwise I get to a point where it’s just too much catch-up to ever reasonably push through.

But I did have a pretty good month for January from a writing income standpoint, which I don’t want to let myself gloss over because it’s still a pretty exciting bit of progress.

That said, it also sets up even bigger goals for February that bring along a lot of pressure, so I need to be able to get to work on them and not be bogged down with all of this nonsense!

Ok – all of that is out of my head now, so in theory I should be able to stop dwelling on it and instead start doing things that will actually make a difference towards it. Let’s see how that goes… 😛

Last night I had about six hours of time that should’ve been productive, and yet … it wasn’t.

Instead of knocking out a couple of big things I had planned on working on, I ended up staying up way too late watching Try Guys videos.

…which don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed! I think the video about them starting their own company is really inspiring, and they just have so many videos that are really entertaining… 😀

This is a balancing act that I often struggle with creatively. I’m sure a lot of people have highs and lows – times when you’re super pumped and just firing on all cylinders, and other times when you think you’re super pumped, but then you actually sit down to do some work and … it ain’t happening.

Worse yet, you don’t necessarily know that it’s the latter until after you’ve spent an entire evening being unproductive!

And at the same time, you can’t always be working because that’s how people burn out. Plus, I did enjoy what I was doing instead of working.

I suppose that’s really the crux of it – I’d like to learn how to better manage work and fun in advance to make it more of an ebb and flow as opposed to a struggle from one extreme to the other.

music thoughts … Weezer (The Teal Album)

January 29, 2019 3:26pm
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I’m gonna be honest – I don’t really listen to modern music anymore, and maybe that’s why I ended up really liking this album!

I don’t think that I’ve actually listened to Weezer since The Blue Album, which I think was their first one??? That one was pretty influential to my growing up – my band played songs off of it and everything – but the rest of their albums just never really clicked with me.

I stumbled across this very randomly on social media, and when I looked it up and saw that A) it was only $8, and B) it had some great 80’s songs that I love, I decided to give it a try…

That said – it’s kind of a weird selection of songs.

Most of them I really like, but No Scrubs and Stand by Me and even Paranoid don’t really feel like they belong here. That said, my favorites are…

  1. Africa
  2. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  3. Billie Jean
  4. Mr. Blue Sky
  5. Take On Me

There are definitely places in a few – Billie Jean, for example – where I wish there was a little more heavy guitar … I’m not crazy how it amps up for the bridge in that one, then dies back off just in time for the chorus, but it’s still a fun take on a great song.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World takes me back to when I first encountered that song as the intro for Dennis Miller’s show on HBO (back before he became a conservative), and Africa is really just a fantastic song to boot!

If they had swapped out a handful of the others for maybe Jungle Boy and Eye of the Tigers and Don’t You (Forget About Me), this album would be just about perfect.

Still, it’s something a little funky and different to listen to in the car, and even old farts like me need that every now and then! 😉

I’ve been kind of geeking out on Pete & Pete nostalgia lately after learning that the actors that played the brothers – Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna – not only still hang out and in fact do a podcast together, but they also tour and are coming to Florida this spring and I have tickets to go see them!

Nonetheless, after watching this great series of retrospective videos that Nickelodeon did a couple of years ago with Danny and Mike, it naturally got me thinking about the rest of the cast and what they’re up to these days…

And for a brief moment, I got spooked.

Ellen was always one of my favorite characters on the show, particularly for her bond with Big Pete. What can I say? I was just reaching my teenage years when this show came out, so it was girls like Ellen and Clarissa and Melody and Z.Z. who served as my first crushes on my favorite TV shows that I watched during those years. And yet like much of the rest of the Pete & Pete cast, I couldn’t really recall seeing much Ellen represented in more recent shows, so I decided to google the name of the actress who played her…

…and I got a fairly convincing profile of someone who is apparently very into Donald Trump and conservatism and generally just being an awful human being.

Could that be the same crush from my own boyhood who was a girl, and Pete’s friend, but was she a girlfriend???

Well, thank god – no, she wasn’t!

I’m not going to post the name here because there’s no need to attract unwanted attention, but I will say that her picture was close enough that 25 years later you might say, “Sure, I suppose that could be her.” It wasn’t until listening to a couple of interviews – one with Ellen herself – that it came to light that she’s mostly stepped away from Hollywood and instead is a doctor now! And the other lady was apparently just being born at the time Pete & Pete was airing, so that’s a pretty good indicator that they were definitely different people, too. 😉

Relieved is the right word, that’s for sure. I remember how shocked I was to find that an old friend from high school had gone hardcore conservative, complete with gay bashing on Facebook and the whole nine yards. And I recall me and my friends absolutely loving Dennis Miller and his rants on HBO back in our teenage years, despite his bizarre political flip to the dark side that came a decade later. But not someone from the cast of Pete & Pete.

All of the Blue Tornado Bars in the world couldn’t produce a brain freeze capable of that level of mental shutdown… 😀

Cleaning Day, iPhone Edition

January 28, 2019 5:34pm
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How many apps do you have on your phone right now?

Apparently I have over 130 apps, and honestly when I started going through my list, there were some that I haven’t used in years. And some that don’t even work with the version of iOS I’m on anymore.

And also a lot that I do still use, but not nearly enough to be where they were in my seven pages of apps.

So I decided to do a little digital housekeeping!

I did this with a few goals in mind…

  • To reprioritize my social media apps to make them less distracting.
  • To reorganize my apps so the ones I use more are closer to the front.
  • To finally delete stuff that I either never use or I can’t use anymore.

Step 1 – Inventory My Current Apps
The first thing I did was simply type up a list of every app I had on my phone. I did mine in a spreadsheet and grouped them by page so I could better visualize where I was and where I wanted to be. It was a little tedious to type everything out by hand, but the benefit was that afterwards I had a list that I could easily copy & paste from to shuffle apps around as I designed my new layout.

Step 2 – DELETE THE CLUTTER!!!
Now this is a pet peeve of mine because there are a handful of games and apps that I’ve downloaded over the ages where the developers either didn’t keep up with newer versions of iOS or just flat out went out of business altogether, so now I’m stuck with all of these games that I paid money for that are absolute garbage.

This was the time to finally let ’em go, I switched my auto insurance along with other apps that I’ll never use. Case in point – the other day , so no need to keep the old company’s app anymore.

Step 3 – What do I use the most???
This is how I determined my dock apps. You only get four, so make ’em good!

I ended up only making one change here – previously I had Phone, Mail, Safari, and Twitter, so in an effort to curtail my social media time I swapped out Todoist for Twitter.

Step 4 – What do I use on a regular basis?
This is where I determined my home page, or pages, really, because I had more than one page of apps that fell into this category.

My criteria for these pages was first and foremost general purpose apps – think Calendar, Contacts, Camera, Weather, Calculator. I also put my music apps here because they’re my go-to in the car. And then WordPress, Notes, and Analytics from a writing perspective.

My overflow home page then got other research apps like Wikipedia and Dictionary, the app and music stores, Settings, the My Disney Experience app for visit the theme parks along with its companion shopping app, and lastly, a couple of apps I’ve been using for meditation.

Step 5 – Where does everything else fall?!
To be honest, by the time I had the first two pages done, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest anyways. First I created pages for each of the major categories of apps that I had, then I sorted them into those categories (a lot of my apps were already sorted this way, so this was about 50/50 clean-up vs reorganization), and then lastly I sorted the pages themselves based again on what types of apps I use the most.

I ended up with something like this…

  • Home Page
  • Overflow Home Page
  • Social Media
  • Kids Stuff
  • Banks & Restaurants
  • Quick Games
  • Long Games
  • Miscellaneous

I honestly don’t play games much on my phone, so those went at the back, second only to those seldom used apps that I didn’t want to delete like FlightAware for tracking incoming flights or Speedtest for testing Internet connections or my web host’s app that I use to remotely reboot this server if I see that it’s having problems when I’m away from a computer.

I made a new page of just apps that I have for my kids to use … in hopes that maybe they’ll stay out of the rest of my stuff! 😉

And then the others are pretty self explanatory.

BEFORE

AFTER

One sort of tip that I can offer is that it is technically possible to move multiple apps from one page to another … the reason for my hesitation is that at least for me, it was really touchy and sometimes more of a pain than it was worth. I’d find myself with a few apps selected, then drop them all trying to get the next one, or there would be a few that I couldn’t select at all. Still, you can give it a try and see how it works for you…

Cleaning up my phone has been something that I’ve been putting off for a long time, but honestly it took maybe an hour once I finally sat down and just did it. don’t recommend skipping the list and just trying to reorganize right on the phone, namely because if you don’t plan out precisely how many pages you need, it’s easy to find yourself doing a lot of extra shuffling when you realize that you’re a page short in the very middle of your layout!

Here’s to hoping that this will make my phone a little less distracting and once again more of a useful tool in my effort to try and actually get things done this year!!!

Your advertising is making me hate you.

January 28, 2019 3:01pm
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Nobody ever really liked commercials when we watched live TV, but we dealt with them because after a couple we’d get to go back to our show.

But here on the Internet, the advertising never stops!

It’s on every single page – every article, every YouTube video – and often times you’ve got more than one ad. Or the ad pops-up in front of what you’re trying to read and blocks your view, even though I thought we’d already decided that pop-ups were awful like a decade ago. Or the ad follows you down the screen so that between product ads and publisher ads, you’re only left with about two inches of screen real estate when you’re just trying to read a stupid blog post on your phone while you’re using the toilet.

On one hand, Internet advertising is somewhat revolutionary because it’s the first time that advertisers have had access to actual data to determine the effectiveness of their ads.

On the other hand, though, I think it’s also helped them to understand that the giant money pit they used to dump into for print and TV advertising wasn’t nearly as effective as their billions had thought, and so not only do publishers get much less for online advertising than other mediums ever saw, but they’re more prone to excessive advertising to boot.

My prime example right now is YouTube – where you can see ads every couple of minutes for the exact same thing, to the point where frankly it decreases my interest in a brand when I keep getting interrupted to see the same thing over and over.

TV ads were predictable and always followed the same time slots, so if we didn’t want to sit through them we could go get a snack or something to avoid them.

Print ads were easy enough to gloss over, although we all know the feeling of flipping through a magazine and realizing that it’s more ads than actual content! My wife gets a few parenting magazines like that where it’s pretty clear the reason they’re FREE is because they’re basically just 95% ads for diapers and baby meds and whatnot.

Personally, I know that I would much rather see an ad once that’s either funny, informative, or interesting, and if it’s a regular advertiser on a show that I watch, then so be it. But when I’m watching 5-10 minute YouTube videos and I see the same ads for Wix and Grammarly and the local ambulance chasing law firm every minute and a half, it doesn’t make me want to use their services.

In fact, I’ve purposefully avoided what are probably perfectly good services and products just because their advertising was absolutely obnoxious.

The sad part is, I know the reason they do it is because it works, just like spammers fill my inbox with scams because a fraction of a percent fall for them. And maybe that’s a strategy that works when you’re casting a huge net and need mass market appeal. It’s probably why I wouldn’t do well in marketing because I’d be much more interested in the quality of a customer rather than just plastering people with ads so that a couple of them will remember our obnoxious jingle when they’re at the store and throw a box of our miscellaneous product into their carts.

I thought this was a little weird.

So I changed my car insurance today – from esurance over to Progressive. Or rather, back to Progressive, as it was about six or seven years ago when I left them to come to esurance because the prices were cheaper.

What stood out as strange to me was that in both cases, I called up my current insurance company and told them what the other was offering, and neither one did much to lower my current bill.

This time, esurance tried to offer me their creepy tracking tool that you plug in under the dash and you get a discount if it doesn’t detect you driving like a maniac, which I declined.

I think last time Progressive tried to beat esurance’s rates by removing the coverage from one of our two cars. 

Huh?!

At the end of the day, I’m only saving about $40/month … so $240 on a 6-month policy term or a little less than $500 a year.

I was just kind of surprised that there wasn’t any retention effort other than what they’d offer any day of the week to keep me from switching to their competitor. So I’m curious why.

Is it a case where there’s simply so much churn in their industry that they’ve decided retention isn’t really their strategy, kind of like cable and cellular providers that focus more on earning new customers than keeping existing ones happy?

Or do customer service reps just not have much they can offer, so it’s really just another call in the queue for them to deal with?

Thankfully it was a surprisingly seamless transition from one to the other – I asked the guy from esurance to cancel mine policy, effective tomorrow, after he reviewed it for discounts, and I was finishing the new purchase from Progressive before I was off the phone with esurance.

It’ll be interesting to see if I end up switching again in a few years if the prices sway back in the other direction. I hate doing it, but at least it’s easier than switching cable or cell providers because it’s just a question of whose site I’m printing my new ID cards from.

Which reminds me, I probably need to do some research into our homeowner’s insurance, too. We’ve had the same company there for seven years now as well…

Do We Really Need Billionaires???

January 24, 2019 1:32am
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I thought this was an interesting article from the other day talking about comments made by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about income inequality and the hoarding of wealth at the top end of the scale…

As usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: There should be no billionaires

Just looking at billionaires in the US, there were roughly 540 people back in 2016 with a combined net worth of $2.4 TRILLION!!!

I’m sure you probably recognize the names in the top 5:

  1. Jeff Bezos – $112B
  2. Bill Gates – $90B
  3. Warren Buffett – $84B
  4. Mark Zuckerberg – $71B
  5. Charles Koch – $60B

It’s worth noting that three of the top five have made pledges to donate 99% of their wealth (Gates, Buffett, and Zuckerberg), but what about the other $2.15 trillion spread out among only 537 individuals in the United States? $2+ trillion is more than the GDP of Brazil. Or Canada. Or Russia. Or 180 other countries around the globe!

Put it another way, the average billionaire is worth about $4.1 billion.

The median net worth in America is about $11,000.

On top of that, there’s the old statistic that something like 70% of Americans don’t have $1,000 saved that they could tap in the event of an emergency.

Now I’m not saying the answer is just take it all from the wealthy and redistribute their wealth more evenly – at 350 million people, that would only end up being about seven grand per person!

That said, when do we get to a point where maybe we have to say, “You have way more than enough. Please share with the little guy…”???

A million dollars is something that all of us have fantasized about at one point or another. You can buy things that cost millions of dollars such as mansions and yachts and sports teams and other expensive things that people think about when they dream of being rich.

A billion dollars, on the other hand, in a way just seems silly. You can’t spend a billion dollars on any one thing, or even a whole bunch of things! I would challenge anyone to go to NYC or LA and try to spend a billion dollars without buying companies or whatnot – I don’t think you could do it, and for the people who do, they’re not even doing it themselves because investors always travel in packs. 😛

And sure, that’s the real counter argument – billionaires invest that money into whatever ventures interest them, and it creates jobs, and hopefully additional wealth … but all in the same, it just makes me wonder if all of that is worth it when A) profit is still their primary motive for those investments, and B) we’ve got all sorts of people around this country who are really struggling in one way or another, whether it’s the guy living under a bridge or the family in suburbia embarrassed to apply for food stamps because dad just got laid off from his job.

I don’t claim to know the answers, or even how to connect all of the dots here, but I do believe that if part of our income equality in America stems from CEOs skimping on wages because it’s better for corporate profits, they should be taxed to make up the difference because no one should work a full-time job and still live in poverty in America.

Looking at the math, if 540 people – or 0.000001% of the population – own 3% of the entire nation’s wealth, which expands to over 50% of the nation’s wealth if we widen the net to 5% of the population (17.5 million people) … something’s not right there.

So what do we do about it?

more home office musings…

January 23, 2019 2:14pm
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I know I’ve shared in the past how it’s common for me to have dreams about office space – not the movie, mind you, but the place in which I do my work!

Last night I had a brief one about moving into a new space, oddly enough right next to the warehouse that I used to work at back in my hometown, and the defining factor seemed to be that it was big … like a huge canvas with infinite possibilities.

I think it’s fun to think about what you would do with a new space, whether it’s a house or an office or whatever. Plus, right now my own house is filled with an insane amount of clutter, so this idea of starting fresh with a completely empty room is particularly exciting!

To some extent, I think that a clean space can also be good for creativity, too.

I’ve been slowly working at cleaning up my home office, and though I’ve still got a ways to go, it’s amazing just what being able to walk through the room and see my desk has done for improving my desire to actually want to sit down and write in my office again. Before you could technically get to my keyboard – if you had to – but it certainly wasn’t someplace that I wanted to spend hours on end, but a couple of evenings with garbage bags and the shredder have already been a huge help!

I’m also exploring some ideas for little enhancements I can do to freshen up the place … things like adding a second DAKboard solely for my to-do list and some new shelves for my rapidly growing collection of Funko Pop figures. Eventually I really want to build out something to help track my word counts across various projects – maybe that’s something I could feed into DAKboard via a widget or whatever they call it.

It’s amazing how surrounding yourself with those kinds of fun and interesting things that you enjoy can influence the work that you’re trying to do, too. 😉

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… 😯

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