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Showing posts from November, 2018

Social media is a tool and so am I

tl;dr alert. More rambling on social media ahead. You're sick of reading about it and I'm sick of writing about it so I have decided that this will be my last post on this topic for the rest of 2018 and ALL of 2019. Guaranteed!

Continuing the theme from yesterday on disconnecting, I've complained in the past quite a bit about social media and I have struggled all year to go from complaining about it to admitting that my complaining is my fault.

Social media is a tool.

A hammer is a tool.

If I end up smashing my finger when hammering a nail into the wall, I can't blame the hammer. Sure, I might yell at the hammer and tell it to die but it is an inanimate object that only smashes fingers when being operated by the operator (me) and the truth is if I am too dumb or impatient to properly use a hammer then I will end up with a smashed finger.

If I'm frustrated with social media, it's on me.

This realization gave me back the enjoyment of my long-time nemesis, Twitter. Muting and unfollowing people who are joy vampires and limiting how often I open the app have been key. I think I still look at it too much and sometimes tweets sneak through that annoy me but I can say I am at a better place with it than I was at the start of 2018.

Facebook is different. It seems that my idea of how Facebook should be used is not the same as most other people but, again, this is on me. Different people use different tools different ways. I use Facebook as a scrapbook of what I do with my family so we can all look back on the things we all did together.

Most people use Facebook as a bulletin board of sorts, as a place to air grievances and political opinions or to just complain in general.

That's why I post on Facebook but I rarely scroll "the newsfeed" or whatever they call it. So, I miss all birthdays and I even removed my own birthday so no one feels to need to respond to birthday notifications on my behalf.

I have realized that only a very few posts have to do with what people are actually doing and it's just not worth my time sifting through all the dirt to find the tiny bits of gold.

Instagram is another app I find I enjoy less and less. The feed is a mess. I miss stuff all the time so looking at it is frustrating. I like how pictures I share get organized - it's much better than posting photos to Twitter where they seem to get lost in the shuffle so I still use it but I find that I share less and less.

And I guess that's my final note here. I do seem to be sharing less and less across all social media platforms. I think that's why I'm here at the blog more often and I know that most people don't have the time or motivation or desire to read my long (tl;dr) posts and that is alright.

My need to get the ideas out of my brain is more of a priority for me than the need for my ideas to be read by anyone.

I'm gonna get myself, I'm gonna get myself disconnected

My apologies to Stereo MCs for my play on their fine lyrics from back in '92:

I did something really odd (for me and possibly for you also if you think about it) last night.

I watched television with no device in the room with me.

No smartphone.

No tablet.

So there were no distractions. No pings. No boops. No scrolling Twitter to see what other distracted people watching the same thing were tweeting.

And, it was college basketball which I used to watch a decent amount of. The specific game I watched was Michigan State versus Louisville and what a great game it was. It was exciting! It went into overtime and the underdog (Louisville) won!

And, they showed the Louisville pep band a lot which made me really happy being a former band guy.

And, they panned the camera through the crowd a lot and every so often you would see someone looking at their smartphone. They are right there at the game and completely distracted and the reality is that is me most of the time.

Of course, this way of thinking has morphed into a fantastic meme:

Still, I'm going to put on my "get off my lawn" hat and say that there is some truth to this. I never completely enjoy doing one thing if I'm also trying to capture the moment for or participate in conversations on social media.

I think I haven't watched a basketball game in a while because I thought I just didn't enjoy them anymore but the problem is my multi-tasking which has become second nature. I tote my iPad all over the house. My Apple Watch is on my wrist from the moment I get out of the shower until I am about to turn off the light to go to sleep.

I don't know what made me decide to leave my devices in another room last night, but I'm glad I did and I plan to keep doing it, to slowly break the addiction to being connected.

Picking up the trombone again

It's been a long time.

A loooooooong time.

And it shows.

Since my youngest daughter and wife recently joined the local community band, I said, sure, maybe it's time to pick up the trombone again and give it a try. There were two problems though. First, I haven't regularly played since 1995. Second, I no longer owned a trombone.

The priority was to get my wife an instrument and we found a good deal on a nice flute and she has already begun rehearsal. She also had not played since 1995 but seems to be doing fine. She will play in the Christmas concert two weeks from tonight along with my youngest daughter who is in the high school band and playing in the community band to get more experience with different percussion instruments.

I said I would hold off for now but I was still perusing eBay when a decent Blessing B-78 Trombone showed up for just $120 plus shipping. A new basic student trombone goes for hundreds more than that and this has an F-attachment and is pretty much the same as the Holton trombone I played in college.

Sadly, I don't play at the level I played at in college anymore but with time, I think I will get back to at least being decent.

It's going to be a tough road. I definitely have issues with air and control and I am practicing at least 30 minutes a day out of an old method book that I used in high school. Though I've taken a pass at trying to play this concert in two weeks, I'm planning to join up when they return in late January and hopefully I will be able to play at the spring concert.

Winning NaNoWriMo and what comes next


Ah! That looks nice!

And it happened earlier than I expected. Although I had stayed on track the whole month, my writing really took off over the last few days culminating with the wordiest day in my NaNo history yesterday with 5,785 words written.

There are a few days of NaNoWriMo left but I haven't decided if I'm going to keep writing my story or not. There were several reboots in there so I don't think there is much salvageable but I do think that the learning experience of doing all of this was quite valuable and who knows, I might keep working on it right where I left off or I might dig through it all and pull out what I can for something that is not, eh, garbage? Right now it's a flaming dumpster but that's OK. I feel good just having completed it, my second NaNo win with the last one in 2014.

Finally, I highly recommend yWriter. It worked really well for me during this month. I saved my yWriter project file in OneDrive and I had no problem working across three different computers.

So, what's next?

The first thing I'm going to do is check out a library book that has nothing to do with writing and I'm going to spend time reading during the month of December. Also, I'm going to be busy working on the Christmas Countdown series of podcasts soon so that will take up some of my time.

It's been fun, NaNo, but I am ready for a bit of rest!

We've been Christmasitized

Yes, my annual Christmas decorating day is the day after Thanksgiving because it's always a very quiet day at work so it's a good day to get it knocked out.

As part of my new attitude on decorating, I'm not putting out as much stuff this year. In fact, last year we got rid of everything that we didn't display so there was less to deal with to begin with this time and I still ended up with a small stack of stuff for the thrift store or the trash that I've deemed no longer needed. It's nice to have less to fool with and this comes from a reformed serial holiday over-doer!

I also have a new attitude this year about outside decorating. I'm tired of putting hours of work into stuff we only see when we drive in and out of the driveway. I didn't put up any outside Halloween decorations this year and we had only a small display for fall. I didn't put up our three foot inflatable turkey until Wednesday and I took it down yesterday. I took our big inflatable turkey over to my in-law's house on Thanksgiving so everyone could pose for pictures with it so it was nice to get a bit of meaningful use out of that.

I did not put up anything outside for Christmas yesterday. I'm going to wait until later in December to do that and I'm going to put up just a small display, maybe two or three little things up near the street. No more Griswold here. No more having to deal with stuff blowing over and getting soaked in the rain for weeks.

Here are some pictures from the inside decorating that I did yesterday. As I wrote on Instagram, it looks like Santa came in and threw up Christmas all over the place.

Check out The Elf on the Shelf given to us by our friend Andrew many years ago when they first came out and we were all laughing about how creepy they are. I can't believe they turned into a nationwide phenomenon! Our Elf stays in one place and you can touch him all you want.

This picture didn't come out great but it does show a vintage Christmas Garfield I found in my mother's Christmas stuff plus the moose she bought us when the kids were small.

Christmas rules because everything has to have rules, right?

We found this on clearance last year and although it's a mat for the front door, I put it in the kitchen.

Those pillows are getting so old. In fact, when the dogs were young, one of them chewed off Santa's nose and I had to glue it back on. The couch is vintage 1992.

Here is the tree. It actually went up Wednesday and my oldest daughter put on all the ornaments so I didn't have to.

Here is the Rodney the Reindeer collection - a Christmas tradition at my house when I was growing up. The oldest Rodney in here goes back to 1979 or 1980. Over the years, the collection grew. Also featured, our Garfield ornament from 1983.

The mini Christmas village that I bought last year at Walmart. I need to go back and buy Santa this year. I bought the chickens after Christmas for forty cents I think. Last night, I drove to Home Depot and replaced all of the crazy hot C7 bulbs that normally come in Christmas villages with cool to the touch LED bulbs. I believe they are much safer. Click here for the link! 

Poof - a week gone!

I had no idea until right now that I had not come here to the old blog in a whole week!

Well, it's been a chilly week here and we even had snow flurries. Brrrrr! Too soon, too soon! It's all gone now. We're back at normal temps for the next few days and mostly dry weather after a VERY wet fall.

I'm still staying caught up with NaNoWriMo. My goal today was 26,667 words and I am at 26,870. I'm pleased. I'm staying right on pace and I think what I'm working on has enough fuel to get me through the end of the month and 50,000 words! Is any of it publishable? Oh, absolutely not. Is it fun? Eh, I'm not sure I would say that. It's about the accomplishment. That will be the fun part - finishing and then getting back into reading instead of writing.

This picture has nothing to do with this post.
In other news, I'm already thinking about the holidays. Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is right around the corner. I cleared out a spot for the Christmas tree today. Exciting! It should be in place the day after Thanksgiving.

The big change this year is no outdoor decorations. No inflatables, no twinkle lights everywhere. It's just been too much to manage and we're always inside. Why am I decorating for the people driving around outside?

O.K. Maybe I'll put up a little display outside but I am not going the full Griswold this year!

I guess that's it from the home office. It should be a fairly quiet weekend so I should have no problem getting my writing done and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a little rest also. Fingers crossed.

Full steam ahead (maybe)

In preparation for NaNoWriMo this year, I read a few books on writing during the month of October.

One I read was by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. In his book, "No Plot, No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in Thirty Days," he suggests creating a Magna Carta for your upcoming novel and to do so you make two lists, one filled with things you like in a novel (focus on these, of course) and one filled with things you don't like in a novel (avoid these).

I liked the idea and I did it and I was quite determined to not do anything in my avoid list.

Until today.

It was probably doing wonders for my quality (well, maybe) but it was killing my productivity to sit here at the laptop and actively think about what I didn't want to write about while I was trying to write.

It's quantity over quality to keep hitting the writing goals.


I have to clear my brain out of the way as much as possible and I know I will still avoid certain topics I don't like writing about because writing about things I don't like will take the enjoyment out of writing. It's hard enough to do this. I can't imagine doing it and not enjoying it at the same time. But, if I make a glancing blow against topics on my avoid list, I'm letting it slide and not letting it put the brakes on the writing process.

NaNoWriMo: The road to 10,000 words

Today will be the day I hit 10,000 words. To stay on track to finish at 50,000 on November 30th, 10,000 is where I need to end today according to the daily word goal chart. I was at 8,696 words yesterday afternoon when I wrote out a couple of bullet points for ideas for today's writing and stopped. I was on a pretty good roll at the time and had at least an hour that I could have kept writing but I knew it was best to close the laptop and not overdo it.

Today is the day, 10,000 badge!

Also, I would like to experience the full month of NaNoWriMo. My goal is to get word 50,000 down on November 29th but November 30th would be fine also.

So far, it's been fun. I haven't felt any rush since I am referring to the daily chart to set my goals. This is not something I did previously. In years past, I would not stop in the middle of an idea. I would try to get it all out and on the page and that was exhausting.

So, what's next? I would like to get to a write-in or two during this month. And, I would like to write at a coffee shop or the library some solo. I just haven't had opportunity to get out a whole lot but this machine (my Asus Transformer) goes in my backpack and heads out with me whenever there is the possibility for some writing time so I am always ready to take advantage of any writing opportunities that pop up.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Add me as a writing buddy: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/upinthisbrain

NaNoWriMo: Day 2

Here I am, midday on day 2, and sitting comfortably at 3,614 words.


Since I started this, I moved quickly from OneNote to yWriter 6. I'm sure I'm not using all of the functionality in yWriter but it gives me the ability to easily track characters and locations and it has a nice place for project notes so everything I want is covered and it easy to navigate back and forth. I have it saving to OneDrive so I can bring this up on any Windows machine I happen to be using.

I'm also trying to slow things down and pace myself better than in years past. I get my writing done and then I pull out my Nintendo 2DS XL and solve some crosswords or play some Galaga.

I'm trying to do this different this year because I really burnt out in my 2016 failed attempt and I think it's because I blew quickly through the paltry idea I had - a story about a guy that services soft-serve ice cream machines. Really. I know. How horrible.

So, this year, I'm stopping my writing for the day when I have something left to say. I'm following this advice I found that is attributed to Ernest Hemingway:
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.
I'm just hoping I end up with a little left at the end of each day. It's easy to make this declaration on day two. I know it won't be as easy on day 10.

Finally, I found this website that let me generate a simple list showing my daily word goal based on writing 1667 words a day. If I write this many words minimum each day, I'll hit 50,010 on November 30th. I keep this list as a note in yWriter so I know when I can slow down and start preparing to leave off for the next day.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Required words per day: 1,667
Day: 1 | Word Goal: 1,667
Day: 2 | Word Goal: 3,333
Day: 3 | Word Goal: 5,000
Day: 4 | Word Goal: 6,667
Day: 5 | Word Goal: 8,333
Day: 6 | Word Goal: 10,000
Day: 7 | Word Goal: 11,667
Day: 8 | Word Goal: 13,333
Day: 9 | Word Goal: 15,000
Day: 10 | Word Goal: 16,667
Day: 11 | Word Goal: 18,333
Day: 12 | Word Goal: 20,000
Day: 13 | Word Goal: 21,667
Day: 14 | Word Goal: 23,333
Day: 15 | Word Goal: 25,000
Day: 16 | Word Goal: 26,667
Day: 17 | Word Goal: 28,333
Day: 18 | Word Goal: 30,000
Day: 19 | Word Goal: 31,667
Day: 20 | Word Goal: 33,333
Day: 21 | Word Goal: 35,000
Day: 22 | Word Goal: 36,667
Day: 23 | Word Goal: 38,333
Day: 24 | Word Goal: 40,000
Day: 25 | Word Goal: 41,667
Day: 26 | Word Goal: 43,333
Day: 27 | Word Goal: 45,000
Day: 28 | Word Goal: 46,667
Day: 29 | Word Goal: 48,333
Day: 30 | Word Goal: 50,000