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Hustle & Flow

It has been a month (and then some)!

I had a small (virtual) pile of books I have been meaning to read. Once I started, I had them all finished in like 2 weeks! I would start a book around 9pm and the next thing I knew, it was 2am and I was half way through it – don’t you hate (and kinda love) that!? Now I have nothing to read (except the Bible, but that doesn’t feel like it should count since it is an ongoing thing).

Oh, oh! This is cool. My keyboard suffered some… “liquid”… damage. I contacted the manufacturer, Nektar, and in honest, full disclosure told them what happened whilst holding my 4 month old above it and asked if they sold replacement parts – namely a new keybed. No, they don’t sell parts so instead they sent me a new keybed for free since it was still in warranty. That part was damaged in shipping, so then they offered to repair my LX88 keyboard in their facility for free. I mailed my keyboard to them and it ended up being damaged in shipping too. Nektar opted to replace my entire unit for free – including shipping. Nektar is awesome. They make awesome keyboards. Justin who works there is awesome and they have me for life. They should have you too. Seriously.

Katie has been going through all the baby and maternity stuff she has and will never need again to put in a consignment show. As of right now, she has around 325 items at a little over $1000 in value. Our living room and shop out back both look like they had bombs filled with baby stuff and maternity clothes go off in them (admittedly, the shop is where the clothes that have already been tagged and placed onto clothing racks are – so more of a well-organized bomb there).

Speaking of consignment, we put our bedroom furniture on consignment too. We recently installed closet systems, and now we no longer need the dressers and stuff. (Fun fact: we put them on consignment at the same place we bought them on consignment.) Now the bedroom is really open in a meager, where-did-everything-go sorta way; the only real furniture left is our bed with a couple night stands, and that all takes up less and ¼ the room! Katie is excited she has a big open place to do yoga now away from the children. We are also going to move the desk in here so we have a quiet place to work.

A got a new repeater (in a configuration I have never owned before no doubt)! After a few buddies and I installed it, we discovered our antennas are shot and need to be replaced. They sweep like crap, are 15 years old, physically damaged and have propagation patterns that are all out of whack. We are now waiting on confirmation we can have the tower crew climb up and replace them. It still works, but not nearly as well as it should – we are probably getting around 50% performance. So yay new repeater, boo bad antennas.

This week was the start of fall semester. I get to campus early enough there weren’t many people there yet. I kinda had forgot about it, so when I walked out around 9:30am to 15,000 people, I basically had the reaction “Who the hell are all these kids and why are they on my lawn?”.

Month of Money Meh

The past month or so has been kinda sucky as far as money goes:

A: We had a few unexpected costs come up in July and spent like $1000 more than we budgeted.
B: The radiator in my car cracked and was $600 to replace (in addition to the $1000 above).
C: My keyboard was the unfortunate victim of a spit-up attack. As such, everything below C4 stopped working. The manufacturer sent me a replacement keybed for free (which was awesome) but it was damaged in shipping. My option now is to pay to send it to them for repairs. It is currently sitting on my floor in a couple pieces.
D: My camera started having a couple problems:

  1. It has started refusing to focus. It doesn’t even try to focus; it just flashes the little “Unable to Focus” icon right out of the gate. I have to power cycle it to get it to start working again.
  2. It has started to give me the dreaded Error 99 every 3-10 shots or so, which is Canon’s generic, we-don’t-know-what’s-wrong error. The error causes the camera to lock up and you have to power it off/on again to reset it. It is so old Canon won’t repair it and I am unable to find a camera shop that will even look at  it; most don’t even respond and of the few that did, only one said maybe starting around $1000.

To add insult to injury, I bought new lighting equipment earlier this year but haven’t been able to use it (except 2 times) and then all of this is happening. A new camera is like $6000; the model a step down is still $3000; none of which I can afford at all.

E: I broke a tooth on the first day my dentist was closed 10 days for the 4th of July. Thankfully, it didn’t hurt and my copay was only $100 or so.

I’m all done – can it be back-to-normal budget time? Also, could my camera just be working again? I don’t have the money to replace it. I have faith it’s all part of the plan and will work out (since it is completely out of my control to resolve), just kinda discouraged right now.

Anti Social Networking

Over the last few months, I have been on this crusade to rid myself of as much social media as I can.

To start with, I work for a university and I noticed that many/most people there basically live staring down at their phones; lost in Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter or [INSERT SITE HERE]. I also noticed, to a similar extent, I was doing the same thing. To top it off, I was checking my phone an awful lot when it didn’t even alert me to anything! I disgusted myself and vowed to change. Here are some of my reasons for closing (almost) everything:

  • I didn’t like how much of my life it commanded. I would incessantly check it; I used it like an addict or a slot machine. My entire day was peppered with its presence. My time was fragmented around social media.
  • Since my time was so fragmented, I stopped creating stuff as much. Most of what I did manage to create was rather blah, so I didn’t publish much of it. It is hard to put quality time into something if you keep stopping to do something else.
  • I hated the subtle, always-there background anxiety. I don’t feel I had FOMO, but there is something to be said about only seeing the polished, intended-to-be-seen profiles of all your friends and family; kinda brings you down when you inevitably do the comparisons.
  • I wasted countless hours being entertained with it. With all the other sources of entertainment I enjoy, mindlessly looking at people’s selfies is a pretty poor substitute.

 

At first, I closed things I knew I would not miss. After those were gone, I removed the smartphones apps for everything that I suspected I may miss. Turns out, once I removed the app I basically forgot they existed and had no hesitations closing those accounts a month or so later.

Exception: Facebook. For a variety of reasons*, I don’t plan on killing it off just yet, but I am severely pruning it. I only have the messaging client on my phone and have limited my interactions with it to specific, productive purposes. Additionally, I am going back and cleaning up/abridging my profile.

I can happily report that since closing everything (vice Facebook):

  • My mood has picked up. I don’t have the same restlessness and always checking in to just “kill some time” and “see what’s new”. Things are a little sunnier.
  • I have reclaimed my “free” time for learning and creating. I have spent more time tinkering in Photoshop (improved on some methods) and playing the piano (not really any better, but it’s the journey or something that counts, right?).
  • I completely re-edited my entire “professional” photo portfolio and revamped my photoblog. Collectively, I removed about 92% of content; the remaining 8% is some of my best work. Since mixing up said photoblog, I have received more hits/favs on the new material in the past two weeks than I did in the previous year.
  • When I want to be entertained, I choose something I want to watch/do enjoy instead of just turning to social media as a convenient way to waste time.
  • I still easily communicate with family and friends.
  • I see my family and friends more now.
  • I am still breathing.

 

That’s all I have for now – we will see how another month or two go.

*One reason being you probably saw this post linked through Facebook. ^_^

Post-Christmas Productivity

Katie and I have had a productive post-Christmas week!

Monday: Purged a couple black trash bags worth of stuff from the closets / dressers. Worked on a website I have been developing.
Tuesday: Did all the “down the hill” errands and shopping. Cleaned up the house. Did a bunch of programming.
Wednesday: Purged a SUV-full of stuff. Drove said SUV to a local thrift store to donate it all away. Had a friend over for dinner.
Thursday: Spent a couple hours repairing a computer and made $150. Worked on a song in Logic.
Friday: Went to Costco. Finished everything on my radio to-do list. Worked on a song in Logic.
Saturday: Did all the “on the hill” errands. Took down and put away Christmas. Cleaned up the house. Did laundry.  99% finished with that song in Logic.

Additionally, I also finished going through around 200GB worth of backups dating 2003-2008. I discovered:

  • I had* questionable friends.
  • I had* a questionable “taste” in music.
  • I had* a questionable “taste” in fashion.
  • I made** questionable life choices and purchases.

 

*probably also still have.
**probably still would be if I didn’t have a wife to veto all my “great” ideas.

Medication Redux

I was completely off my dang ol’ medication and I had an episode, so back to the specialist I went.

I am now on step two of an “easy, five step process”:

Step 1: Medication regimen for six weeks.
Step 2: Medication regimen for three months.
Step 3: Medication regimen for three months with “alternative, more influential” (read: potent?) prescriptions.
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Some crazy specialized (read: expensive) shots that apparently “will resolve” my issues.

Yay November

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It has been a pretty great November. ^_^

  • Didn’t overeat on Thanksgiving. I am down to 163.4 pounds (started at 192.8) and FIVE notches in my belt!
  • My headphones were old and broken, so I got to buy some new ones. The replacements are wireless and have active noise canceling! They are lightweight, comfy and sound good – better than my old ones.
  • Between paying extra on our house this year ($11,719.34 extra since January) and having the loan for exactly five years, we satisfied all the requirements to have our mortgage insurance dropped. That is an extra $125/mo saved!
  • Over the Thanksgiving break, I was able to hang out with some old friends who were in town for the holiday. Shout out to Ronnie and Ricky!

Rework

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About a month ago, I decided to update my photo portfolio.

Most of the stuff in my current portfolio is 2012 or newer. While critiquing my earlier stuff, I noticed that while my photography skills have had a modestly linear increase over the last few years, my editing techniques have seen much more improvement. So I thought it appropriate to re-edit my older work and make everything more uniform in quality.

I also thought it would be best to pare down what I had in my portfolio. I never was really about quantity, but I feel I now have more of an emphasis on variety and quality over just an assortment of good images.

I am being super picky and this process is taking way longer than I expected it to. Granted, I am only spending a couple hours a week on it and I have thousands of images to sift through, but I kinda expected to have an easier time picking out my absolute best pictures and pairing them with other equally good pictures.

Vacation

Last week, I was on vacation.

At the first destination, we rented a house for a few days instead of staying at a hotel. The house was really neat – it looked like one of those houses you see on those HGTV shows. It was nice to have separate spaces unlike when you have a hotel room. Since it had a fully functioning kitchen (and gas grill on the back deck), we opted to cook more food at “home” instead of eating out.

At the second destination, we stayed in a family member’s “extra” townhouse. We did a lot more sightseeing and out-of-the-housey things, thus we ate out more. A lot more. In fact, we didn’t cook a single meal at the house (unless cereal counts and cooking).

With all the dining out, I was eating 100% more less-healthy* than I have been. Even when trying to make the best choices I could given my available options, it was still a far cry from the healthful meals I had been eating the past month. Apparently, my body thought it was getting poisoned and promptly rejected around three-quarters of all the food I ate. It was awful, gross and awfully gross (Spinach is terrible in reverse, lemme tell ya). On one particular occasion, I felt not far from death – I have never been that sick. I will spare you the details, but I was actually concerned for my well-being.

Silver lining: I now have a list of restaurants that I probably shouldn’t dine at anymore (Applebee’s, how I will miss ye) and a list of more tolerated joints. Additionally, even with all the eating out and junk, I still lost a half pound!

Needless to say, I am glad to be back home. I am getting better at this whole healthy lifestyle thing, so next vacation I think I will be better prepared to eat out and be more healthy about it.

*More less-healthy is more of the less-healthy than just plain old less-healthy. I read it on The Beaverton.

Grass Valley

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Over the weekend I was staying at a friend’s house. I was up early before everyone else; the house was quiet and smelled of coffee brewing. That basic scenario always brings back the same set of memories.

When I was younger, my family would take vacations to my Grandparents house. While we were visiting, we would usually go and visit my Aunt & Uncle over in Grass Valley for a few days. The memories that return are always of the times I spend in Grass Valley.

My uncle was a contractor and had bought an area of land (basically the entire side of a large hill), made it a gated community and built custom homes on various plots. In the relative middle of the hillside he built this awesome house. I remember I could stand at the bottom of the stairs in front of the great room and see all the way to the ceiling of the third story; it was super and open and airy. Plus, it had these big, wrap around decks that went to every story (I had never seen a more-than-one-story deck until then).

I loved visiting my Cousin Sam. I always had tons of fun. Sam, my brother and I would wander out into the woods around his house and shoot bows and arrows, chop at old fallen trees with machetes or tease the bats with sling shots once it was dark enough. A couple times, we went to the community pool and swam and ate tons of Airheads. When we were not wandering around outside, we would play video games inside. Downstairs in his mattress and pillow-filled great room, I would play and replay long-beaten levels in Super Mario World, try (never succeeding) to prevent an out-of-control nuclear bomb-laden truck from crashing in Blast Corps or listen to the soundtrack of Kirby’s Dreamland 2 (read: play the song “Big Forest” over and over and over) via the secret “Sound Test” menu only accessible if you beat the game. We’d also play SimCity 2000 (SimCopter One reporting heavy traffic) and build these big cities, just to then send aliens to attack or watch in confusion as all my Launch Arcos would blast off*. I didn’t have any video games (much less a computer), so this game time was extra-special.

I have so many good memories from those years. I cannot think about woods, compound bows, machetes or sling shots without remembering those long summer days. I can’t think about Airheards without remembering the community pool. Whenever I think about the NES/SNES/N64 or SimCity 2000, I think of Sam. Whenever I see a Dachshund, I remember theirs was named Peanut.

To the Stovers: thanks for the memories.

*First a message would appear saying something like “The Exodus has begun”. It would then take FOREVER because each one would basically have to explode (since there was no blast-off effect) and then after a few minutes of constant explosions, it would say something along the lines of “Your Arcos have departed for new worlds and you have been compensated for their construction.” I was then left with half a map of “rubble”.

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