Random February Thoughts…

February 25, 2021 6:07pm
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I feel like it hasn’t been a very productive month, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s true.

I know that I haven’t written very much this month.

Sleep-wise has been about the same – I’ve been averaging 5.5 hours of sleep a night whereas January was closer to 6 hours a night, though admittedly I’ve been much more aware of my lack of sleep than I think I’ve been in the past.

Add in a week of the kids all being home from school because they were sick which felt like a month by itself and I suppose this kind of stuff all manages to compound into a bleh that leaves me feeling like February was mostly a waste of calendar space.

That said, I know that there were some things that I accomplished…

  • helped Christopher beat Super Mario Odyssey
  • got Christmas decorations taken down
  • sent out most of our debt consolidation money that we got from refinancing our mortgage (instead of spending it!)
  • also spent a lot of time working out our new budget

Still, I’d like March to be better. I’ve got a lot of goals lined up for this year and there’s a lot of work to put in to make ’em happen.

…which is why I really think I need to get this whole sleep schedule thing worked out before I try to tackle anything else… 😛

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. 😉

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!

My Dream Office

August 3, 2017 2:15pm
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I had a dream last night that I’ve had in variations many times before involving a fancy office in a big, high-rise building with sweeping views of the surrounding area and surprisingly little actual work getting done! 😉

In a way, it’s reminiscent of the couple of years that I worked 31 stories up in one of the buildings in Downtown Tampa, where I was lucky enough to almost always have a desk by the windows – as tiny as that desk may have been – to the point where I still have a print of this gorgeous view of the sunset that I used to have sitting at my desk in the new office that I almost never go to because I currently work from home…

In my sleeping dream office, I had this great, private working area with plenty of room to spread out and make myself at home, including this incredible attached balcony where I could step outside to enjoy the view when simply looking at it all through glass wasn’t good enough. Coupled with a private elevator reserved for a select few with offices like my own, it seemed like a pretty sweet place to do … whatever it was that I did for work in that place.

Of course, back here in reality, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that such a working environment is impractical for so many reasons. For starters, the dreams that I’ve had never seem to include episodes of me writing the exorbitant rent checks for such a lavish office space or the 30-60 minutes of driving each way that it would take to commute back and forth to said dream office!

Mind you, my commutes when I worked downtown could be upwards of an hour in moderate traffic, offset from bad traffic only because I worked later hours, whereas now my office is maybe 15-20 minutes away at best and I still hate the commute, often times feeling it a gigantic waste of time if I don’t at least stop for lunch on the way… 😛

It’s certainly fair to say that my standards for a dream office have changed over the years, no doubt influenced greatly by being lucky enough to work out of my own home and thus reducing my daily commute to dodging toys in the hallway from sitting in traffic on the highway!

Realistically, my ideal office space would simply be an improved version of the home office that I have today.

  • Still at home because commutes and paying rent for office space suck, plus it offers much greater opportunity for flexibility and customization.
  • A space that’s probably double the room where my office resides today – basically enough to also add in a couch and a nice table, and more trinket space for all of my toys. 😉
  • A nice, watery garden view through big, glass floor to ceiling windows – ideally because attached to my dream house, the backyard would have lots of tropical plants and a waterfall feature by the pool, though granted this might conflict with…
  • isolation from household noise!!! Seriously probably my only real complaint about working from home, my dream office is still technically part of the house, yet also far enough away from the bedrooms and living areas so that the sounds created by three boys growing up don’t prevent me from getting any work done whatsoever!
  • And maybe I can have a ridiculously oversized TV on the wall that I can swap out images of incredible views from other offices on…

Did I mention that in my dream, apparently my office also had a concierge who would deliver food and snacks and diapers, of all things?! Not sure why the kids are hanging around Dad’s office long enough to require a change of diapers, but hey, dreams are weird sometimes.

How do I want to make my impact???

November 19, 2015 10:36pm
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I guess you could say that I’ve kind of been having a mini crisis of faith over the last couple of weeks where I’ve found myself second-guessing what I want to do with life from the perspective of being a writer.

I wrote about it a little here last week, but in light of the attacks in Paris that literally happened a day later and the tremendous backlash that’s surged since regarding the refugees from Syria, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and last night I believe I finally came to my answer…

Politics and reporting the news are important, and I can certainly see plenty of room for improvement, however that said I don’t know if it’s the right fit for me, I don’t think that it necessarily plays to my strengths, and most importantly, I think it would drive me absolutely insane trying to keep up with it after a while!

I had an idea that I was briefly entertaining last night about a new project that would essentially serve as a Snopes or a Politifact, but exclusively stick to factually correcting details shared around social media. On the surface it seemed like a worthwhile idea and it’s no doubt something that’s sorely needed … but the more I stewed about it, I came to the conclusion that it would end up being an extraordinarily negative pool to wade through because it would basically consist of purposely seeking out the most popular misinformed posts on Facebook and then doing the research to correct them.

A noble cause, no doubt … but is that really how I want to spend the limited amount of time that I have to dedicate to my craft???

Not really.

And so that brought me back to humor and sort of shined a new light on the art form that I think I’ve somewhat taken for granted. Simply put, the intent of humor first and foremost is to make people laugh. It can certainly also serve to educate or enlighten or even ridicule its subject matter in the process, but all of those things are secondary to entertainment.

It’s an argument that I remember Jon Stewart making time and time again about The Daily Show when various news programs would compare themselves to his program and he’d have to insist, “You think that we’re the same, but we’re not. The lead-in to my show is literally puppets making crank phone calls!”

A lot of pundits gave Stewart crap about not being on the same playing field as they were – primarily because his job mostly consisted of lobbing fireballs at them for 30 minutes every single night – but that’s kind of the beauty of being a humorist. You can write hard-hitting, political humor that serves to cut through the bullshit and highlight the ridiculousness that our politicians spout on a daily basis, but you can also write about other things, too.

If I were to take on that social media fact checker project that I described earlier, sure, there would be a potential to “make an impact” by providing facts to (hopefully) displace the BS, but what would the other part involve for that job? I fear that much like trying to be a hard-hitting journalist, it would be nothing but one ugly shouting match after another where even if you change minds with your latest battle, you’ve still got another ugly shouting match ahead of you and ten more lined up after that.

At least if I stick to entertainment writing, I can follow-up a critical, but also silly post about the Syrian refugees with a comic strip about the joys of unpacking cardboard boxes! What are my alternatives if I dedicate the bulk of my time to dispelling conservative politics or trying to make a dent in the status quo through serious debate??? Those ridiculous cat stuck in the tree or how did she wear it-stories that always make me groan when I see actual news sources taking a break with them?!

People can still take serious cues from humor, but it’s a lot more fun to read … not to mention to write, now that I think about it. So maybe I need to get back to writing humor and stop worrying about finding an unnatural way for me to move the needle.

This was a good talk. Thanks, Internet! 😉

Journalism and Me

November 13, 2015 2:13am
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Occasionally I wonder why I never got into proper journalism, and even if it’d be too late for me to do so. I mean, I like the writing that I do and you certainly don’t have to sell me on the value of entertainment and humor in society, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if I could be doing more if I had chosen to pursue a role in the media, as it were…

I think a lot of this comes about because I see so many flaws around us today that are based on misinformation, even though I’m honestly not sure if I could do it any better or if I would even know how to do so. Kind of piggybacking off of my post earlier this evening about overcoming divides, it’s clear that a lot of people align themselves with either conservative media or liberal media … and I guess the tricky part is that the devil on my shoulder isn’t sure that even if people had a better choice down the middle for their information, if they’d really be interested in that in the world which we live in today.

When I used to watch the Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom over the last couple of years, to me it was a great fictional depiction of what the news ought to be – professionals passionate about getting the story right and not just pursuing leads for sensationalism, standing up for integrity in the fourth estate and particularly pushing back when it came to politicians not giving actual answers and trying to pull the wool over on people’s eyes.

And of course, I’m sure it might be said that I enjoyed that show because I’m a liberal and the whole show was created to make conservative newscasters look stupid, though my simple rebuttal would be that conservative newscasters make themselves look stupid by the ways that they distort and sensationalize the things that they broadcast. The truth is really that both sides exhibit the same problem in different areas, yet in a society today where it’s so easy to pick the news source that makes you feel good by reinforcing the chanting already going on inside your own head, would anybody even pay attention to that alternative news option???

One that I think is actually doing a really good job at producing this type of non-partisan, honest news that I’m talking about right now is VICE. You kind of have to sift through their website to find the really good stories from the same kind of weird clickbait that you find on Salon and Buzzfeed and HuffPost, but their big stories via VICE News – and particularly the ones that go into their series on HBO – feature some pretty nice investigative reporting that exposes issues on a larger scale that are impacting real people all over the world.

For instance, last night I stayed up way too late watching a special feature they did about America’s prison system that included some interviews that President Obama did with inmates at a federal penitentiary. It particularly focused on The War on Drugs and the consequences that have resulted from putting so many people in prison for non-violent offenses – it definitely made you take a second look at a complicated problem in that thirty years ago the edict was simply “Drugs are bad – we can’t be hard enough on criminals!” to now we’re really seeing the effects of those programs decades later and people like Bill Clinton, who played a big role in cracking down on drug offenders, is now admitting that he was wrong and he helped to create an entirely new set of problems that we now have to solve instead.

That’s the kind of journalism that I like to see – not 30-45 second sound bites that grab your attention and flare up the political base, but hands on, gritty research that peels back the layers and gives people a different way of looking at a problem. I’d like to see that same kind of technique applied to other areas – I think the political sphere is ripe for fact-checking because politicians and BS go hand in hand … I just don’t know how it would be received.

Still, there’s a great quote from The Newsroom that rings a certain truth in this regard:

“People will want the news if you give it to them with integrity. Not everybody, not even a lot of people – 5%. And 5% more of anything is what makes the difference in this country…”

How do you bridge the divide…?

November 12, 2015 9:09pm
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Whether it’s conservative/liberal, young/old, religious/atheist, black/white, or any combination thereof, we’re as divided of a society as we’ve ever been and any random look at comments on Facebook hints that the situation if anything is certainly getting worse, not better.

No doubt the issue will be front and center like it usually is at Thanksgiving dinner tables around the country here in a couple weeks, and I don’t know about you but believe it or not, I don’t want to fight with my family! I want us all to laugh and eat and talk about interesting things and challenge each other with new ways of thinking but without calling names … so how do we actually bridge that divide?

I admittedly don’t have the answer to this, but I think part of it starts in trying to understand where the other side is coming from. Of course, this too can be hard because my explanation for why someone might think the way they do might make sense to me, though it isn’t necessarily a settling one for the other party…

For example, I sincerely believe for better and for worse that a lot of the differences between me and my relatives back home stems simply from population and exposure – it’s hard for some people to really get their arms around the problems that black people face in America today when they live in a small town that’s less than 1% black. Nobody wants to be told that they’re racist, but when you make a joke about hanging a black man from a Christmas tree because you honestly don’t understand how absolutely horrible of a “joke” that really is, limited exposure to people who are different than you is one way that helps to explain why you might think the way that you do.

I think the real challenge here, however, is then breaking out of that mold to widen one’s own world view – even if it’s merely around the turkey-laden dinner table – because we’re all guilty of settling in with those who think and act the same ways that we do. It makes sense because it’s safer, but when people who only subscribe to one political party’s mentalities only interact with each other and don’t co-mingle with the other side of the coin, it just builds those walls up higher and stronger and the divide seemingly becomes even further ingrained.

People get defensive because they’re so used to only talking to other people that agree with them that an opposing opinion suddenly comes off as hostile, to the point where actually hostile comments start to get lost in the crossfire, and from there an honest debate seems pretty much impossible.

Several things really need to happen…

  • Both sides need to be willing to come to the table.
  • Both sides need to be open for debate and to legitimately hear the other side’s opinions.
  • Likewise, both sides also really need to understand their own opinions so that they can articulate them to the other side without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

I don’t even think that both sides need to be willing to change their opinions, although it certainly makes intellectual discourse easier, but hearing and acknowledging the other side is critical to actually having a discussion where both people can walk away feeling good at the end of it all.

There are some things that two sides will never see eye to eye on – take homosexuality, for example. I myself stand very firmly in the realm of equal rights as an extension of civil rights, whereas I know people who draw their lines based on their religious beliefs, and some more that are in between on the various nuances that make up just this one complex issue. And that’s ok, at least between two people, though it gets muddier when we have to look at the larger picture and how society is going to treat homosexuals in the 21st century.

But that’s how we get there is by sitting down and spelling out the differences, and figuring out where we disagree and where we surprisingly might actually agree a little after all.

And it’s hard, and all of those divisors give us plenty of fuel to not make that effort and to instead bunker down and fling poo over the wall at the crazies on the other side … which can be amusing for a little while, but ultimately isn’t very productive because it’s hard to walk away from the table feeling good about yourself when either one of you is covered in poo. And not everyone is going to feel like it’s worth the effort, and some people will make you wish that you’d never even tried, but you have to try anyways because division is bad and in the end we all have a lot that we can learn from each other.

Sometimes it just takes shutting up for a while to stop and hear what the other person has to say…

…even though occasionally it may turn out that the other person is just a crazy racist Donald Trump supporter… 😉

I want to go on an adventure.

September 9, 2015 7:01pm
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I think I’m getting a little stir-crazy around here because after spending a good hour this evening browsing random Google Maps of one of the cities I almost ended up in before moving to Florida, I did the math and realized that it’s been almost two years since I’ve left Central Florida for anything … and even then the event in question was an unexpected trip up to snowy Michigan in January 2014 for my Grandpa’s funeral.

Before that was only six months earlier when we went up during the summer of 2013 to celebrate his 90th birthday.

And don’t get me wrong, we’ve most certainly had a busy couple of years!!!

Between IVF and having the baby, and then the last year of learning how to be parents from scratch, and I’m sure lots of other stuff in between. We’ve also had lots … I guess just about everyone … come down to visit either for the holidays last year or to meet Christopher between last year and his first birthday. And part of that’s my fault because Sara was more eager to travel the baby around right after he was born when I didn’t want to…

But regardless, I guess it’s a little weird to think that we really haven’t traveled outside of 90 miles from home in the last couple of years because in our younger years we were a lot more adventurous! We’d gone on a couple of cruises, and our ginormous, month-long road trip, and yet now even if we can wrangle up a sitter it still seems prohibitively expensive trying to sneak away for the weekend after we factor in boarding the dog, coordinating time off, money, etc, etc…

I mean, Disney World is great and all, but I think I’m kind of itching to see something different for a change.


Thoughts of an easier life…

February 21, 2015 4:23pm
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I read a post on Facebook that triggered a little thought trail that I wander from time to time – would it have been “easier” living 50 years ago without all of the fast-paced goings-on that our society is known for today?

The post talked about an older generation that didn’t have “a green movement” like we see today for environmentalism, yet they reused milk bottles and had paper instead of plastic bags and walked instead of driving a lot of places, etc, etc… It reminds me a lot of small town life up north because I have a hard time picturing how that would even work here in suburbia where communities are more spread out because distance isn’t the limitation that it once was, and as much as I’ll be the first to shout from the treetops that I don’t think I could ever really adapt to small town life after finally “escaping” a little over a decade ago, there are certainly parts of me that wonder what it would’ve been like…

…to have the family business to go into where I suppose you might not really get a choice, but it makes sense in so many ways to just keep on doing what your family has always been doing, be it farming or running the general store or whatever.

…to have that kind of physical work built into your daily schedule that “exercise” simply isn’t something that you have to think about after you’ve been tossing hay bales and chasing pigs around all day!

…to not have the constant urge to update and be connected with the entire world, all of the time, and to enjoy that family togetherness that comes from everyone living in the same town so that everything – not just Christmas or special occasions – are a time for family.

Granted, I think part of this thought process comes simply from feeling exhausted and idealizing that world as more free from problems than it really was … science was in a much different place back then, and being stuck in one path can be just as much stifling as it is easy, and my biggest pet peeve from back home will always be the simple notion of how a lack of diversity in a community holds it back in some ways that are often times ugly and cringe-worthy.

Plus, for what it’s worth if I really sit down and analyze it, although they can just the same make my life more stressful at times, having options is something that I take a lot of great value in. One of the big reasons why I left Northern Michigan was simply in feeling like there wasn’t enough for me there – jobs, social life, opportunities in general – and although the Internet today is doing some impressive things to bridge that gap back home that I never would’ve expected, at the end of the day I think having choices as opposed to only the one that’s laid out right there for you is a valuable one, and modern society gives more opportunities for that than ever.

Not to mention … I love the Internet! I love sharing the stupid things that come into my head on Twitter, and I love posting pictures of my food, and I love having an immeasurable wealth of knowledge available at my fingertips that simply was not there 50 years ago. I love that instead of reading three paragraphs in the encyclopedia at the library about a given topic, I can pull up Wikipedia and read more than I’d ever think to ask about something that’s been put together and curated by fanatics and experts who are passionate about that very topic. The access to knowledge in our current times is something that I couldn’t possibly discount no matter how entertaining the mechanic down the street is when he shares his own knowledge on a particular topic!

Maybe it’s one of those grass is always greener scenarios – it’d be neat to live that lifestyle that my grandparents lived maybe for a week, but the war certainly wouldn’t have been as much fun, and the generation before that had the Great Depression which I’ve read was kind of a downer! I guess each generation has its pros and its cons, and all we can do is try to live our lives putting more things on the right side of the scale than the other during the time that we’re here.

Who knows – a hundred years from now, people might look back at my time and think, “Boy, life must’ve been so much easier before hyper transports and intergalactic warfare dominated our lives! Also, those tree things seem like they would’ve been pretty cool – too bad there aren’t still any of them around…” 😉

I can’t kill off Cleo Fish…

August 23, 2014 7:44pm
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I used to be such a fish tank guy!

I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t have at least one tank either in my bedroom or somewhere in my apartment when I moved out. I’ve always loved fish, but for some reason in the last couple of years my discipline for maintaining them has significantly faded.

Case in point – I haven’t fed my fish by hand in … two years? … because after buying one of those automatic fish feeders for going on vacation, I came back and said, “Why spoil a good thing?!” and just let the robot take over what I as the responsible pet owner was supposed to be doing all of that time!

Hey, in my defense, my care had started slacking at that point anyways, so at least the robot would remember to feed them every single day!

But that said, I’ve been seriously thinking about getting rid of the tank in my office – it’s all green and nasty, and most of the fish that were in it are now dead, and when I’m too lazy to keep it filled, the filter starts to get really obnoxious once enough of the water has evaporated from it.

It’s not just me – Sara’s tank has been sitting out in the garage since we moved into this house and that was two years ago! We actually talked about turning her tank into a Lego fish tank with blue bricks on the bottom for water and various fish swimming all about. That technically never happened, either, but it would’ve been a neat idea.

The problem is, I enjoy fish in passing, but I have no desire or discipline or time to actually do the upkeep required to not have a green and nasty fish tank sitting in the room. And that’s sad because it really shouldn’t take much – I’ve got a super nice filter that should rarely need changing if everything is maintained right, and with the auto-feeder on food duty, really the only thing left is to occasionally scrape algae off the sides and dump five gallons of fresh water to replace whatever has evaporated from it every couple of weeks.

…both of the latter of which, I do not do.

So earlier today, I was finally ready to just pull the plug. Sara even asked me about it a day or two ago if it was time to just admit that we weren’t fish people anymore, so when I was sitting here trying to write and the incessant sound of water dumping out of the filtration pipe because the water level is down 6″ in the tank had pushed me to my last nerve, I got up and instead of grabbing the bucket to get more water, I just flipped the power switch to turn everything off.

Mind you, there’s still an algae eater in there somewhere … I actually think that he’s the only one left because the other two died recently … and we saw him enjoying their remains at his leisure. But I honestly didn’t really think much of it, that is until Cleo came running into my office a little while ago, stopped dead in her tracks, and made a bee-line for the darkened fish tank where it was pretty clear that she knew something was up…

For some strange reason, Cleo has always liked my fish – I guess when we adopted her, she became a fish person, too – but she would always come in and put her nose up to the glass, and I eventually put a little storage box there for her to step on so that she could see better into the tank. She didn’t really care for the other ones, but that algae eater for some reason … we ended up nicknaming him Cleo Fish just because she would get so excited when he was out and about, and so mad when he was hiding in his cave and she couldn’t see him!

I guess the TL/DR of this blog post is … I need to become a better fish tank owner because I’ll never hear the end of it from the dog if I euthanize that one stupid fish. 😕


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