It’s time to reflect on 2022. From a computing angle, my rural area FINALLY rolled out fiber internet. Social media’s demise seems to have accelerated this year. And in a gaming letdown, the Breath of the Wild sequel was delayed until next year. On the upside, 2022 was surprised with JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles 3, which released to rave reviews and later got three nominations in the annual Game Awards. As for blogging, there were vexing WordPress shenanigans.
In April I pulled the plug on Twitter. When word first got out that Elon Musk was eyeing a takeover and after I felt the burn of borderline addiction — doomscrolling, constantly checking Tweets — I’d had enough. My ten year old account…deleted! And the Twitter that was is no more; Elon’s Twitter is…tumultuous.
Also in April, I logged out of Facebook; I didn’t delete my account…yet. If I stay off until next April — a whole year — then I might finally nuke my account from orbit. Meanwhile in 2022, Facebook’s earnings and market share dropped big time. Zuckerberg continues to pivot towards an unwelcome metaverse while Instagram saw negative blowback from troubling changes and more feature bloat.
April was crazy. It was around that time I stopped staff writing at RPGamer. Then WordPress shadow dropped a radical plan/pricing upheaval that caused the WP community much consternation. After a few months of uncertainty and backpedaling, WordPress basically hit the big UNDO button on the whole thing! So…I left WP and rejoined Blogger!
In late summer, I employed Minimalism (anti-consumerism) to moderate my tech fascination and related personal interests (photography), avoiding Apple’s annual new iPhone adver-nouncement. With Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, I also got a fresh take on Biblical Minimalism, wanting more of less. Later I slowly and intentionally resumed my normal habits of blogging, computing, and gaming.
Interestingly, this Fall I started to change my mind about Apple’s AirPods due to their expense and lack of audio quality. Despite their great convenience, I realized other brands and types of wireless audio are more affordable and convenient enough. Then I got a new pair of wireless JBL over-ear headphones for Christmas! Now my two year old AirPods are…backup? Going forward, I’m open to more non-Apple gear; don’t want to drink too much of that kool-aid.
This year I played JRPGs and a racing game. I began 2022 with progress in both Bravely Default II and Octopath Traveler then paused for months. Later I started Pokémon Legends: Arceus, finishing in the fall. Then I quickly beat BDII and Octopath. Finally, I started the epic Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, which I should finish in early 2023. I also enjoyed Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered on the side. Speaking of side gaming, I plan to resume Animal Crossing: New Horizons, hopefully on a Switch OLED in 2023!
I set my usual goal of reading 12 books in a year, one per month. I failed, reading only 8. But I think I read quality over quantity! Also, I upgraded my Kindle to the newest Paperwhite; love it.
For movies, I loved Top Gun: Maverick at the theater this summer, watching it twice on the big screen before buying the blu-ray disc set with the original. In the fall, I watched The Batman for the first time; great movie though a tad long. Also new to me this year, Tenet, which I’ll need to watch backwards to see if it makes sense.
I didn’t watch much TV this year, but the little I did was fantastic. It was Severence on Apple TV+! Can’t wait for the next season.
What did you like/dislike in 2022? What do you look forward to in 2023?
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10–11
Though almost 10 years old, here’s a great article, Consumerism and its Discontents, with a good finger on the pulse of the shifting culture among Millennials in regards to American Capitalism and Consumerism.
A short excerpt:
“What is the solution for Americans unhappy with consumerism? Many are beginning to make changes in their personal lives…Many are “downshifting” to a simpler life.”
A simpler life, as in minimalism.
Discontent with excess
Unhappy with over-consumption
Overwhelmed by surplus
Burdened with clutter
There’s more awareness today of the downsides of consumerism, and the article goes on to address the larger, more systemic problem with western capitalism at a national level.
While that’s important, I think the reaction of Millennials, and other like-minded people, is a great start because the immediate adverse effects of over-consumption are directly countered at the individual level by practicing minimalism, along with a healthy dose of contentment.
Sometimes systemic change is best sown at a grass-roots level, being firmly planted and allowed to grow naturally in the environment. It’s like a bottom-up rather than top-down approach. Yet it’s likely best to address excess consumerism from both ends for the most holistic and sure solution.
In the past 5 years of this blog, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about intimacy or marriage. That said, I guess those topics fit in the “more” part of my blog’s tagline, “Computing, Gaming, and more.” I jest. But I’ll broach the subjects in this post as they relate to technology.
With 20+ years of marriage — and 5 kids — marital intimacy is a subject of interest. So one related resource I like is Ultimate Intimacy.
First, UI has a smartphone app that I highly recommend (although I currently don’t have it on my minimized iPhone).
Second, the UI podcast is great. I listen to most episodes, and a recent one stood out from a “computing” perspective, which also happens to directly overlap a current subject of focus: Screen Addiction/Distraction.
Note that while smartphone display distraction hurts a person first, it then scales out to relationships and culture altogether.
I can say from experience that my own screen habits have distracted me from listening to my wife at times. She would be talking to me, but I would be compulsively checking my smartphone instead of listening to her. That’s not smart. Nor is it loving. I tried to half-way listen while glancing at my screen…I was trying to fool myself into thinking that sort of multitasking worked.
In fact, screen distraction hinders face-to-face communication, which in turn weakens a relationship. This is much less an issue now since I intentionally keep my phone off the bedside table; it resides atop the dresser out of arm’s reach.
One of the stats discussed on the podcast was how many hours on average per day a person spends on a screen. I admit that my own iPhone Screen Time, before I minimized it, reflected the stat with about 5 hours a day. It was too much.
The podcast also mentions an upcoming book by Nate Klemp that I’m interested in reading, “OPEN: Finding Freedom in a Screen Addicted and Divided World.” Hopefully it will bring compelling info and inspire me towards more mindful and moderate use of my internet-connected screens.
Will you give the Ultimate Intimacy podcast or app a try?
A year ago, I finally received my first major Tom Bihn bag. I was ready to embrace Everyday Carry in a whole new way: a cross-body bag. No more wallet for me; I chose a man-bag for its utility and functionality. My pockets became free, empty of EDC detritus! I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is…in the other pocket.
This annual review is easy because the Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag is as great now as when I first stared using it. I wear it to Wal-Mart, the mall, Lowes, or you name it. It has even summited Pike’s Peak with me.
Sometimes, the Small Cafe Bag feels a little bit like overkill for my most used daily carry items: phone, keys, wallet. But I like toting a few small extras; my sunglasses and AirPods have become as EDC as my PKW. And I carry a Leatherman multitool among other small items.
There are times when having the large space of the bag is super convenient and comfortable. When needed, I can throw in a water bottle, a book, snacks, or my JBL Go portable bluetooth speaker. It’s big enough to easily hold anything my hands wish to not carry, and it’s small enough to stay comfortably resting across my shoulder for long stretches of time.
The hook-n-strap O-ring tethering system, where various-sized mini-bags easily connect to a larger Tom Bihn bag, is super cool and practical. I’m able to easily pull my sunglasses out every time I need them thanks to the added Small Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch; same goes for my AirPods in the Super Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch. The Mini Q-Kit rests freely at the bottom of the bag since it holds things I don’t need often but am very glad to have when I need them (like Advil, a USB flash drive, nail clippers…).
No zippers stuck
No buckles or hooks or clasps broken
As for not being able to detach the shoulder strap at either connection point, I’ve never found this to be an issue. It’s easy to simply lift the strap over my head. And I think it simplifies using the bag; there’s one way on and off.
Another upside: I didn’t expect to like the Clear Organizer Pouch as my new wallet as much as I do. I’ve come to appreciate its simplicity and security. It’s big enough to hold my license, a couple credit cards, and the occasional folded bill or two. The zipper secures everything inside, and the clear front panel lets me easily see what I’m reaching for.
The pouch-as-wallet lives tethered to an O-ring within the Small Cafe Bag’s front zippered pocket, which is covered and locked by the bag’s large flap and buckle. So my wallet is super-secured – no way to be pick-pocketed – and the tether is long enough to use at a register without accidentally leaving the wallet behind.
Surely the bag isn’t a perfect fit, right? I’d venture to say finding the “Goldilocks” bag is ever elusive. For me and my EDC, the Small Cafe Bag is probably as close as it can be. There are a few minor things though.
The sliding pad on the shoulder strap is looser than I’d like. Too often or too easily, it slips off my shoulder. I think it might be better if locked in place at the mid-point of the strap. But best would likely be a tighter fit instead so that it can slide when needed but also stay in place otherwise.
There’s room from my iPad in its case to fit inside the Small Cafe Bag. But functionally, it’s not a great fit; it’s a bit tight. Carrying the tablet is fine for transport but not for getting stuff in and out of the bag while the iPad is mostly filling it. I thought I’d carry my 10.2″ iPad everywhere, but that never worked out. An iPad mini, though, could comfortably live in the bag (which tempts me to buy one). Likewise, an eReader (my Kindle!) easily fits in the Small Cafe Bag or even the bag’s rear open pouch.
I don’t regret buying the Small Cafe Bag from Tom Bihn. I love my bag! It’s useful, nice, and I’ve grown accustomed to it. Besides keeping my pockets free of bulk, the bag gives me enough space for a few extra EDC things, and it creates dedicated pockets or pouches for those things so I always know where to find them. When it’s time to go, I grab one thing, the Small Cafe Bag, instead of stuffing several different items into my pockets.
Being invested in Tom Bihn, I plan to buy more bags. I’m eye-balling the Daylight Briefcase for my MacBook Air while commuting. I’d also like the Tom Bihn Luminary backpack. Of course, I want more pouches and such. And as for the Freudian Slip made for the Small Cafe Bag, I’m interested in trying it out. In lieu of the separate organizer pouches I mentioned above, I think it would serve to keep my extras in place.
I’m a happy Tom Bihn customer. I carry the bags, the bags carry my stuff; it’s a good fit.
My workflow’s been in flux. Until recently, I relied on Apple’s Notes and Reminders apps to track my thoughts and tasks; now I’m migrating (cautiously) to Microsoft’s OneNoteand To Do apps (I briefly tried Todoist as well). When you add, “Try a new to-do app” to your to-do list, which to-do app should you put it on, your current one or the new one(s) you’re trying? It’s a most meta question, I guess, for getting things done #GTD.
In researching the whole idea of task management, I’ve found there are various methods; it partly depends on your own mind’s natural way of thinking. While I think there’s no single “correct” way to manage tasks, there is a best way that works for each individual, and there are generally a few over-arching approaches.
One well-known method is to use the Eisenhower Matrix (see here, here, or here) to determine priority status of certain tasks and thus how to handle them. Each task falls somewhere on a scale of importance and/or urgency. In other words, some tasks are more about want-to-do than need-to-do, and they’re also either dated or not, like a project that has a specific deadline versus a task that can be procrastinated forever.
Finding the right to-do app is, of course, a task unto itself; I think it’s important but not urgent. You likely already have a task manager app; everyone’s needs and styles differ. Basically, all task apps are similar, as they feature checklists of tasks that can be organized in a number of ways, and they each have a particular way of handling dates and reminders. After finding your ideal to-do app, you then must consider how you’ll use it.
You could put all your tasks in a to-do app, including sub-tasks as well. This means your task app will have a huge number of things-to-do. That high number may be daunting to you. To counter such overwhelm, you could instead only add high-level tasks, noting only the big picture; any sub-tasks or details can be then placed into a note-taking app for further management. This is somewhat disparate though and thus has its own drawbacks. It’s up to each person to decide how they like to do to-dos.
How do you like to do to-dos?
I was trying a new-to-me thing in which I kept only my urgentto-dos (tasks that have dates or reminders attached to them) in my to-do app, and all my non-urgent to-dos in my notes app in organized checklists. I see a large number of tasks in my notes and a very small number of tasks in my to-do app. But this approach for me started to break down because once a task becomes urgent or otherwise planned (eventually), it must move to a new app (manually). The cross-app work is too much for my three-pound brain; task duplication becomes a problem. In short, I may move all my tasks into my to-do app and get them organized there.
That said, I also like to keep project checklists with my project notes…hmmm. The only good solution I know of that effectively combines both Notes and Tasks is Evernote, but it costs money. It might be worth it… If you have any advice here, please leave a comment below.
We all manage tasks in some way, and while some folks take an intuitive hands-off approach, others seek the perfect task management system and mastery thereof. Most people are somewhere along that spectrum. I hope my example is somewhat informative and that maybe you can improve your own way of doing all the to-dos.
Journaling is a good habit. It makes sense to support it with a good tool. Some prefer good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, yet others like to go digital. While there are many journaling apps, one often stands out: Day One. I’ve been using the app for a week, but this is not my first time trying it. What’s different now?
Day One has a positive reputation, having earned awards for its beauty, simplicity, and functionality. Added to that list are its more recent achievements: privacy and security via end-to-end encryption. Suffice to say, this digital diary deserves noteworthy attention for all its quality. So over the past few years, I’ve eagerly installed Day One a handful of times to try it, but the app never clicked with me.
One of the reasons was its interface. Despite exuding elegance, I found the high number of features, icons, settings, and fine text to be a bit much for my taste. In other words, it looked and felt distracting and somewhat overwhelming. I am accustomed to the relative simplicity of Apple Notes, which has been my main outlet for private journaling; Day One was “busier” by contrast.
Another issue I’ve waffled about — across a variety of productivity apps — is whether to rely on first-party software or third-party solutions. There are pros and cons to both sides; in general, I stick with Apple’s default apps for their ecosystem synergy. That said, there’s a distinct advantage to using a specialized journaling app over a generalized note taking app: dedication.
That’s why I am trying a third-party journaling app again. It recently occurred to me: I need to remove my innermost personal thoughts from the Apple Notes app. Instead, they should be kept in a dedicated or specialized app, separate from disparate folders and tags of general notes. This would let my secret musings be siloed into their own service that’s more private and secure, and it would allow me to focus attention on my journaling habit, giving it a vital boost.
Simply having a particular app icon — dedicated to journaling — on my iPad’s home screen or dock, for example, makes journaling more visually prominent. Seeing the Day One app reminds me it’s important to journal. More than that, it welcomes me to a dedicated place where I can pour out my brain’s firings and misfirings — unfiltered and unfettered.
I love Apple Notes and rely on it, but my journals felt somewhat overlooked within it; my journaling habit fell to neglect. This is despite the fact that I had a Shortcut on my home-screen to automatically create a new note with the current date in the title, which allowed me to quickly start the day’s diary entry. Also, since Apple Notes now features tagging, in addition to folders, I have begun to reorganize my notes by type and subject. This process, and the results, will work much better with my journals relocated to Day One.
I’ve only been using Day One for a week, so it’s too early to know if I’ll stick with it. I need a dedicated journaling app though, so I’m giving Day One a real try with an open mind. As I move my journals from Apple Notes to Day One, I backdate them as needed. I’ve also restarted daily journaling again, utilizing one of the features that a dedicated journaling app is uniquely apt for: a writing streak or goal. With Day One, I now have a widget on my iPad that shows my current 6-day journaling streak; it’s another reminder of the importance to reflect daily.
Besides widgets, Day One has many other niceties that aid or improve journaling: calendar view, timeline view, auto date/time stamps, auto weather data, templates, daily prompts, reminders, and ”On this day”. This last feature automatically displays photos for any given date along with any journal entries on that same day. Seeing this in action has been somewhat revelatory, making me think it’s a feature that I can’t believe I’ve lived without.
I have only a few minor quibbles with Day One. I wish the passcode was at least 6 digits instead of a mere 4, or maybe an alphanumeric passphrase option would be better; I guess it’s secure enough. The app has extra icons, text labels, and other features I don’t need — like adding audio, video, or drawings — but the user interface overall is easy enough to look at and use; I’m already becoming accustomed to it. In time, I’ll probably unpack my bags, settle in, and feel comfy enough to unpack my feels and thoughts on a regular basis. And I’ll likely pay the annual subscription fee, which amounts to about the cost of one coffee per month — totally worth it I think. Otherwise, the free version is very capable so far.
When Apple Card launched a couple years ago, I was interested but somewhat skeptical. Could Apple really apply its simplicity and elegance to a credit card? Doubtful, and uninterested in interest payments on debt, I ignored it. However, it’s funny how things can change over time; I’m now a happy Apple Card carrying customer.
I think most would agree that consumer credit cards don’t have the most favorable track record; they’re kind of icky. Credit cards statements are hard to read (there’s always fine print), interest payments and fees can really put the hurt on your wallet, and managing debt with an omnipresent FICO score is the kind of fun nobody wants.
Solving these problems seemed impossible, but as I looked into Apple Card, I noticed that somehow Apple made it feasible. Give Apple credit; it was the one that solved the problem in 2007 of bad phones and voicemail service from cell carriers.
From initiation, onboarding, to now using, Apple Card has been as simple and elegant as advertised. The most striking and pleasing thing is Apple wants to help the consumer avoid debt or interest. It does this by presenting a diagram that compares making a minimum payment with a large or full payment, so the user sees the costs or money saved between them. It also includes short descriptions that explain and encourage keeping the balance paid down.
“Built on Simplicity, Transparency and Privacy, and Designed to Help Customers Lead a Healthier Financial Life“
Another rewarding aspect is Apple Card’s instant daily cash back. The percentage varies, but it’s fairly straightforward. I like seeing the amount of daily cash quickly add up and appear on my Apple Cash card; it’s like saving change from the register and filling a jar at home. Before long, I’ll have some extra spending money, which I’ll need for my next Apple purchase of course.
The mantra truly applies to Apple Card, ”It just works.”
There are more details about the card I appreciate, like it being built into the Wallet app and the convenience of Apple Pay in stores via my Apple Watch or online. I also love that purchases are color coded to their types, which makes it easy to see at a glance how I spend my money. As with all Apple products, Apple Card also benefits from the privacy and security that Apple is known for. Suffice to say I’m a delighted Apple Card user.
Not surprisingly, my latest Apple hardware acquisition does include a chip in it: the titanium physical Apple Card. It may be the most simple and elegant piece of Apple hardware and tech I’ve ever owned.
As one who generally eschews consumer credit cards, I admit to really enjoying Apple Card and look forward to building my credit. It’s simple, elegant, and convenient. I recommend it, and I’m not alone. This recent consumer satisfaction reporttells the same story; many people are happy with it.
There’s a new man-bag in town. Call it a satchel, cross-body bag, or a tablet bag…or heck, a man-purse or murse; call it what you want, it’s my everyday carry bag (EDC). Most important and exciting of all, it’s the Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag, and it’s finally here!
Good things come to those who wait
I waited months for the pre-order to open and then more months for production and shipping to complete until — at long last — my EDC bag of choice arrived in a small brown box off a big brown truck.
Previously, I had spent many weeks researching and shopping online in a quest to find the best bag. Tom Bihn was the best bag maker at the best prices I found. The expert pack company has the widest selection of bag sizes and colors to suit my tastes. I especially like the modular organization system that revolves around the O-ring (please watch the linked video to really see it in action). In each bag are one or more O-rings to which a variety of pouches attach. It’s a simple yet smart and flexible way to keep any bits and bobs tidy; nobody likes a cluttered contents compartment.
Settling on the right-sized cross-body bag wasn’t easy. I wanted a bag big enough to fit a 10″ iPad. Though concerned a bag that size might be too large for everyday carry, my worries became unpacked. Using the bag on a few normal outings, I’ve found it fitting. I like the ample roominess inside; it lets me easily reach my forearms into it for optimal item retrieval, and it’s spacious enough to hold a small water bottle — something Texas summers requires. That said, I’ve also thought it would be nice to see a Mini Cafe Bag — sized to fit an iPad mini or other 7″ tablet — and I might like to upgrade someday to the Medium Cafe Bag. Having extra room seems extra nice, yet it might be too much.
Delight in Details
Besides its comfortable size, my favorite traits of the Small Cafe Bag are:
Strong yet supple shoulder strap
Almost like a car’s seat belt but narrower and smoother
It also has an effective strap pad with tiny grip nubs to minimize shoulder slipping.
Simple yet sufficient compartments
There are only 3 (front, back, and main); they’re not overloaded with pockets or dividers.
1 stuff pocket and 3 pen pockets grace the main pouch.
Fine quality materials
Firm yet flexible fabrics in and out
They feel very nice yet tough
525 ballistic outer and 210 ballistic inner
Burnt orange, gray, and black
I love the burnt orange
My EDC Kit Fit Out
Everyone fits out their everyday carry kit differently. My Small Cafe Bag‘s main area carries an iPad plus four organizer pouches (detailed below) snapped onto the two O-Rings. Also tethered by a key strap are my…car keys.
Snugly tucked into the primary compartment’s stuff pouch are a tin of Altoids and a Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool, or it also neatly fits my JBL Go Bluetooth speaker when needed. The three pen pouches hold two Bic 4-color ink pens and eventually an Apple Pencil.
Though this open pocket on the back of the Small Cafe Bag is large enough to accommodate an eReader or small paperback, I normally use it for only one thing: my iPhone 8 Plus. Located on the back, it stays against my body while wearing, which makes it feel somewhat secure despite being open on top. And since I access my phone often, it’s nice to quickly and easily slip my phone in or out. It can lay vertically or horizontally, and there’s room for other items when needed. The other use of this open pocket is quickly storing the shoulder strap when hand carrying the bag.
There’s one small challenge worth mentioning here. The handle strap on top of the bag somewhat overs the back pocket and sometimes hinders access to it. It’s minor and easily managed, but it might be the one imperfection of an otherwise ideal EDC bag. This little issue also might be solved through usage over time, causing the handle strap to become set in an upright position. As it’s new, the strap lays flat and down toward the back pocket’s opening.
This is the only zippered compartment in the Small Cafe Bagand is tucked under the main buckled flap, so I find it’s the best place for my “wallet” (also with its own zipper). My wallet is tethered with a 6″ Key Strap. The front pocket also contains other thin or flat items: trail mix bag, almond butter, and a mask.
I’m super happy to embrace Tom Bihn’s O-Ring system with organizer pouches. To arrange my accouterments, I have 4 add-ons clipped to O-rings throughout, tailored to my daily essentials:
Clear Organizer Pouch
This replaced my old-school bi-fold leather wallet to carry cards and some cash.
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Small
The quintessential sunglasses pouch.
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Super Mini
AirPods case goes here.
Q-Kit – Mini
This cool little taco-shaped pouch holds my spare EarPods (neatly coiled in a plastic snack bag), Advil, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a spare key.
Another add-on package to mention — a packet-full-o-pockets — is called the Freudian Slip. It’s a custom tailored insert for the Small Cafe Bag that features several pockets and a handy looped pull-strap on top. While I don’t know if this insert will fit in the bag along with an iPad, I’d like to try it in the future (in Cloud gray of course) since it might be useful to have in lieu of the iPad sometimes. I’ve also wondered if the Freudian Slip would be a better option than separate organizer pouches clasped to O-Rings. Then again, the Slip also has its own O-Ring too. Also, it has a large enough pocket to contain an iPad mini/7″ tablet or eReader.
A Tablet Bag
I categorize this bag impression under Mobile Computing: Accessories because carrying a tablet requires things like a case, sleeve, or a bag — often a combo of those. An EDC bag large enough to lug a lightweight laptop replacement (iPad) is an essential accessory.
The Small Cafe Bag, though little enough for everyday carrying, is large enough to house an iPad or similar 10″ tablet (or a Nintendo Switch). Given that, I designate it as a Tablet Bag. I make this distinction because in American culture, traditionally it has been acceptable or “normal” for a male to carry either a backpack, briefcase, or a laptop bag, but anything smaller has often been deemed inappropriate for a male.
Tradition is nice and all, but times change. Since a cross-body laptop bag is acceptable for men, then why not a cross-body tablet bag? It’s smaller but not necessarily less masculine. While there are several bag makers on the market that provide solutions for anyone to carry tablets among everyday essentials, Tom Bihn makes the one I like best. The Small Cafe Bag is an excellent tablet bag and EDC bag.
Oh, and by the way, I love the burnt orange color!
Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.
My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.
After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).
Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?
Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.
For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.
A few weeks back, I wrote about some stormy changes that were really rocking my boat. The storm front passed, but the waters are still choppy. Departing from my normal topics again, allow me to journal the latest.
My Day Job
One month ago, my whole company was furloughed. But at the time of my last post on this topic, I had just been hired by the new company that is buying my former employer. Due to extenuating circumstances, things just weren’t going smoothly. Long story short, when my previous company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it ended up as Chapter 7 instead. In the past week alone, I brought a couple things back into the office to work but then had to retreat once more. Now we’re told we can’t enter the building for an undetermined time frame. Meanwhile, we can work from home, assuming we don’t lost access to the servers. So, yeah, things are still in flux. The good news is two-fold: at least I’m gainfully employed, and I already received my first paycheck after several weeks of zero income. Hoo-ray!
Meanwhile, I continue to press forward with my new Real Estate licensing online courses. This is a substantial task that I committed to the day before I was furloughed. If nothing else, it’s so I have some kind of back-up plan in case my job goes south again. Besides requiring time and self-discipline, these courses drain my mental energies since I must focus diligently to absorb loads of detailed Real Estate information. I actually must comprehend and retain it all, go figure. Here’s the bright side: I’m 94% through the first course. The exam is around the corner. Wish me luck!
My Night Job
Now we come to one of the cool things happening. I previously mentioned that I was hired to write for an online publication. So without further ado, let me announce: I’m an Editorialist for RPGamer.com. So far, I’ve written only two pieces for the site. You can check them out here. In case you don’t know, the site is about role-playing video games (e.g. Final Fantasy). If you follow my blog, then you’ve probably noticed that I like video games, especially JRPGs. Put that together with my fondness for writing and — voila— you’ve magically alchemized my passions. Although I’ve started as an Editorialist, I may branch out to adjacent forms of wordsmithing. My time with RPGamer is not just to write; I also proof edit other writers’ articles. It takes self-motivation and discipline, and I’m still trying to gauge how to balance my time amongst all my tasks. But I think things will settle out soon enough.
Given that I now type words for a large publication, in addition to my other exploits, it’s no wonder that my personal blog time has suffered somewhat. But don’t fear. I plan to keep this thing going on some level. So that’s what has been going on with me lately. It’s been a bumpy roller-coaster of work, stopping and starting; I think I almost vomited once. But at least I can say I survived it. Well, so far.
Hey, blog friends. This post is an update on personal things of late because, let me tell you, it’s been a wild time. So pardon this one for not being a usual topic. But hey, it’s still a personal blog, so here we go.
Furloughed and Hired
Let’s jump right into the big news. I lost my job almost two weeks ago. It was a shocker; that day won’t soon be forgotten. The situation, though, isn’t simple. The complications make it worse. I’ve been in limbo, unsure what to do, and unable to make firm decisions about the future. My whole company was furloughed while it approaches bankruptcy. I won’t disclose details, of course. But I can say they were changing daily as new info surfaced. That’s what they call a fluid situation, which requires much flexibility. So, yeah, it really stretched me.
That said, there’s also good news about this. I have been hired by a new company as of yesterday! Basically, I’m getting my job back, but it will be under a different employer. Like I mentioned, it’s a bit complicated. The hiring process, as of this writing, is ongoing. The current phase is on-boarding, so I’ve felt much relief in the past 24 hours.
Enrolled in School
Concurrent with the above turmoil, and that’s no exaggeration, I’ve been implementing a back-up plan. So here’s the other big news: I enrolled in an online school to get a Real Estate License. I paid for it and am half-way through the first course. It’s a very big undertaking that will take around 6 months to complete. I dove into the deep end head first and am already swimming laps. Let’s hope I don’t drown. My brain started to melt a few times from all the new info. I poured more coffees.
Hired to Write
Finally, the last big news is this. I was hired to write for an online publication last week! I won’t announce which one at this time because I’m still the new guy, and consider myself under some kind of temporary probation period. The position is voluntary, so I don’t get paid. Now before you say anything, yeah, it might seem weird to accept a position in which I don’t make money after I just lost my income. But I love doing the work and am loving my new online family of team members. I can’t wait to gush about it more, but for now I’m just trying not to mess up a great thing. I still feel lucky.
So, given all the above, I can say I’ve experienced some stress lately. But I seem to be managing it well enough. My family and I are doing fine on a reduced budget and are able to weather this stormy season. And I’m serious about the commitments I’ve made.
Anyways, that’s what’s up. When the dust settles, and I’ve figured out how to adjust to all the new changes, which are still in flux as I write this, then I’ll resume more regular blog posts. In the past few years, this blog has acted like an anchor for me. It disciplines me to keep focused and keep writing amidst all of life’s ebb and flow.
Everyday, we have stuff to carry. Mobile Computing requires its own burden of accoutrements. Take iPad, for example. With it, you’re likely to have at least one portable peripheral, either an Apple Pencil or a Smart Keyboard. And don’t forget headphones. To haul that gear, your pants pockets won’t be enough. That’s one reason why I’ve been looking at EDC bags.
After much research, I finally settled on one company – TOM BIHN – to address my Everyday Carry (EDC) needs, which includes not just the usual phone/keys/wallet but also tech accessories (Techcessories).
Tom Bihn sells both big bags and small organizer pouches. These little pockets are intentionally designed to not only fit inside the bags but also to work well together. If you’re curious to know more, check out this video, an Ode To O-Rings.
I’ve not yet received my first Tom Bihn bag, but I did get one of the small pouches. It’s called the Clear Organizer Pouch. I wanted it to use inside a bag I plan to buy. And I bought it first so I could sample a bit of Tom Bihn material.
The fabric is 1050 Denier HT Ballistic Nylon. It’s smooth yet has a nice bit of texture to it. So it doesn’t feel rough. I’ve shoved it in and out of my pocket and my laptop bag, yet it hasn’t been marred, scuffed, or scratched in any way. Seams and stitching look and feel excellent.
I haven’t gotten the pouch wet, or spilled coffee on it, but you can clearly see the coating on the inside that protects it from liquid. Also, the fabric doesn’t stretch, but the clear urethane-based front window feels like it could if you had a bulging object inside the pouch. I like that it’s totally transparent.
On the other hand, that clear urethane grabs a plastic AirPods case with serious grip. You won’t slide AirPods into the pouch.
When ordering, you can’t pick the color you want. But I got lucky with my first preference, Burnt Orange! It’s darker/more “burnt” in person than online and is completely uniform across the fabric. And it has a little shine to it in the light.
The zipper is not too loose or tight. Nor is it too loud in a quiet office when unzipping! The zipper pull feels like a tough plastic, not a cold metal. I believe this material choice is to avoid scratching your phone or other things in your bag. Nice. As for sound, the zip-pull is only slightly clangy to me, not a problem.
The O-Ring and snaphook also feel like the same material as the zipper pull. The snaphook is much easier to use than I expected. Getting it hooked on or off stuff is simple. It also has a quiet snap sound to it.
Finally, the handle loop has good thickness and width. It’s tough but isn’t rough on your hand. The slider that tightens the loop won’t fall off, but I imagine with enough force it could be removed.
The size of this Mini pouch fits in my pants’ front pocket to use as a simple wallet. I loop the handle-loop over itself through my belt loop to tether the pouch. It works great.
The Mini is also a nice size for keeping little tech things organized like headphones or Nintendo Switch cartridges. The fit is snug, yet it will store an Apple Watch with the wrist-strap removed.
Overall, the Tom Bihn Clear Organizer Pouch – Mini is a fine utilitarian product. It feels like it will last for a long time, as in decades. The pouch comes in various fun colors and is a simple example of form and function working well together.
With this small taste of Tom Bihn quality craftsmanship, I look forward to buying more of their organizer solutions and, of course, a nice bag to put them in.
One of Tom Bihn’s slogans is, “Portable Culture.” With Mobile Computing and Everyday Carry, that’s as true today as ever.
Back in January, I posted two pieces on man-bags and everyday carry. My quest is near complete; I think I’ve found the best bags I’m looking for! From a company all about bags and made right here in America: Tom Bihn.
File this under Mobile Computing: Accessories. Why? Because I’ve got two bags now that I plan to buy. One big enough for my phablet. The other big enough for a tablet. And that’s just for starters.
I’ve been kind of obsessing over Tom Bihn bags lately. I looked at them before with interest yet kept my quest broad. But now I’m settling on Bihn bags. It’s not just the bags, it’s the company.
The website is done super well. It’s very informative, not just about the bags they sell, but about the materials and individual components that go into making their bags. It utilizes text and a host of polished, fun videos that educate customers and bag enthusiasts.
Yes. One can be enthusiastic about bags.
The site goes even further, like on the Tom Bihn blog. You can learn about the bag design process itself there. Tom Bihn is an expert bag maker and has a passion for quality craftsmanship and bags in general.
More than that, he and his company show care for their customers (and their employees) as people who need or want good bags. While that sounds like it shouldn’t be surprising, I find it refreshing and genuine. Just check out the Company Philosophy page. And the footer of every site page boldly lists a “Lifetime Guarantee.”
I don’t want to buy “just a bag”. I want to buy into a company I can trust and rely on for quality. While Tom Bihn’s website conveys these traits, a good outside source to learn about the best bags is Carryology. In one article, they list the 10 best buy-it-for-life bag brands. And yes, Tom Bihn is one of them.
Also, there’s another cool thing: Tom Bihn bags are made in the USA! I totally support that.
Now let me talk about another aspect of Tom Bihn. Without hyperbole, the bags they make are sort of like rare treasures. It’s the simple law of economics: supply and demand.
Tom Bihn being a small company making bags for a huge number of people means supply is small and demand is huge. Pre-orders sell out quick. They have a limited rotation of bags in stock at any given time.
Meanwhile, only particular bags are in production for a certain time, waiting to be snapped up by willing buyers as soon as the bags are available. And it’s not just the bags, but the specific colors you might want. They’re all limited.
This makes the bags harder to come by. And that raises their value: scarcity. I like this. It happens to help my bank account too because, otherwise, I may hit the “buy” button too often and too quickly.
So I’ve signed up to be notified when certain bags become available! It’s kind of like a wait-list. The downside is that I could really use an EDC bag now; I must keep stuffing my pockets a bit longer with my daily gear.
I carry these (plus a folding knife that stays clipped to my pocket) everywhere I go everyday, and I just don’t have enough pockets, or patience, to keep up with them. I need one place where they all can live. So when I gotta go, I just grab the EDC bag and all my stuff goes with me.
For the essentials, I’ve chosen the Everyday Cubelet. At one point, I had decided on grey; it’s neutral and works with business casual. But now I so want the burnt orange. It’s my favorite!
The other bag I plan to buy is the Small Cafe bag. It looks cool, and it’s just big enough to carry a 10″ tablet plus EDC gear. #takemymoney.
Besides these, I’m eager to order a Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch (small) to store my sunglasses safely and securely inside a TB bag. I’ve been in need of one and learned Tom Bihn has a nice solution.
I’ll get a first-hand taste of Tom Bihn craftsmanship. I plan to check out the stitching, seams, material color and feel, and of course the O-Ring and snap-hook pieces. Also, the pouches will fit nicely as accessories into the bags I get in the near future.
This is another reason why I’m excited about Tom Bihn bags: their modular organization system. The bags are made to work together. Little organizer pouches snap into the bags. And small bags can attach neatly onto or into bigger bags. The system relies on simple hooks and O-Rings, among other things. It’s thoughtful design.
To help me wait for my first purchases to arrive and for the bags on my wish-list to become available, I’ve joined the Forums at the Tom Bihn site. It’s a good place to learn more about the bags and share in the obsession enthusiasm over them.
Quest Near Complete
So this is where I’m at in my quest for the best bag.
I think I’ve landed at the right spot with Tom Bihn. At first, I wanted a Sling Bag. Then a Messenger Bag. Then my want changed to a small cross-body bag. Tom Bihn has many great options for all the above; I’m buying in.
I just can’t wait until the Everday Cubelet and Small Cafe bag are available.
Do you think it’s okay for a guy to carry a man-bag? If so, are there any that you recommend? That’s what I’ve been looking into lately. I like the idea of EDC (every day carry) bags for men and how that intersects with mobile computing. And I’m on a quest to find the bag that’s quintessential for the essentials.
File this post under Tech. It’s tangential since you need a bag to carry mobile computing gear (plus more) on the go. We haul phone-computers in our pockets everyday. They’re phablets now, almost un-pocketable. And good-luck trying to shove a Nintendo Switch into your pocket.
A guy’s pockets are also stuffed with the usual suspects: keys, wallet, knife, earbuds, etc. I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of clothing cargo space. Yet I don’t have enough gear to warrant strapping on a hulking backpack every day.
Pockets: not enough. Backpack: too much. There must be a better option.
Not A Murse
First, let’s target the stigma of a guy carrying a bag smaller than a backpack. What is the deal?
If pockets are too small and a backpack is too big, then why can’t a dude just use a small to medium sized shoulder or cross-body bag?
Back when I carried all my keys on a single key-ring, the wad of metal clutter crammed into my pocket was super annoying. So I would often toss them into my wife’s purse. Why can’t I carry my own…man-bag without feeling akward?
“Ridicule around “murses” is a bit much though, in my opinion. We’re in a cultural place where a man can carry a medium to large bag, or whatever fits in his pockets, but nothing in-between. Which is a little odd when you think about it.”
Yeah, it’s odd.
A Man Bag
Okay, so it’s totally practical for a guy, anyone for that matter, to daily carry a small-ish bag when the amount of gear calls for it. Cool. Makes sense to me. The advantages are worth it. Your stuff is always with you, it’s well organized, and thus makes you better prepared.
Then the next question is, what’s the best man-bag for the job? Now that is a tough one.
My ongoing hunt for the perfect ideal EDC bag has been a challenge. But I’ve been enjoying it and have also learned a thing or two.
Along this journey, my previous post about the quest for the best bag mentioned two great sites on the niche topic of EDC and bags. I’ve added others; here’s the updated list:
At first, I had wanted a sling bag. But then I decided on a mini-messenger bag or cross-body shoulder bag. And up until now, I’ve had my sights set on a bag just big enough to carry a 10 or 11 inch iPad.
But I’m at cross-roads. I don’t have an iPad (at the moment), so I’m thinking I should try a smaller EDC bag, one that’s big enough for an iPad mini or eReader.
The quest continues…
If you can recommend a good EDC man-bag or another website, sound off in the comments below. Thanks!
So, it happened. After much time, Google officially bought Fitbit; the deal is done. This tech news is tainted though. Why? I doubt Google will be a good steward of Fitbit. Look at what happened to both Motorola and Nest.
Google is a data driven company. Does anyone really trust it won’t eventually begin integrating Fitbit users’ private personal health data or somehow using it for ad revenue? And how was this aquisition allowed given the current state of “Big Tech” anti-trust scrutiny? How/why did EU and US regulators pass this?
I’ve never owned a Fitbit. I have owned a Moto 360 WearOS smartwatch. And I now enjoy an Apple Watch SE. Wearable fitness devices are great. I hope Google and Fitbit will be a good fit and truly make Fitbit better, because it will up the ante for competition. Apple will need to improve its Watch all the more.
It will be interesting to see what new features and innovations Google and Fitbit make together; there’s good potential. But I’m afraid it will be more interesting to see if or when Google somehow violates their pledge to keep user health data private.
If Fitbit health data does eventually become less private, being shared/owned by Google, I could see many Fitbit users abandoning their fitness trackers. They would flock over to an Apple Watch because Apple is a trusted company when it comes to user privacy and security.
Hello, 2021! Lately, I’ve been searching for the ideal…bag. Yeah I know, sounds boring; it’s just a bag! But it’s not so simple. When it comes to grabbing the right bag, there’s a lot to consider. Maybe by the end of this post, I’ll have found the “perfect” pack for the back. Or maybe not.
Burdened With Baggage
We all carry stuff around with us everyday. Women typically have a purse to tote their essentials. Traditional options for men are jean pockets or a backpack, but there’s no in-between. That’s the zone I’m looking into for every-day-carry (EDC) items, like all the tech gear for a mobile computing lifestyle.
My daily carry is a personal Backpack for my work commute. It hauls my laptop plus other stuff, but it’s kind of overkill most of the time. I like using both shoulder straps for convenience; it’s harder to lug stuff off-center when using only one of the straps.
I also sometimes use a Messenger Bag that came with my company laptop. I like how its single long shoulder strap crosses my body from one side to the other, letting the bag hang by my side, back, or front. That’s a big difference from a backpack, which is only for transporting stuff on your back from point ‘A’ to ‘B’, not accessing your stuff between those points like you can with a messenger bag.
Backpacks and messenger bags are big and handy for lugging your accoutrements, especially when traveling for a weekend. But for commuting or every day carry, it’d be nice to have a smaller simpler bag to hoist around, keeping my pockets clutter free. But I’m not talking about a “Murse” or a “Fanny Pack.” Right?
There are somewhat synonymous terms for bag types. What’s the difference between a rucksack, backpack, satchel, hip-pack, messenger bag, or shoulder bag. Sometimes, I’m really not sure. But I have found some good niche websites all about bags where they…pack a lot of helpful info.
If you’re wondering about optimizing your own daily carry situation, I highly recommend these two great sites:
This is the type of bag I’ve been drawn to most. Its main funtion is hinted in the name. The bag and single-strap set-up enable a small to medium-sized bag to sit comfortably against your back; it doesn’t dangle loosely like a messenger bag. Then it rotates to your front for quick easy access.
I would say a slingbag is a cross between a backpack and a messenger bag.
Amazon has stacks of packs to preview. It’s a decent starting point. But to stay focused, I made a list of my everyday items I am likely to carry in a slingbag or similar pack.
Rather than find a bag that “looks cool” and has “neat features” and then hope all my stuff fits is a backwards way to go. I should first note what stuff needs to fit, then find a suitable bag.
So for my potential every-day-carry, here’s an itemized item list of…items:
Lightning to 3.5mm adapter
Micro USB cable
USB C cable
Other things to weigh me down:
Nintendo Switch (in its own case)
Mini LED flashlight
When I list it out like that, wow, I may need to minimize first! That’s a lot to carry. So I think it comes down to access. What do I need/want to access quickly or frequently while on-the-go and don’t want stuffed into my pockets? That answer needs more brain cycles…and coffee…
The modern mobile man needs not resort to a classic backpack. Today, bag options abound.
If, like me, you’re thinking you might want a better bag to pack, maybe now you’ve got some new ideas. Let me know what you think in the comments! Or do you already have the perfect bag; what do you use?
Howdy y’all, Jason here at 2020 year’s end for a look back at some personal highs and lows. The site is called, Jason Journals, ya know. So if you’re curious about a bit of my life beyond the blog, read on. I can’t promise a good read – it’s 2020 after all – but maybe you can relate.
Things started off well. I was preparing for my Kyokushin Karate belt test with extra physical conditioning. Tough, but I passed!
Also finally finished adding on a half-bath to the master bedroom, doing new plumbing work under the house for the new sink and custom counter. Nice!
Made a half-joking resolution: eat more Taco Casa. I can say I kept it all year long!
I finished the role-playing game Pokemon Sword on my Switch.
I played Octopath Traveler, another RPG, on my Switch. Great one! Still want to finish it…
Tremors about a viral outbreak infiltrating American shores began to shake things up.
This is when 2020 went off the rails. It wasn’t all bad though.
Covid-19 became a thing in America. Back then, I never thought it’d still be a thing in December! This, along with other factors, brought a first round of lay-offs, furloughs, and pay-cuts at my job. As of now, I’m still employed there. Thankfully!
Covid also shut down our YMCA and canceled my family’s karate class indefinitely. To this day, we have not been back to karate and are out of practice. Ugh. The Y is open, but at reduced hours; our class was never reinstated.
On the bright side, I finally bought a motorized sit/stand desk for my long cubicle work days. It’s great! Health matters.
Then we installed a new kitchen counter and cabinets in our old house. So much better.
Also, Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed on the Switch. And it’s totally still a thing to play today! The game never ends.
Speaking of animals, we had 5 baby male goats born at this time. Sold them at auction.
I worked remotely at home for 4 weeks. To “flatten the curve.” Because covid. I’ve worked in the office proper ever since, fine and dandy. Glad.
Bought a new Android phone, the Moto G Power, and switched away from my Apple iPhone 7. Because I’m a tech-nerd-geek-guy and had gone all-Google several months prior. This didn’t last long though…
May through August
The national news was full of bad stuff. I “socially distanced” from news media and social media: Facebook and Twitter. Since then, I’ve used them sparingly. Twitter is pretty good though since I just follow fun stuff.
I read a LOT of books and wrote several book reviews.
Re-finished playing Final Fantasy VII. Yes, an RPG. On the Switch.
My employer made a second round of lay-offs and other cost cutting measures. I got to keep my job while project work started to dwindle.
In August, our AC broke in one of the worst heat waves. It got up to 92 inside the house. The AC was out for a few days until it was fixed. And it wasn’t cheap!
Summer of 2020 was yuck. We had to mask up and lock down and re-open and wonder if life would ever return to “normal.”
I started, finally and for the first time, playing Final Fantasy X! The HD Remaster no less. Yes, on the Switch.
Fall arrived with at least some hope of cooler temps.
I took my wife on a 3 day vacay to a Bed & Breakfast for our 19th anniversary. It was time well spent.
My birthday pushed me further into my 40’s. This year, I feel my age more than ever. My body certainly needs more exercise.
I got to hike trails in Caprock Canyons State Park with family on my birthday. Nice!
Here in west Texas, we had a rare super early snow fall in October!
I finished Final Fantasy X and started Ni No Kuni. I love role-playing video games.
We had a national presidential election. It was in the news. A lot. I voted early for the first time!
I found a good deal on a like-new iPhone 8 Plus and switched away from Android. Also switched from Google to Apple, like the whole ecosystem. Although I still enjoy my Chromebook.
Thanksgiving arrived, and with it some hope of more joyful times. The holiday season started, which helps uplift the spirit, but it definitely felt more muted and truncated than in years past. Many typical festivities were canceled.
Work at my job continued to be very slow.
This month, my 3 middle kids started playing organized basketball at a local club. They enjoyed it. It helped to offset the lack of karate at the YMCA.
After resisting for years, I finally bought AirPods: love them! Also, I got my first Apple Watch (the SE) for Christmas. I don’t practice karate now, but I can at least “close my rings” and stay active. I’ve been jogging a lot more lately! Also hoping for an iPad in 2021.
Season 2 of the Mandalorian surprised and delighted me!
At our home, I finally fixed a broken circuit in the house! Two whole rooms, part of the living room, and our front porch lacked wired power. I had to supplement with extension cords for months.
The fix required I first create a new ceiling opening for attic access. Then as I troubleshot the wiring, I stumbled upon the fix: a loose wire connection in a light fixture/junction box, making the circuit open without tripping the breaker.
Once fixed, I then added new light switches and fixtures and wiring, improving what we had before. Lots of work, but tidy! Truly a bright side during long dark days.
Lastly, for this year’s annual reading challenge, I passed my goal of 12 books with 13 read. Over one book per month average along with many hours playing video games.
Looking forward to 2021
What does the future hold? Don’t know; haven’t been there yet. I do know that worrying won’t make it any better; that’s for sure. And while it seems most people think 2021 will be better than 2020, and I hope along with them, the fact is that 2021 could be worse. But not too much worse, right?
Thinking positively, I’ve got several new RPGs yet to play on my Switch. Escapism! What else? Maybe Stranger Things season 4 and Mandalorian season 3. Fun times ahead. I’m thankful to have such pleasantries and luxuries amidst uncertain and unsteady times.
What are some positive things you are looking forward to next year?
What’s the difference between a dream and a delusion? It may be a matter of perspective. I’ve had a dream of living full-time in an RV, a two-axle travel-trailer hitched to a truck. My wife has said that my dream is a delusion. But she says it with a grin, so… She may be right.
I’m not sure what attracts me to an RV for a home. It’s partly the alternative lifestyle that intrigues me. But it’s also the simplicity.
Home ownership is a big responsibility. Owning land brings benefits but also burdens. If all my stuff fit into a small box on wheels, I wonder how much easier my life could get.
Living in an RV means living on less – only the essentials. Kill the clutter! The small space limits you to just what you need. That minimalism is attractive. You must remove the less important distractions to enjoy focusing on the best and most important parts of living this one life.
That doesn’t sound too delusional.
Besides simplicity, there’s the obvious mobility. Your house can go everywhere, so you can live anywhere. When you move, you don’t have to sell your house. Just take it with you! That’s convenient.
Need a new job in another town? No big deal. Want to travel and see new places? No need to pack up and go. Just go!
A mobile home fits a mobile lifestyle. We have mobile pones and mobile computers that we can’t seem to live without. We’re ambulatory (fancy word for mobile) humans!
Living in a house on wheels reminds me that life is transient and temporary. You never settle into one place, one routine. But maybe that means you never really get comfortable or relax either. So much for settling down, puttin’ down some roots.
Maybe this is a bit delusional.
I know there are many pros and cons about the practicality of adopting an RV-lifestyle. It’s not the best investment financially since RVs are valued more like cars than houses. But I know a lot of people have chosen an RV life and get along just fine.
Tight quarters do not sound cozy, especially living in a family with kids, but maybe you get used to it. Or maybe you would fight a lot, literally stepping on someone’s toes in close proximity.
And no matter what size your home is, you always tend to fill it to the brim with stuff. Clutter finds a way of piling up on flat surfaces like mold growing on a slice of bread. But at the same time, a small living space means having much less to clean! That kind of maintenance is light.
But I don’t know about the mechanical side of things: fix it yourself or haul your house to the RV dealer? Yet that’s an interesting reversal. Instead of calling a plumber out to your house, you take your house to the “plumber.”
What if someone steals your RV like a car? Then they’ve also stolen your entire home! I guess insurance would replace the few possessions you had.
Dream Or Delusion?
After my thoughts above, I’m afraid to weigh in here. Living in an RV full-time kinda seems more like a deluded notion, a fanciful fantasy that would struggle to hold up in reality.
There are people who live this way and love it. So it’s possible to make it work. But it’s probably not for everybody.
I’m willing to try it out someday and see if RV life is for me. Worst case: nightmare. Best case: dream come true. Likely case: somewhere in between.
Here we are at the end of the year and even a decade. As always, it’s a good time to pause our games and shows and look back to reflect on things. It’s also time to do the other side of that coin by looking forward. And I hope I don’t overstuff it with the links!
With the dust still settling from the Christmas rush, I thought I’d skim the past 12 months from a geeky or nerdy perspective. How did 2019 shape up with respect to movies, shows, games, and what about sci-fi and tech stuff? I admit I’m not the most qualified for this; it’s just my two cents. I’ll also throw in a few of my own personal highlights and lowlights.
With an eye towards fitness and fun, I re-joined my Karate class and quickly tested up to my next belt. I tried to attend classes twice a week all year long. Overall, I’ve benefited greatly from it. I’m no Bruce Lee, but I can touch my toes, and I feel less guilty when I eat extra calories, so not too shabby! Also, I broke a board using a knife-hand technique and got punched in the ribs so well that I had to get X-rays to make sure they were not cracked!
Cal Newport launched his new book on Digital Minimalism, just as the angst or weariness towards Facebook and social media reached its zenith in our culture.
Also, we played a lot of Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 2DS.
We had the surprising 20 year anniversary of The Matrix movie being released. It still shocks me that it’s been so long since that ground-breaking film debuted! Time has flown! Whoa!
I deleted my Facebook account. Again!
Avengers End Game hit the big screen, closing the first Marvel epic mega saga thing-a-ma-bobber. Did I mention it was epic?
This month, I finally watched Captain Marvel. I liked it! My fave stuff was the 90’s nostalgia: dial-up internet, Nirvana, Blockbuster Video, stuff like that. For the record, I really miss video stores! Having it all on my phone is just not the same.
Apple held their annual developer’s conference where the keynote showcased all the new and cool stuff they plan to put on the market. iOS13 and iPadOS looked promising. So far, though, they’ve turned out lackluster and buggy. But the iPhone 11, especially the new camera system, looks fantastic. I’m thinking I’ll stick with iPhone and not switch to Android.
Space! Sci-Fi for real! It was the big 50th anniversary of mankind’s first landing on the moon! On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander touched down, and on July 21, mankind first set foot upon the lunar surface. It is still amazing today!
I switched from using an iPad as my primary computer to a Chromebook. And I’m still loving it!
Nintendo released the new Switch Lite hardware, a handheld-only version of the popular Switch. I think it is doing well in sales and will extend the current generation of Nintendo’s console(s).
My wife and I enjoyed 80’s nostalgia and a bunch of weirdness as we discovered Stranger Things on Netflix. Looking forward to more of that next Summer with a new season.
Also, I rejoined Facebook. Again! Good-grief!
My blog posting took a big nosedive as I devoted all my writing time to authoring a fiction novella for NaNoWriMo 2019. I didn’t finish, but it was a good try. I learned from the experience. And I’ve been trying to get my blogging back up to speed ever since!
The Force was with us (one last time?) in The Rise of Skywalker. NO SPOILERS. I liked it overall. I’d say more, but I shouldn’t do that yet.
I surprised my family at Christmas this year with a Nintendo Switch for all to share! We play Nintendo.
For my annual Reading Challenge on Goodreads, I failed! I aimed for 13 books. I’ve read 9 and two-halves. So far.
Throughout the past year in my house, there’s been a lot of Nintendo, Pokemon, Lego, and Star Wars. We have five (5) sons, so I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. Also, this year I tried Apple Music and Spotify music subscription services and decided to stick with Spotify. I love having all the songs!
So what about the coming year? The movies Wonder Woman 1984 and Ghost Busters Afterlife are two on top of my to-watch list. I’m also looking forward to the next season of Stranger Things.
Nintendo could release Breath of the Wild 2, the next Zelda game, but I think that won’t come until 2021. But Animal Crossing: New Horizons debuts in March! So does Final Fantasy VII Remake!!
Starting in February, with pre-release promos as early as this Friday, Pokemon Sword and Shield TCG comes out! A whole new series of cards!
Last December, I was able to upgrade from iPhone 6 to iPhone 7, which is still working great. Maybe at the end of 2020 I can upgrade again.
Anyways, there’s lots of fun stuff to anticipate, more than I can handle! I need the fun stuff to help offset the hard and heavy stuff of life that will always be around. I can overthink things and take things too seriously, so letting the pendulum swing the other way can bring some balance at times.
Lastly, I’ll mention anxiety, which is no fun at all! In 2017, I struggled big-time with major anxiety and panic attacks… Things slowly improved over time. And in 2019, things really changed for the better. I reduced my sugar intake at the end of 2018 and began more fitness in 2019. I think these were major factors contributing to my overall progress out of acute anxiety. Food for thought!
Living with Tinnitus may not sound like a big deal. But if you could actually hear the inaudible sounds in someone’s head, you’d think silence is not so golden.
Speaking Of Inaudible Sounds
Those with Tinnitus suffer in silence. Normally, mine is a constant ringing of high-pitched tones, two or three of them at least. Often they’re steady in pitch but sometimes they fluctuate up and down like an old-timey radio without a good signal. It’s definitely unnerving.
When all is quiet, that’s when my Tinnitus is loudest; I hear nothing but constant ringing between my ears. But I alone hear it. Sometimes my head can hardly bear it.
Recently, the tones were so loud, it was very hard for me to go back to sleep in the middle of the otherwise quiet night. I can see how worse cases could drive a person crazy. To fend off the rising anxiety, I practiced deep breathing and focused on that rather than my thoughts or the ringing.
The aural pestilence I hear is not any sound out there in the world around me. I know the sounds are all in my head. But they’re not “just in my head.” They’re actually in there, between my ears or in them.
I don’t know how common Tinnitus is, so when I found someone who knows exactly how it feels to suffer from the internal raucous, I was comforted. Suffer in silence, yes. But suffer alone, no, I don’t have to.
“A spike is where something triggers a rise in the volume and duration of your tinnitus. It can be something like an ambulance siren passing by you on the road, a balloon bursting, a door slamming or someone shouting.”
These “spikes” have happened to me many times! They seem to come from nowhere, but occasionally I can tell what the source was.
Something else in the same post grabbed me. She mentioned that gluten could be a spike. I don’t know if it is, but as a matter of fact, I have Celiac Disease and eat gluten-free. But sometimes cross-contamination with gluten occurs. Maybe there is a link?
Hope Worth Hearing
I don’t know how or why I have Tinnitus. And I know there’s no known cure. All I can do is tolerate it and manage it and avoid silence where possible. I’m able to say that the anxiety induced by it can be managed as well.
Thankfully there are others who acknowledge their Tinnitus and share their experience online for anyone to understand.
Years ago, I carried an iPod touch and a feature phone until I finally replaced them with just an iPhone. Weeks ago, it hit me: why am I carrying my iPhone and my wallet separately yet often together inside my jacket pocket? That’s when I decided to try a wallet case.
Two To One
Besides keys, just about everyone always loads their pockets with a wallet and a phone . A force of good habit, I always do a mental check before I head out somewhere; I’ll even pat my pockets while I do it, you know, to avoid a panic later if either is missing.
For years, I carried my wallet in my back pocket, phone in the front. My wallet always held several types of cards, and these days very little cash if any. But I realized that most of the stuff in my billfold was neither needed nor used like 99% of the time. All I really need is my driver’s license, debit card, and maybe a little cash. That’s it. Carrying both a wallet and a phone struck me as totally redundant or unnecessary.
I checked online for iPhone wallet cases to find the one that would work for me. But I didn’t want to open my current wallet too much – ha! – to buy one . So it had to be functional and affordable. And how about cool looking?
It doesn’t sound inviting, but the wallet case I chose is very attractive. The premium aesthetic of the case is what caught my eye. It has a two-tone look and feel; I opted for black suede with brown leather. The inside is also exquisite; all the stitching is top-notch. The case appears to be put together very well. And it is.
I’ve been using my Snakehive wallet case for two weeks now, and it is already “breaking in.” The material where it folds is looser, the card slots are less tight, and the leather on the outside looks good with some minor scuffs.
I dropped my new phone wallet a few times and am glad the outer flap covers the screen. The part that holds the phone in place is a flexible rubbery plastic that is the right balance of stiffness and softness. It feels nice to have the entire phone wrapped in protection.
So as I expected, the case looks good, feels good, and is quality craftsmanship. And it only set me back $30 – that’s a good deal! But there are some things I did not expect in switching to a wallet case.
It Feels Different
One of the first things I noticed right away were quick moments of minor panic and relief. In these first two weeks, every time I’d head out and do my mental check, I’d notice my wallet missing from my back pocket! Oh no! A second later, my brain would recall my wallet is my phone, or my phone is my wallet now, and I do have it. It’s in my front pocket. Ok, safe!
The other unexpected thing I noticed is how nice it really feels to have one less little bulky thing to carry around on me and keep up with. Simplicity is an underrated virtue that I find a lot of value in. Cliche it may be, but so what, it’s so true: less is more. I’m a little bit freer now than I was before since going from two loaded full pockets to one.
And the thing I was most unsure about has, so far, turned out to be not a problem. I was concerned about actually being able to use my phone while it is stuck in a flappy covered case. Worst case scenario: I would get frustrated from fiddling with the phone and chuck the case across the room. But that hasn’t happened!
I figured that if the case was a slight encumbrance or hindrance, then that would cause me to use my iPhone less. And that would be a good thing, like using Screen Time to help you break your phone addiction. So I was mentally prepared for some case woes, but like I said, I’ve found no problem with it.
In fact, I’ve adjusted already to how to use the phone while it’s snug in its leather confine. And I’ve found that the middling awkwardness is outweighed by the simplicity and utility of this type of wallet case.
Snake Versus Bison
There’s another animal emobossed wallet case on the market that, honestly, I think I’d like even better than the Snakehive. It’s the Carson Wallet Case by Burkley – and it’s got a Buffalo!
Besides the cool animal, the big advantage of the Burkley case is that the phone part is magnetic. This lets you remove the phone from your wallet, as easily as slipping out a $20 bill, so you can handle your phone normally without the flappy case attached.
Otherwise, the Burkley is the same as the Snakehive except for the extra cost of that one ideal feature. But it costs over twice as much. That’s more than I wanted to pay this time. Bonus Feature
Here’s a handy tip for the Snakehive wallet case. If you sometimes need to tote around a headphone adapter, the super strong magnetic clasp easily secures the tiny cable to your phone.
If you’re looking for a new phone case and have wondered about one that doubles as a wallet, I don’t hesitate to recommend the Snakehive to you.
Have you noticed how many subscription services there are these days? There’s a thing called “Subscription Fatigue” now. It’s where you feel nickeled and dimed to oblivion. Like a continual dripping of water that wears away stone, you can’t take any more subs. And I don’t want a single one.
It makes sense that having too many subscriptions is overwhelming and irritating. A bunch of $5 and $10 fees every month add up fast. Your wallet is constantly pinged for money, like your phone is constantly dinged with notifications. It’s stressful.
But I’m against subs altogether for certain categories of things. Most subs seem to be for tech stuff online, digital content.
For a service like streaming music or movies, I think that works okay. But my biggest gripe is towards a software product. A big example for me is Adobe Lightroom software.
Sure, Adobe bundles their software product with online photo storage as a service, complicating the matter. Yet call me old-school, I don’t care; I want to pay one time up front for software like the simple days.
Another example: I signed up for Apple’s 3-month free trial of Apple Music. Nice service. But I canceled because it’s still not worth $10 a month in perpetuity for me.
I also don’t like games in the app store that are pay-to-play with in-app purchases. I would much rather just pay up front for the game and then enjoy it! I think many people feel suckered in with a “free” game to try out, get hooked, and then be expected to pay-up fee after fee to keep playing the game. That’s not fun!
The popular subs now are for streaming TV shows or movies: Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, etc. Later this year, Disney and Apple are starting their own streaming TV/Movie services too!
The irony with these and what may be coming is the unbundling and re-bundling of bundles. People got tired of cable TV. You paid a lot for a lot of content when you only really wanted a small portion of that content. So people cried for a-la-carte TV.
Now we’ve kinda got what we wanted. We became “cord-cutters” and can now choose to pay only for a few shows or services that we want. But unbundling all the content is proving to be too much to manage. So the tide turns toward simplifying: re-package all the stuff together into one cohesive thing. And give me a discount for it too!
Here’s my experience of a subscription in the past: You pay a one time fee up front, and then you get new magazine every month.
Contrast that with a present day subscription: make a payment every month, and you get a one-time thing (streaming music, software).
You can say that you do get something new on occasion, like new songs or new features. But it feels different. It feels like you’re getting charged repeatedly for the same thing over and over.
Some subs charge you monthly. But some charge annually. I think the annunal ones feel better because it’s a one-time payment once a year. You only feel the hit once.
But the monthly charging is like constantly feeling the hit. And if you have multiple subs, you really feel the hit. It’s just too much.
Monthly payments are a thing. Most people finance a car for example. You agree to pay monthly, but it’s for a limited time instead of forever – there’s an end to the paying, so there’s hope. And when you finish paying, you get to keep the car!
But with monthly subs, there’s no end. You’re stuck, shackled to the service forever, your funds continually seeping from your bank account over and over again. And if you stop paying, because you never “finish,” then you do not get to keep the product or service!
A trickier subject that stems from subscribing to services and stuff is about ownership. Are we paying for a product or a service? Or is it just access to a product or service. Or is it a license? Or is it like a lease? Do we keep what we’ve paid for? Is it more like renting than buying?
Anyways, those are some random rants against subscriptions. I don’t care for them. Hopefully they’ll be like a passing fad.
Something has bugged me for a while. In American culture, men are basically allowed to express only one emotion – anger. It’s like an unspoken rule. Other emotions men have are downplayed or hidden. Somehow being emotional is linked to weakness or vulnerability.
I have struggled with anxiety and the emotions that tag-along for the bumpy ride. And I know I am not the only anxious person on the planet.
In the blogosphere, there are many who express their struggle with worry and depression. But it seems to me that the vast majority of those online who dare open up and express their anxiety are women.
It makes me ask, “Are there any anxious dudes out there?”
Truly I’ve wondered this. I keep my eyes open, but it is rare to find guys online who share their feeble feelings. I guess because a man would never appear so lame. As if a pack of wolves is really going to move in for the kill.
We all struggle. Some share it. Some hide it. I have found that honesty about wrestling with weakness is a means to gaining strength to overcome it. And finding solace in the fact that you are not alone in your struggle is empowering.
All that said, I wanted to address the situation and find facts to balance my feelings.
Are there any other anxious dudes out there? Yes. There are!
They may not be abundant or available to talk in the blogosphere, but they’re out there in the greater sphere of life. Knowing that, at least, is somewhat helpful.
Here are some articles addressing males with emotional or mental issues or other personality “weaknesses,” which provide evidence that masculinity is not without emotions and, dudes, you’re not alone.
From the above Huff Post article, here are some of my thoughts on the 13 things:
1. Understanding that anxiety is as much a physical health issue as it is a mental one helps take away some of the stigma.
2. It is natural and healthy to talk about lack of health! Ironic but true.
3. Anxiety is not a weakness per se, though it makes men look or feel weak. This is tough to deal with because my own anxiety attacks have been physically debilitating in the past. I once was admitted to the ER due to a panic attack. And when you need prescription medicine to help with anxiety, it’s hard to not feel weak since medicine is usually associated with a physical problem. So in a way, anxiety does make you physically weak. I have a hard time balancing this.
7. The all-consuming nature of an anxiety disorder is hard to convey to others who have not experienced it. It helps to find those who have the same struggle because then, besides not feeling alone, you can begin to find more practical help.
8. Anxiety will attack anyone, man or woman.
13. The idea of control is big. With anxiety, one thing you feel is lack of control. That’s tough on a man who is supposed to be a leader or provider. How can he be those things if he is not in control?
This piece from Introvert, Dear talks about men with an introverted personality being in the minority online. But many of the sentiments expressed match my feelings about men with anxiety being scarce on the web.
The author conveys my thoughts so closely that it makes me know I’m not the only one. While I am also an introvert, in the quotes below, replace references to “introversion” with “anxiety.”
“When I browse sites lending themselves to introverts [anxiety], I find that they tend to be filled with women…”
“…there don’t seem to be many of us guys floating around the introvert [anxious] interwebs.”
Confession – I’m one of those emotional types. I may not always show it, but I feel it. As a matter of fact, my feelings can be quite strong.
There’s some more irony for you. In males, emotions tend to be equated with weakness, but, oh man, emotions are so strong sometimes! Some, for example rage, even make you feel super strong. It’s like being a Sith in Star Wars, giving into anger to fuel your power as a guy!
This last article echoes certain points that I’ve said here. It also addresses some unique ones. And it links to two other articles that cover this gender anxiety topic; they’re worth clicking so go check them out too.
One thing to note is how the male author describes anxiety as, “defeating.”
I recall that during the months and weeks leading up to my major anxiety attacks in 2017, I often felt defeated. I used this term to describe the overwhelming and wearisome stress I had experienced when I spoke to my therapist about my anxiety.
“It’s time to get honest: we all feel anxious. Men are not the strong, silent types who don’t feel sad or anxious. Men just have different ways of expressing their feelings.”
– Sean Swaby
I don’t talk too much about my anxiety. Thankfully, it has gotten much better this year due to changes in my diet and exercise. I wrote about that recently here.
Anxiety is not my favorite subject to talk about. I kind of avoid it. If you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks and have been debilitated by them, then you know – anxiety is terrible.
In 2017, I struggled with anxiety big time. When I wasn’t giving into the “flight” response, I would use some fighting tactics like reaching out to others for prayer, taking medication, seeing a therapist, and private journaling to cope.
Over the next year, my anxiety weakened as I clawed towards full-recovery. I had to return to “normal!” The process was back-and-forth; my anxiousness flared up at random times. At best, anxiety would hover in the background like a buzzing wasp ready to sting. I couldn’t ever fully shake it.
But finally, there’s been a big improvement in my life. I think there were two changes that made the difference. Less sweet and more sweat!
It started back in December. After Thanksgiving last year, I had a bad recurrence of anxiety that sent me back to my therapist. I also saw my doctor and discussed my diet, which was suspect. There seems to be a direct link between gut-health and the brain.
So I decided to reduce sugar in my diet, which was huge for me! And my biggest daily intake (addiction) was – coffee! – with cream and sugar. But I didn’t know how I would pull this off. I figured I could survive for one week and see what happens. I’d drink coffee as usual but not add any sugar.
And you know what? Somehow I made it that first week. So I tried a second week. Then I also limited my overall sugar intake. One week led to another. And to this day, 3 months later, I still do not add any sugar to my coffee! How does this help make a difference in my anxiety levels? I think it improves my gut-health because I no longer have those sugar highs followed by crashes. And the result is that my up and down mood swings are mostly gone! Feeling less grumpy at times, less negative, I also feel less anxious.
There’s also been one other big change in my life recently. In January I rejoined my karate class! I had been out of practice for over a year (initially due to the anxiety). So I quickly began to exercise and train for an upcoming test to rank up a belt. Part of that test is vigorous physical exercise to push you to your limits. Naturally, this impelled me to get my sedentary butt into shape – fast!
As you know, exercise just makes you feel better! And it gets you more focused on your physical body and what’s out in front of you rather than staying stuck in your head in a rut of mental rumination with the brain tumor of worry.
Exercise excises anxiety!
Less sweet and more sweat – good for your health! I think that’s been instrumental in reducing the amount of anxiety I deal with on a regular basis. It no longer seems to lurk in the background of my life, waiting to strike like a viper.
Mentally, I have greater fortitude and resilience. The random negative-voice type thoughts that creep into my brain are fewer and farther between, and I’ve been able to cut them off before they can take root.
Now, I’m not doing a victory dance here. I don’t presume to be fully healed or have a changed personality. Anxiety attacks are not that far behind me; I haven’t forgotten how terrible they are. I’m not letting my guard down, lest I be blind-sided by them again. I still sometimes have what you might call mild anxiety-aftershocks or tremors.
I’m simply saying that – surprise – exercise and diet do positively affect one’s mental (not just physical) state! I know there are other factors to consider. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not giving medical advice. This is my anecdotal evidence I guess.
I’m also saying to you that I’ve been there, in anxiety’s death-grip, and I’ve gotten better over time. There really is hope.
Do you struggle with anxiety? What have you tried to help?