One Year Later

Hello again.

This is my first blog post since August 2016. It’s been over a year. An absurd amount of time, I do admit. A lot has happened in the course of a year. I’ve been very lazy about posting anything to my blog.

Despite my perceived laziness, I have jotted down a list of topics that I want to write about. I haven’t written on those topics because I wanted to first acknowledge the fact that I’ve been lazy and haven’t posted for a year.

Although I haven’t penned any posts as of late, I have methodically maintained this site, its installations, and plugins. To be honest, it’s nearly become more of a chore than a pleasure these days to maintain it to a relatively modern standard.

I’ll cite a couple of examples of changes that I’ve made:

With the help of a WordPress plugin, I ran a spell check across all of the past blog posts that I’ve written. In the early days, I composed text in the web browser, and let me tell you, the spell check in browsers has traditionally been quite bad. These days I use Word or Google Docs to write the posts. The spell check plugin that I ran this year found many misspellings in old posts. I corrected all of the errors that were discovered.

Not long ago, I removed the PrintFriendly plugin. I found it to be a handy tool when I first installed it many years ago, but over time the updates became far too frequent. I remember once in a single span of a week there were three or four minor revisions to the plugin. I finally got fed up and deleted it entirely. A simple plugin to manage the printing of a page doesn’t need that many revisions. It either works, or it doesn’t. No one is printing my posts, and if they are, they can figure it out for themselves.

Again, hello. I haven’t forgotten my blog. I’ll write something again soon. All the best!

I Bought a Pedometer

I decided to take a small step into the world of fitness gadgets. I bought a pedometer last week. I bought an Omron HJ-321 from Amazon. At $15, the price was right and it had very positive user reviews.

I didn’t want to jump into a high-tech wristband at the moment. I don’t want that level of complexity right now. I just want something I can clip to my waist that will count my steps. I don’t need anything more than that. I like that this is a simple device that I don’t have to charge every day or every other day. The pedometer has a 7-day memory, so I have created a spreadsheet where I will enter my step count once a week. I like to keep track of stats.

I know that smartphones can count steps and do some cool stuff with the information. That isn’t all that useful for me, as I do not carry my phone with me all the time. Most of the time, my phone stays plugged into the computer or a wall outlet. Since it wouldn’t be on me all the time, the information would not be complete.

The health community recommends walking approximately 10,000 steps a day. That goal isn’t as easy to achieve as it sounds, especially if you work in an office or sit at a desk for large part of the day. After seven days of use, I have not reached that goal. I had a fairly high step count on the first day when I received the pedometer in the mail. That was due to the fact that I happened to play tennis that afternoon for an hour and a half. Despite covering a lot of ground in the game, I was still well short of 10,000 because I only had the device for less than half of the day.

My highest step count in the past week has been 9,400, and that was only achieved by going out of my way to get the number up. With that in mind, the pedometer is serving its purpose. The purpose is to get more exercise. Wearing the pedometer, I have certainly found myself walking more. I will now take the long way to get somewhere. I park farther away from the entrance of a store. I walk around the block when I go out to check my mail.

I haven’t taken an intentional long walk in the one week I’ve owned the pedometer. The clocks changed last weekend, and it’s now getting dark too early in the evenings for me to reasonably take a walk after work. This coming weekend I’m going to head over to the lake and walk until I reach those elusive 10,000 steps and hopefully beyond.

I look forward to making good use of the pedometer. I’m glad I bought it. I’ve been enjoying it and have been wearing it at all waking hours. Perhaps it will encourage me to take up running. Nah, let’s not get carried away.

My Twitter Bio Explained

I’ve been on Twitter for almost six years now. A Twitter bio is essentially a permanent tweet on your user profile where you briefly describe yourself. The bio is limited to a length of 160 characters, which is slightly higher than the 140 character limit of regular tweets.

For the vast majority of my Twitter tenure, my bio has remained unchanged.

I don’t remember what I entered for my bio when I first created my account in 2008. I think I used a simple single-word placeholder like “Hello” at the time. Not long after creating my account, I began making the appropriate customizations. I soon settled on a clever bio for myself, which is in fact the same bio that still I use to this day.

I have been asked what my bio is supposed to mean. I shall explain.

My bio reads: “I’m a bluebird on a telegraph line, I hope I’m happy now.”

The line was taken from a song recorded by Elton John in 1973 called “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The lyric appears in the following verse:

I wonder if those changes
Have left a scar on you
Like all the burning hoops of fire
That you and I passed through

You’re a bluebird on a telegraph line
I hope you’re happy now
Well if the wind of change comes down your way girl
You’ll make it back somehow

I found the line rather fitting for Twitter. As you know, the Twitter logo is a blue bird. Combine that with the reference to a telegraph line, and it began to make sense. In addition, I had toyed with the idea of joining Twitter for months before actually creating my account, hence the “I hope I’m happy now” element.

Using this for my bio was far more about the above references than anything to do with the mood of the song itself. That said, I have long been a fan of the song, and know the lyrics from memory.

I think my bio is a keeper. I don’t foresee changing it, even after all these years. And on a personal note, I am happy now. Twitter has been a great community that I’m proud to be involved in. Now you know.

2014 New Years Goals

I’m not a big fan of New Years resolutions. I’ve made many, kept some, and broken the rest. It’s kind of silly to claim that come January 1 you are suddenly going to start or stop doing something different and expect that new behavior to last even a week, let alone a year. A few years ago I joked that my resolution was to not make any more resolutions.

2014 is here! This year I’m taking a different approach. Instead of making a list of new behaviors, I’m making a list goals that I want to accomplish during the year. I think that this approach is much more practical. It’s about thinking long-term.

As a simple example, instead of making a resolution of reading more, I’m setting a goal to have read a certain number of books by the end of the year. (This actually is one of my goals.)

I got the book reading example from a friend who took on a challenge to read 50 books in 2013. She succeeded, with time to spare. That was quite an achievement. I can’t possibly reach anything close to that volume, but it proves that setting real goals is more effective than making a halfhearted wish list of changes.

I’m not going to share my goals here. However, one of my goals concerns this blog, so I will talk about that.

My goal in 2014 is to write at least one blog post per week. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I rarely reach that amount of output. I know it would be more ambitious to say that I’ll write two or more posts per week, but let’s face it, sometimes I’m not in the mood. Historically, by the end of most months, I’ve written about three posts, give or take. There have been times that I’ve written only a single post.

I enjoy writing on my blog and I’m committed to continue doing it. I hope you all enjoy what I write from time to time. I don’t always have a topic in mind that I care to write about. I’ll have to make a list that I can turn to when nothing comes to mind.

I plan to continue writing endeavors outside of this blog as well. If I fall short of my weekly postings, then let’s just agree that I typed this with my fingers crossed. Ha!

Best wishes to all of you in 2014!

My 20 Years of Email

It recently occurred to me that I’ve been using email for 20 years! Back in the late 80s/early 90s, I used to dial up to connect to local area Bulletin Board Systems. I have fond memories of using the BBS systems in Wilmington. (I may write an entire post about that sometime.)

In the later part of my BBS heyday, around 1992 or 1993, I was a member of one called The Backdoor. I recall that at some point the sysop (admin) added the ability for users to send real email over the Internet. Up until that time, we could only send messages to each other within the BBS itself. This was the first time I had access to true email with an “@” sign.

Not so fast, though. It could take up to 12 hours to send and receive mail. The reason for that was that the Backdoor computer only called up the Internet and retrieved email for all users twice a day. Running a BBS cost money and it wasn’t cost effective to exchange mail over the Internet more often than that. People didn’t have always-on data connections in those days. The Backdoor computer had to dial up to retrieve emails itself and then pass them on to the users as they logged in.

I certainly don’t remember what my first email address was, that has been long forgotten, but I’m fairly sure that the domain name was Not many people had email addresses back then. I remember having to go out of my way to find people that I could write just to test the system. Email was extremely basic back in those days, too. It was text-only. Without fonts, colors, or file attachments.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since those early days. I went from using the BBS for basic email, to early editions of America Online, then to my first real Internet service provider (MindSpring), then later on to web-based mail at Hotmail, Yahoo mail and Gmail. By the way — do you remember MindSpring? Ah, those were the days.

I wish I had made a serious effort to save all of the emails I’ve received. I didn’t get serious about storing all of my mail until around 2003. That gives me a decade of archives, but I no longer have the messages from my early Yahoo or Hotmail accounts, for instance. At some point long ago, the accounts became overrun with spam and I went in and deleted them in haste, and created new ones. I wish I hadn’t done that. I’d love to be able to peek through the mail I’d received from way back then.

A lot has changed in technology in the past 20 years, but email survives. I’m happy that it is still alive and well. Will it exist in its current form 20 years from now? I hope it does, but there is room for improvement.

Legendary Legs in the Dirt

Way back in the day, my family pulled a legendary April Fools Day prank. The year was 1990.

At a road construction site in Wilmington, there was a large wall of dirt that had been piled up. We took a pair of jeans, put them over some 2x4s, and nailed on an old pair of shoes. On the morning of April 1st, we took the mock legs to the site and buried them in the dirt, sticking out for passersby to see. Once we had the legs firmly in place, we went back to the car to take some pictures. While at the car, a surprised motorist stopped and got out of his car. He pointed to the legs and shouted, “It’s an effin’ dead body!” It was all we could do not to laugh. Classic!

I don’t remember how long those legs stayed there that day. I’m sure that we drove past the site a few times to check on them. This was the best prank that we ever did. I’m so proud of this stunt. The legendary photo of the legs is below.

Legs in the dirt

Two Years on the iPhone 3GS

Two years ago today on February 13, 2010 I bought my iPhone 3GS. I had already been using an iPod Touch, but the 3GS was my first smartphone. The exact date had slipped my mind until I happened to check in on Foursquare today. The Foursquare app told me it was my second anniversary on the service, and amusingly added that I look as good as the day we met. Ha! I distinctly remember downloading the Foursquare app not long after I powered on my new phone.

I’ve been a very satisfied iPhone user. I am still using the same 3GS that I purchased two years ago. My phone looks a bit more war-torn that it did on the day that I unboxed it. I’ve dropped it on cement, into a mud puddle, watched it tumble end over end down a sidewalk, found a nick in the glass screen after it smashed onto a concrete balcony without its case, and more. As a result, the exterior has a few dings. Its worst blemish is a few damaged pixels near the top portion of my screen. The damaged pixels cropped up a few days after it took a nasty face-down fall just a few months ago. That said, it has held up remarkably well.

Most importantly, the battery is still solid. If you are an iPhone user, you know that the battery cannot be removed or replaced. It is permanently built into the phone. That was of some concern to me when I bought it, but two years on, the battery life has never been an issue.

When I bought the 3GS it came with iOS 3.0. Today it is running the latest iOS 5.0.1. The OS upgrades have breathed new life and features into my aging hardware. Still, it is beginning to show its age. Two newer iPhones have come to market since I purchased mine. I nearly purchased the 4S this past Christmas, but figured I’d hold out to see what comes out this summer. My old phone will keep rocking until then, provided I keep it off the ground!

Super8 Family Films Digitized

My family has a large collection of old neglected Super8 movie films that have been boxed up in darkness for years on end. The films span a few decades, ending in the late 1980s. My brother and I are in many of these home movies from the 80s. We once even made some our own magic movie spoof, a theme borrowed straight out of the TV show Bewitched. That movie has always been my favorite, and still cracks me up when I watch it today.

A few months ago my brother and I set out to get the bulk of these old films digitized for their preservation and our enjoyment. After researching several online companies, we settled on CJS Technologies. The benefit of using a professional service is that they physically clean and scan each individual frame of the film and create a remastered digital movie. CJS offered a free trial offer to digitize a single five-minute film reel at no cost. We mailed off a test reel and were very impressed with the results.

My dad later mailed off our entire family collection of 27 film reels, all of which were shot in the 70s and 80s. CJS spent a month cleaning and scanning all of the film and we received the completed package just in time for Christmas. It was a wonderful, lasting gift for the entire family.

It is wonderful to have all of our old family movies preserved, and in a modern format that everyone can share and enjoy. I have to commend CJS on doing a fantastic job restoring our films. I would recommend them to anyone looking for such a service. Their company not only outputs your restored movies to a playable DVD, but they also send along the pure digital output files in uncompressed AVI format. Most impressive! Job well done.

How I Write My Blog Posts

I thought it would be fun to share my methodology for writing these blog posts. Back in the day, I composed and edited everything in one swoop using the built-in WordPress text editor. However, after finding myself revising my published posts countless times, and always having to rely on Firefox’s lackluster spell checker, I eventually settled on a new method.

These days, I compose the bulk of my writing in a local word editor on my computer. My personal editor of choice is the simple Mac TextEdit app, which is the program that I am using to write the text you are reading now. It provides reliable on-the-fly spell checking, which is a must. Fortunately, it but doesn’t have grammar checker, which I have never really cared for in any program. I have always been a fan of Microsoft Word, and I have used it to write a few posts, but it is largely geared toward print formatting, and I consider it to be overkill for this venue.

Once I have typed a working draft in my editor, I print it out so that I can step away from the computer and read it in its entirety on paper. This may seem somewhat wasteful and absurd, but I think there is a purity in reading my work on a plain sheet of paper, absent any visual distractions. I even scribble notes on the printouts and almost always find careless mistakes and room for improvement.

At the end, I go back to the computer and make my tweaks. Once I’m finished, I simply paste my body of work into the WordPress editor and hit Publish.

The end.