Productivity.

I’ve been messing around with to-do lists, email programs, and other related fun and frivolity in this technological world. As a Mac and iOS user, I tend to lean toward “it just works” and go with stock Apple applications when I can, but sometimes they just don’t seem to be enough.

I’m a little paranoid about online privacy, so anything that squelches tracking is preferred in my book. Apple’s Safari web browser does the vast majority of this with features baked right into the experience, so I like that. However, Apple’s Mail app does not block hidden pixel-trackers in email messages. For those that aren’t aware of these things, many mass email outfits like to put a hidden element in their marketing emails so they know if you’ve read the email or not and confirm the validity of your email address. I never respond to “Wanda has requested a read receipt” prompts, so I really don’t want hidden elements tattling on my email management habits. So I’ve opted to use AirMail on my devices because it automatically blocks this pixel-based reporting back to the sender.

My other struggle is with my to do list management system. For over a decade I’ve used OmniFocus, but I’ve never been comfortable with the locking of data into the OmniFocus platform. I’m relying on their syncing between devices, their file format, and their addition and deletion of features. I like being able to automatically schedule tasks, for example, telling my to do list “I have a flight on Saturday”, and it builds all the tasks, and times them appropriately, for everything that’s needed to get ready for the flight. As I get older, the holes in my Swiss cheese brain get bigger and I rely on my productivity app to keep track of my life. OmniFocus let’s me automate, but it’s not the smoothest experience in the world.

Lately I’ve been bouncing back and forth between OmniFocus and plain text ToDo.txt, which I can control, read, and automate with ease.

The bouncing back and forth takes more personal bandwidth than just getting things done.

I need to make a decision and stick to it. I’ll have to put that on my todo.

Wherever it may land.

Realness.

Writing a blog post on the iPad:

  • Open the WordPress app
  • Touch/click “Add Image”
  • Touch/clock “Upload Image”, find image in the finder. The image has been magically synchronized between my iPhone and iPad, courtesy of iCloud
  • Write the entry
  • Touch/click publish

Writing a blog post on the Linux desktop:

  • On the iPhone, make sure Dropbox has uploaded all the photos considered for the post
  • On the Linux desktop, navigate to the Dropbox/Camera Uploads folder
  • Wait for Dropbox to finish downloading, find photos that were just downloaded, copy them to the Desktop
  • Right click on each image, choose from the list of image editing applications available (Shotwell, GIMP, ‘Image Editor’, ‘Image Viewer’, etc.), open the image, resize to an acceptable size for upload
  • Export image as JPG file
  • Open web browser, navigate to the site’s admin page
  • Click New Post
  • Click Insert Image, drag each photo from desktop onto the web browser, wait for upload
  • Write the entry
  • Click Publish Now

One of these approaches has less “user friction” than the other. Why is it that I occasionally lean toward the process that takes more steps? A desire to set myself apart to show that I’m different. I have a driving urge to prove I’m different.

You already know that. I already know that. At age 52, I probably don’t need to demonstrate this as often as I did as a kid.

This is not the way to demonstrate this. The end result for the reader and/or viewer is the same; they have no way of knowing which method I used to compose this blog entry.

Thank you for attending my therapy session.

Farms.

We’ve been taking a lot of rides in the rural parts of Illinois since this whole pandemic thing started and subsequently let us out in anti-social activities. Being tucked away safely in the car with your loved one, sheltered by metal and glass from other humans, seems like the best way to see the world without risking Coronavirus infection from others.

The game during our latest ride is to avoid the Interstates, U.S., and State Routes, opting for county roads and other locally maintained roadways. This has taken us through plenty of prairie (corn on the left, beans on the right; beans on the left, corn on the right), small towns, and surrounding farm lands.

I pulled over somewhere around Genoa, Illinois as I liked the framing of the shot above; the ComEd “cat ears” power lines passing behind the farm, bisecting their corn fields and probably adding an extra challenge for the crop dusters we see from time to time out there, all looked interesting to me.

I love simple landscapes, and my geeky interest in power lines, make them extra interesting.

Freeze Frame.

Cable didn’t come to my parents’ house until after I graduated high school and was off to college. Short version, my parents’ did not have cable when I lived at home. However, my grandfather had a huge satellite dish in the field next to his house and with the right amount of voodoo we could tune in MTV by whipping the satellite dish around to face the right position in the sky. This was before the days of scrambling the signal so that you had to pay for it. You just grabbed it as the signal blanketed the planet. I once landed on a Russian satellite and heard some screeching noises that nearly blew up the television but I’ll save that for another blog entry.

It was 1983 when Tracey Ullman came out with “They Don’t Know”, a remake of the Kirsty MacColl song from the late 1970s. It was unique on Top 40 radio, reminding us all from the brashness of the “Wall of Sound”, er, sound, from the 1960s. It’s a great track all around.

My grandparents were on one of their month-long trips across the country when I was in their house after school watching MTV, after whipping the satellite dish around trying to find the signal. The first few frames of Tracey’s video for “They Don’t Know” literally took my breath away.

I was a sophomore in high school, already kinda sure of which way my life would be headed as far as a life partner, but after seeing this man bang on the chimes I suddenly had absolutely no doubt that I was 100% certified gay beef.

The sight of this man literally took my breath away. All of sudden everything fell into place and life made sense. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, but I knew someday I would snuggle up next to a man and be very happy.

Of course, hormonal lust was fueling my attraction to this particular guy banging on the chimes, my taste would vary quite a bit to this first gasp of losing my breath, but I knew from that very moment, who and what I was and destined to be.

All because I whipped around a satellite dish in the right direction.

Random.

This quarantine thing is really ramping up the parsing of random information in my head. Tonight my husband and I sat down to watch a couple of episodes from my favorite television series of all time: “Bewitched”.

Among the numerous reasons I love the show is the “cultured” accent used by most of the witches and warlocks on the show, including Elizabeth Montgomery’s “finishing school” way of speaking. Lizzie could make her speech sound a little more middle class when she wanted to (or when the script called for it), but the vast majority of the time everyone of the witchcraft world on the show spoke with a refined accent that was just a few steps to the side of the Trans-Atlantic accent that was invented for entertainment in the early 20th century. When I hear my Central New York/Syracuse accent blended with the even flatter tones of Chicago in my speech, I sometimes think I need to get a more refined sound to the way I speak. In my natural accent, “Mary”, “marry”, and “merry” all sound the same. My husband makes fun of me because of the way I say “elementary” (el-eh-men-terry). It’s a Central New York think.

The more formal approach to everyday dress on “Bewitched” has always been, well, bewitching to me. I *love* the way folks dressed up for even the mundane chore of going to the market. It reminds me of the way both sets of grandparents dressed when I was a young lad. Point of trivia: Grandma Country never wore slacks or even a pant suit, she *always* wore a dress, usually something she made herself.

I like it when people showed a little more care in their appearance.

I’m not a “work in my sweatpants” kind of guy, even though I always work from home. I still dress in a business casual manner and I feel good doing so.

Having watched “Bewitched” relentlessly for the past 52 years I pretty know Samantha’s family tree like the back of my hand. There are some inconsistencies as to who was an aunt and who wasn’t. While Reta Shaw (from “Mary Poppins” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) was the most well known to have played Aunt Hagatha, and in the first season, Bertha, in the fifth season Doreen McLean played Aunt Hagatha and she pops out to fetch Aunt Bertha (who we never see). There were two other Aunt Hagathas beside Reta and Doreen, but it was Reta Shaw that came back in the last season to play her for the last time. I always found Doreen McLean to be a close second in her small chance to play the role.

Before Darrin met Samantha, he was engaged to Sheila Sommers (played by Nancy Kovak). Sheila was featured in the pilot episode and then again in a couple of episodes in season four. In the late 1970s through early 1990s, the syndicated package of “Bewitched” included ONLY the color episodes (seasons three through eight). This always bothered me because I vividly remembered black and white episodes of “Bewitched”, and friends at the time would say I was crazy and tell me that we were seeing them colorized, even though the only thing that had been colorized at the time was pretty much “Gilligan’s Island” and that colorization was awful.

In the fourth season episode “Snob In The Grass”, there’s a flashback to the first time Samantha met Sheila Sommers and it’s a black and white clip from the very first episode in the show. I remember exclaiming to my boyfriend at the time, “SEE! I told you there were black and white episodes”. He shrugged me off and told me I was crazy, it was in black and white to make it look like a flashback and then he dumped me a few weeks later. When Nick at Nite finally started showing the black and white episodes again I was vindicated and I refrained from calling him up and saying, “neener neener neener”.

That last season of Bewitched recycled the scripts from the first season on several occasions, almost word for word. However, there was an interesting exchange that happened several times, usually when someone wanted to make Samantha feel uncomfortable:

Catty woman: “Do you know Dr. Hafner, dear?”

Samantha: “I beg your pardon?”

Catty woman: “Dr. Hafner. He’s a plastic surgeon. Does wonderful nose work.”

Samantha: glaring. “No, I don’t know him”

This exchange pops up several times during the show. I always wondered why Dr. Hafner got so many shout outs.

And finishing this up, “got so many shout outs” probably does not fit into the cultured speech I’m always striving to achieve.

Missions.

My dreams are usually very vivid. Over the 23+ years we’ve been together Earl has been repeatedly surprised that I can recall my dreams upon waking in the morning. I have many, many pages of journals where I’ve written things down. Often my dreams linger with me throughout the day, but like any experience in life, some have more of an impact than others.

Apparently I’ve been watching too much “Star Trek: Voyager” (though I am really enjoying watching the entire series again). Last night I was assuming command of a brand new Intrepid-class starship under the leadership of Admiral Janeway herself. She was pleased to see the launch of another ship like Voyager, though this ship would have improved technology based on the enhancements and data gathered while Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant. I’d be taking the ship and her crew to the Gamma Quadrant. We had a very nice launch party with music playing, Starfleet officers milling about, and family and friends wishing us well. My dream even included use of the transporter as seen from my vantage point as I was beamed upon the new ship.

I woke up feeling energized (ha!) and wonderful. Thank the stars for my ability to recall and enjoy my dreams.

It’s just as fun as the Holodeck.

All Shiny And New.

It’s been a month since my latest surgery. I remarked to Earl the other night that I feel absolutely amazing. Having this procedure again has brought me a great amount of relief, not just because I’m now able to pee when I need to pee, but also because I don’t have to watch my liquid intake, I don’t have to keep track of every bathroom location and I don’t have to worry about getting caught trying to urinate indiscreetly next to the Jeep in a downtown parking garage. Everything is working brilliantly and I’m very happy about it. Things are working much better than they did after the same procedure in 2005.

The main reason for me writing this blog entry is so that if difficulties start to arise again, I am able to go back and read how happy I am with that area of my life at this moment. Procrastination is never a good thing and I procrastinated too long in getting this taken care of. If difficulties happen again, I need to get them fixed quickly.

At age 47 I feel like a brand new man. It’s been better than a hit of Viagra.

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Brain Power.

I live by the philosophy that I should be always striving to improve myself in some way. Whether it’s listening to political radio or reading up on some random topic or even try adjusting my eating and exercise habits to find what works best for me at the particular moment, I always try to better myself.

Some of this is inspired by a secret desire to become some sort of superhero, I suppose. There’s always that kid in me that hopes that someday I’ll be struck by a lightning bolt and be turned into something beyond the ordinary. Other inspirations include movies such as “Limitless” or the movie coming out this weekend, “Lucy”. While I have no desire to be a ScarJo, the idea of unlocking secrets of the universe with an enhanced mind is compelling to me. And yes, I know that the “humans use only 10% of their brain” thing is an urban myth (as opposed to a rural myth?) but nevertheless the concepts in these two movies are, well, thought provoking.

Enter Lumosity. Now I routinely listen to Binaural Beats to relax or to nap or to better focus my attention while working, and these exercises work for me, but I haven’t found a way to improve my short term memory and the like. Lumosity is designed to help one exercise their brain. The brain is basically thought of as a muscle and with the proper workouts, it’ll function better, and Lumosity helps one reach that goal.

Now, usually I would jump into the full-blown, paid up plan offered by software such as this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use the free version of Lumosity starting today and through the end of August. If I find that I’m satisfied with my progress using the software, I may invest in the paid version, which helps exercise your brain in more ways.

I’m interested to see how this experiment goes.

Morning Inspiration.

So, to get my workday started on the right foot, every morning I listen to same playlist on Spotify. I call this playlist “Morning Inspiration” and it contains the following songs, which could probably be easily pushed right out of the nozzle of a Cheez-Whiz can:

“I’ll Be Around”, The Spinners
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, The Spinners
“Heartbreaker”, Dionne Warwick
“Islands In The Stream”, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
“Guilty”, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
“Emotion”, Samantha Sang
“The Main Event/Fight”, Barbra Streisand
“Lotta Love”, Nicolette Larson
“Lovelight”, ABBA
“It’s A Miracle”, Barry Manilow

… and then to regain my musicality sanity …

“It’s My Life”, No Doubt

I have no idea as to what motivated me to select these tracks for a morning kick, but it works and helps keep me focused.

I’m weird.

Photo on 4-1-14 at 9.30 AM #2

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Memory.

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I think I have a better average memory. I have a hunch that I inherited this from my father, as a retailer, he could tell a customer that he hadn’t seen in 10 years that they had purchased a pound of 10-common nails a decade earlier. He had the entire inventory of the family business in his head.

While my memory kind of works like my dad’s, I don’t know that I remember the same things that he does. I got to thinking about my memory this morning while I was taking a shower and I decided that I am a very visual person. I have to see something to remember it. Writing it down and/or reading something helps me remember it better. Lately, when I’m told something, I don’t remember it that well. I don’t think this is unusual in any way.

The problem with my memory is that I remember dumb things. For example, in one of the applications I have written, I “salt” a user’s password by adding insignificant characters to it. This makes the password harder to decrypt. That’s good. The “salt” used is the SKU for a candy bar from Ames, followed by a dash, followed by the department # for a greeting card at Hills, followed by a colon, followed by the name of the department store on Arsenal Street in Watertown, New York before it was called Jamesway. I think the fact that I can remember all of these things several decades later makes me some sort of freak.

The good thing about having a good memory is that I remember lots of happy things and recalling happy moments makes me smile, even if I’m having a bad day. The bad thing about having a good memory is that I can also remember things that made me not-so-happy. These events, at key moments in my life, linger on later in life and probably contributed to a few of my idiosyncrasies. For example, I remember being told that I had to leave my fourth grade classroom for a new school program called “Enrichment”. It would be an exciting new program for all involved and I would be going twice a week. As a young lad that already felt different because of my gay wiring and all, it was kind of devastating to me that I had to leave the classroom, because I was the only one in the entire class that had been selected for this new program. All eyes were on me as I made my way from room 202 to room 210 (more random numbers I can remember). This reinforced a feeling of being different. Luckily the Enrichment teacher had a student teacher accompanying him that I found wicked dreamy so that made everything a little more manageable. In fifth grade, I remember being told that “I was a damn fool” by the teacher (ex-military from Yonkers) when I tried to leap off my chair like a superhero. I didn’t get hurt, no one got hurt, but she was cranky and somehow I filed away that taking risks could result in people with horrid accents yelling at you. She called quite a few students a “damn fool”. I don’t think she’s teaching anymore.

I’d be such a hoot in therapy.

While my memory is mostly visual, there’s a good helping of muscle memory in there too. All of my icons on my smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android device, have to be in the same place. I remember phone numbers by rapping my fingers on a flat service as if I was dialing a phone. I do the same with credit card numbers and the like.

As I mentioned before, I have a lot of junk in my head. Not only do I remember the license plate number of my Dad’s ’71 Heavy Chevy, I also remember the license plate numbers of that era of my grandparent’s car, my aunt and uncle’s car and my godparents’ car. Those old plates have been gone for at least 30 years but I still remember 819 OST. Useless fact.

I’m counting on the combination of muscle memory and visual memory being an asset as I become a pilot. I’m paying very close attention to what I’m learning and trying to do things the same way so that it becomes intuitive. If I’m ever in an emergency situation, it’ll be calming techniques and instinctive recall that will help get the plane to safety, so I guess when it all comes down to it, I’m blessed with having this sort of memory.

Image randomly selected from the Brain Excel website.