Category Archives: Rambles

Smartphones in 2018

I carry two phones; one is mine, and one belongs to my employer. I could’ve transferred ownership of my phone number to my company when I started, but I don’t want to mix business with pleasure. As cool as our internal IT guys are, I don’t trust anyone but my husband with all my personal data. And I’m perfectly fine with carrying two phones. Continue reading

The Art, vs The Artist

There have been several columns published by people who are shocked or disappointed to learn of Orson Scott Card’s homophobic and hateful rhetoric, and his activism attempting to deny human rights to the LGBTQ+ community. Some people have come to the conclusion that they cannot in good conscience support such a person, and have therefore decided to boycott his books and anything based on them. It appears that OSC didn’t profit directly/monetarily from the Ender’s Game movie, but it did still promote his books, and I see why some people are uncomfortable spending money on the stuff this guy has produced. I’m not sure it actually has any effect on his bottom line, and I doubt any sort of boycott will change his stance on gay rights, but I definitely support a person’s decision to buy (or not) anything based on their comfort level. Continue reading

2018 Goal: Prioritize

I posted my 2017 Year in Review, which is mostly just a look back at what happened last year. It’s a tool to use in the future, when I wonder “when did this thing happen?” – I can look back and see. But this post isn’t a look back, it’s a look forward. Herein I detail my goals for 2018.

As I mentioned in my review of last year, I constantly felt like I was falling behind. I can’t keep up with Twitter, YouTube, DeviantArt, and other sites, plus do dailies in video games, and you know, work full time, and cook, and still get all the reading, drawing, and other creating that I want to. I can’t even get done all of the housework that I want to do.

But, that’s not really true. I just don’t prioritize my time correctly.

I also wanted to save money in 2017, but we ended up spending a lot of it. Sure, we had to replace our AC unit, and get a new drain field installed for the septic tank, plus vet bills and car repairs, and Buu is going to school. But again, that’s not “the reason” we didn’t put money into savings. The reason is because we didn’t prioritize doing so. We spent money on games and things and going out to eat, without ensuring we’d put money away before doing so.

I will remedy both of these behaviors in 2018. First, the goals:

  • Draw 2 hours per week (minimum)
    This can be anything, from sketching on paper, to drawing digitally, as long as I draw.
  • Read 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Specifically fiction, as I have a mountain of it that others have told me I’d enjoy reading, plus I want to reread my favorites.
  • Write 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Originally I’d wanted to use this time to work on the novel that’s been floating in my head for two decades, but later decided it could be anything. There are dozens of blog posts that I want to write, but never seem to get around to. There are essays, short stories, and poems that start forming in my head, that I never put to paper (digital or otherwise).
  • Be Creative 2 hours per week (minimum)
    This is mostly for nail art, but can be for anything creative that doesn’t fall under reading, writing, or drawing.
  • Housework 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Obviously I do more than two hours per week of housework. But there are some forms of housework I keep avoiding, making any excuse to postpone, or hiding it in the guest room so I can ignore it. I need to spackle and paint walls, alphabetize our Magic cards, fold and put away laundry. These are the things I avoid until I absolutely have no choice but to do them. So I will devote two hours per week to getting these abhorrent chores done.
  • Social Media/Internet 2 hours per day (maximum)
    There are good things about social media, and I like how it connects me to people in a way that works for me. I also like that I can get hours of information from YouTube (science, news, and other educational content makes up 95% of what I watch). But these are also never-ending time-sucks that can sometimes lead to stress. So I just need to limit my daily exposure. This will also free up time for other things.
  • Video Games 2 hours per day (maximum)
    This can end up being another time-suck for me, as I tend to get absorbed in games for hours, and then not want to do anything else. But there are a lot of different video games that I own and want to play, and I tend to play only one at a time. While I still intend to devote a lot of time to Hex (as I did in December), I also want to spend time with some other games. I need to find a good balance here, still working on it.
  • Internet Time and Game Time can be substituted for each other, however only after the intended sub time is matched with some other activity first. If I want to use an hour from my gaming time to spend more time on the internet, I first have to spend an hour reading, writing, drawing, otherwise being creative, or doing housework.
  • Put money in savings every month
    (Not sharing exact details here.)
  • Limit & track discretionary spending
    (Ditto.)

All of the numbers are adjustable, as well. If I find I have set unrealistic goals, or been too lenient with my free time, I will modify the time restrictions accordingly. And if I find that I’ve allocated too little or too much for spending, I will also adjust accordingly. The point right now is not about the specific numbers, but rather, the behavior.

First, time tracking. I wanted to set a goal, and then see a red or green bar as I progress against that goal. I knew this would be something that would entice me to actually track my time, and force me to stick to the goals. (Or adjust them if necessary.) At first I tried Toggl, since that seems to be a pretty popular time-tracking app. Unfortunately it had none of the functionality I need. If there’s a way to set goals in it, I couldn’t find it, so there’s no way to track my progress against them unless I… what, import the data into excel? As much as I love excel, that’s a layer of complexity that’s sure to kill my participation. I need it to be simple and fast. Also, the Toggle widget for Android was totally flaky for me, not syncing properly to the app, and not letting me update anything recorded from the widget.

Luckily, my second attempt was a lot more successful. ATimeLogger has turned out to be the perfect tool for my needs. You can easily customize the app to create as many or as few time tracking categories as you want, and show them on the home-screen widget if you so desire. A quick tap on the category starts a timer, which can be paused, stopped, and edited. You can add more detail to each task when you start or stop the timer, or not. You can easily set goals, and see progress against them (with red and green bars!), and have the app alert you when you’ve gone past or fulfilled a goal (or not).

I have the widget background set to transparent, which makes the text hard to read, but I only need the icons anyway. I’ve also enabled Night Mode in the app itself.

I’m not tracking everything I do. For example, I’m not tracking time spent working, cooking, sleeping, shopping, etc. I’m only tracking the activities that I want to spend either more or less time doing, or that may interfere with those activities. I may find it useful in the future to track all of my time, but for now I just want to get into the habit of tracking certain behaviors. I was able to stick to this behavior for a week before Christmas, when then both Buu and I got terrible colds. We spent that entire week in bed, and I didn’t track my time at all. I waited until January 1 to start again (my weeks start on Monday, for this purpose), but have been able to stick to the timer so far. Even if I go over one of my allotted times for a given task, or fail to meet one of my goals, right now I’m just trying to instill the behavior of tracking my time against the goals. I want it to become so habitual that I don’t even have to think about it. If I can keep tracking my time, the red and green bars are what will motivate me to keep my time within the set limits as much as possible.

Second, budgeting. Buu and I are trying an app called GoodBudget. I can set up “envelopes” to allot money, and have them refill every month. We’ll track everything we spend out of each category, including groceries and gas. I’m not actually trying to limit what we spend on those things, but I wanted to get a good idea of how much we spend each month. We also each get an allowance, which we can spend on anything we want. However, eating at restaurants also has to come out of this budget, so we’ve agreed to alternate paying for Taco Tuesday between us. We’re also cutting our usual order for Taco Tuesday so the final bill (with tip) will be just over $20 instead of closer to $40. (We usually order a second round and take them home as leftovers for dinner, but we’ve stopped doing that now to save money.) We spent a lot of money going out to eat last year; it wasn’t unusual for us to dine out three or four times in the same week. That adds up quick. We’re still going to have Taco Tuesdays, but any other dining out will wait until the end of the month, when we see how much of our allowance is left. Given how much we’ve each already spent of our January allowances, we’ll probably be dining out very infrequently from now on. Thankfully we did buy some Carrabba’s gift cards back when they had their sale, and we got a few gift cards to other restaurants for Christmas, so we’ll be able to dine out a couple of times without dipping into our allowances.

The main goal is for us to be conscious of our spending. We had both (Buu and I) stopped thinking about spending before doing it. We see something we want, we buy it. Rarely was any one item expensive, but since we did it all month long, it added up. So through this budgeting app, we’re looking to be more conscientious of our purchases, and reduce impulse buys. We have some bad habits that are hard to break, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make progress quickly. At the very least, once we hit our allowance cap, we’ll have to wait to spend money until the following month. That will immediately cut down on spending for sure.

Again, I will happily increase our allowances if I find I’ve set the number too low. But I think I’ve been fair, and I think we’ll be able to get by easily, once we get out of the habit of just buying everything as soon as the whim strikes us. It’s more about getting in the habit of tracking what we buy, and being cognizant of how much we’ve spent so far that month. We’ll have no problem putting money into savings if we just stick to this budget.

So there you have it. My goals this year are to track and properly prioritize how I spend my time and money. There are other things that I’d love to add on (like getting back on a diet and losing another 10-15 pounds), but I’m not even going to make that a goal. I’ve picked the two things that I think are going to have the biggest impact on my health and happiness, and that I think I can actually accomplish. Dieting (and possibly exercise!) can wait until I’ve jumped over these current hurdles first.

2017 Year In Review

Ah, 2017. A year of calling our representatives, frantically trying to protect the things important to us. The year of the Great Solar Eclipse (in the U.S.A.). The year of Harvey and Irma and other enormous storms wreaking havoc across the hemisphere. The year of the Equifax breach and the Patreon fiasco. A year where dozens upon dozens of high-profile men have been accused of heinous acts. But despite all of that, 2017 was also a year of less poverty, less world hunger, less child mortality, better education, lower crime, and other advances, because even as bad as it seems sometimes, we are getting better in a lot of ways.

At the end of last year I’d made a resolution to read more. I did read a decent amount in December 2016 and for the first half of 2017, but it didn’t last all year. Part of the problem is a limitation I imposed on myself, deterring me from reading: I’m trying to diagram the story of one of my favorite novels, so I’m taking notes as I read. This added burden of “working” while I read feels like an extra barrier at first. It never actually bothers me once I start reading (and note-taking), but it’s difficult to get started. The bigger issue, however, is that I haven’t prioritized reading.

The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy, the Dragonrealm Series, and Jurassic Park. These are all but one of my favorite books.

Another thing I wanted to do in 2017 was draw more. I can’t improve if I don’t practice, a lot. But I don’t practice at all. I did end up with close to a dozen drawings in 2017, which is far better than 2016, but clearly it’s not enough. One drawing per day isn’t “enough”, but I can’t even get that far.

A Ferretaur, sketched by candlelight while our power was out due to Hurricane Irma

So what did I do in 2017?

I definitely played a lot of video games. Buu and I rung in the New Year in separate rooms: me playing Skyrim in the living room, him playing Diablo 3 in our office. We both played PokemonGO for several months, though changes to the game turned Buu & I off after a while. I bought a couple dozen games during the Steam sale in June, and have spent a few dozen hours playing them. And in the last month or so, I’ve gotten really into Hex, Shards of Fate.

Kicking serious butt in Hex, Shards of Fate

I also spent a good amount of time playing tabletop games. I ran a D&D game for a few months, and played a fair bit of Magic: The Gathering. We had Saturday Night Game Nights where friends would come over, and I’d either run the D&D game or we’d play Commander. We even played some Wizard School! At some point the guys stopped coming over, but Buu and I still went to weekly Commander night when we could, and to another friend’s house for Commander when possible. In fact, we rung in this new year playing Commander, so a Gamer I will always be!

Kicking serious butt in Magic: The Gathering (Commander)

Buu and I went to the Renaissance Festival every weekend that it was in town, seven (or eight?) weeks in February, March, and April. We went in-costume, of course, and bought a few more pieces for both of us. (Which I would then augment again later in the year from Amazon.) We got to see our friend Ash, and were introduced the marvelous restaurant that is Ginza Sushi, and their all you can eat sushi dinner.

Ash from Knightwings Birds of Prey, flanked by myself and Buu

Buu and I also attended a small renaissance festival in Tavares in November, so we could visit our friend Ash (of Knightwings, Birds of Prey fame). We finally got to meet his wife Cryss, and we’re looking forward to seeing them both again in 2018.

I bought a new camera, so I could take better photos while at the Ren Fest (and elsewhere). I really enjoy using that camera, and I think it was an excellent investment. I learned a lot and got a few great photos during the Solar Eclipse this year.

Photo taken with my Canon EOS T6 Rebel, 300mm lense, and solar filter

Buu and I started the Atkins diet in April. We’d done it a bit in 2016 without much success, but we did a better job of keeping steady blood sugar levels this time. When we officially went off the diet in October, Buu had lost 60 pounds, and I’d lost about 20. (I’d lost a few more at peak, but gained a couple back.)

I moved my website from Squarespace to WordPress in July. It took several weeks of intense work, but in the end I have far more control over my home on the web than I did before, and I really like what I can do with that power.

I travelled for work four times: to Phoenix in April, Orlando in July, Roseville in October, and Orlando again in December.

The roads in our neighborhood got repaved. Our mailbox was knocked over in the first pass (along with several of our neighbors’). For the second pass, the workers just came through and pulled everyone’s mailbox out of the ground before they even got started. Finally at the end of the year, Buu and I reburied the mailbox deeply enough that it doesn’t wobble anymore. We also finally cut down the scraggly hibiscus that was growing around the mailbox, so we have a clear view of it from the front windows now. Yay yard progress!

At the beginning of the year, one of the splitters in the faucets tied to the washing machine started leaking, spraying a thin stream of water onto the dryer. Dad came over and replaced the splitter. Half way through the year, the other splitter started dripping, but we didn’t notice for quite a while. Dad came over to replace that other splitter today (1/2), so hopefully that’s the end of that.

This happened in February, and my Dad came over and fixed it. Then the green one started leaking some months later, but we didn’t notice until around November. Dad has fixed that one now too. Good ol’ Mister Fix It.

I tried my first theme with nail art, creating at least one design each month inspired by that month’s birthstone. It was more challenging than I thought it would be, and has dissuaded me from trying any additional themed challenges until I can devote a lot more time to nail art. I finally had to admit to myself that I can’t keep spending 5 hours a week on my nails, teasing out a new design every time. It’s okay to sometimes just paint my nails with one color from a single bottle, and admire the lovely color. I don’t have to paint the Mona Lisa every time.

It’s okay to do this, self. You have over 300 colors of nail polish. It’s ALWAYS okay to just pick one and put it on your nails and be done with it.

And, I spent a lot of time on social media. I watch a lot of YouTube (news, science, etc. all nonfiction), and spent a good amount of time on Twitter and DeviantArt. Hours and hours, every day.

There were also some pretty major events in 2017.

My brother passed away in May. There have been times in my life, years even, where he and I were close. But those years are long in the past, and he and I have not been on good terms for around a decade. We only found out that he was in the hospital a few days before he would ultimately die, with our mom, my dad, and myself by his side in Hospice, as he gasped his last breaths. I’ve been angry at him a lot over the years, and it’s only after his death that I can see what a terrible disease addiction is, and what it really did to him. I have a lot I’d like to say about my relationship with my brother, but that’s for another post. For now, I’ll say that I’m not exactly sad that he’s gone, but I’m very sad about what could have been.

My parents were in a very serious car crash in August. Thankfully their seatbelts saved their lives, but my dad suffered a severe concussion, and my mom has ongoing pain and other issues. Plus their insurance is giving them a hard time about paying items that it’s definitely the insurance company’s responsibility to pay.. typical insurance company.

My parents are lucky to be alive. Thank goodness we always wear our seatbelts!

In happier news, Buu and I got two ferrets in May. Our sweethearts Opal and Onyx have brought so much joy into the house, I’m incredibly happy to have them. Of course, with pets come vet bills, and we’ve had a fair few of them this year.

Cutest ferrets ever!

We also lost our AC in June. We’d already spent several hundred dollars getting it refilled when it locked up & froze over, only to have to replace the entire unit. We went six weeks without AC in the house (in FLORIDA, in JULY), only a window unit in the office. We hung a curtain across the opening into the office, and kept the ferrets in there as much as possible, to try to keep them cool. Replacing the AC was a huge chunk of savings that we were lucky to be able to cover.

And along with this, we kept having to pay to have the septic tank pumped. In the end, we determined that we needed a new drain field. So there goes a few more thousand out of the savings account. So much so that instead of having more money in savings at the end of 2017, we had far less.

This was my back yard a couple of weeks ago. I will eventually write a blog about this as well.

But I can’t just blame that on all of the expensive things we had to take care of, and the fact that Buu is taking classes. No, we also spent money on stuff we don’t need. We both bought games during the Steam Sale, we bought Magic cards, DVDs, playmats, and whatever else we wanted. We didn’t pay any attention to any kind of budget, as long as we could pay all the bills every month. We didn’t prioritize saving.

One of the themes in 2017 was a constant feeling of falling behind. Falling behind on social media, not being able to keep up with all the videos and podcasts to which I’d subscribed, not drawing enough, not reading enough, not finding enough time for laundry and other household chores. Always too much to do, and not enough time. Another theme of 2017 was spending. As I mentioned before, we had a lot of major bills, and Buu and I didn’t prioritize saving over spending. So for 2018, I’d like to correct the behaviors leading to both of these themes. I have a plan for both, and now it’s a matter of seeing if we can make the plan stick.

More to come on what that plan is, and how we’re implementing it, in a future post.

Remove Sidebar From Blogs

Do you want to remove the sidebar from your blog posts and blog category pages? Not only that, but you then want said posts & category pages to expand to fill the full available width? Have you spent hours stumbling over one wrong answer after another? Have no fear. I finally figured out how to do this, and I want to share it with the world.* Continue reading

Solar Filter

I ordered two new lenses for my camera with the hope of catching some great photos of the upcoming Solar Eclipse. But of course, you need more than just good lenses – you also need a Solar Filter. Unfortunately, such filters can be enormously expensive, costing even more than the lenses themselves. (At least, more than the lenses I bought.) And since I want to be able to take photos with TWO different sized lenses, I would have had to spend quite a bit of money to protect my camera (and eyes) with both. So instead of buying a solar filter or two, I made my own.

Continue reading

Planarity

There’s this game called Planarity. It’s quite old, and very simple. Arrange the dots so that none of the lines connecting them overlap. According to the FAQ, “There is no last level, but if you get past 10 or so then consider yourself in select company.” Continue reading

I’m Right & You’re Wrong

I’ve noticed a pattern in online discourse lately. There are a lot of people whose argument goes like this:

I don’t care if it doesn’t go there, I’ll make it fit!

“I’m right, and you’re wrong. I’m not going to explain why I’m right or why you’re wrong, I’m not going to provide proof, or data, or anything to back up my claims. I’m not going to read the proof, the data, the studies and essays, or any of the other evidence that you’ve used to back up your claim. I disagree with you, because it goes against my gut feelings, or what I think is true, even though I can provide nothing to substantiate my claim. I will poo-pooh your evidence, and say that it is all lies and wrong, and that you are stupid for believing any of it. I will ignore any requests for clarification to understand my point of view, I will not try to help you understand why I feel this way, I will simply argue again and again how you’re wrong and stupid for not seeing things my way.” Continue reading

Diet & Dieting

I weighed 150lbs when this photo was taken. I barely even recognize myself here.

When I look at photos that my husband took of me at the Ren Fest this year, I am ashamed. I’d put on so much weight, I could hardly recognize myself anymore. I don’t really see it in the mirror, but in those photos, it’s all too obvious. We were both wearing too much weight, which can cause huge health issues down the road. Continue reading