Category: personal

Fully Vaccinated

Two weeks ago today, I received my second Pfizer shot, and that means that I am now fully vaccinated from COVID, based on the official CDC definition. (Kelly was fully vaccinated as of yesterday.) It seems remarkable to me that 427 days after the first mention of “Coronavirus” in my diary, multiple vaccines were engineered, tested, deployed, and we are fully vaccinated. Walter Isaacson (and others) argue that biology and its disciplines are today what information technology was in the past. With these kinds of results, I’d have to agree.

I’d write more, but I’m still in the middle of my crunch time (another 14 hour day yesterday, another 5 or so hours of sleep last night). If I can find time, I’ll try to get to something with a little more meat posted today. Otherwise, there is always tomorrow–thanks in part to a vaccine.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry for the lack of posts since Tuesday. Things have gotten very busy for me and when that happens, one of the first things to fall by the way side is my blog writing, as much as I enjoy it. I am working my way through this busy period, and hope to resume normal posting in a few days.

In the meantime, for those wondering, Part 4 of my 4-part mini-series on searching in Evernote should come out on schedule tomorrow morning at 9 am.

And, if you are interested, Evernote has been doing a series of posts on their blog about note-taking styles and the history of note-taking. It is a fascinating series, well worth checking out.

No Conventions in 2016

Various scheduling conflicts this year will make it impossible for me to attend any science fiction conventions. This is disappointing because I was so looking forward to the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City this summer. It is also disappointing because it means, for the second year in a row, I will be unable to attend my local convention, Capclave, in October.

I think this will be the first year since I began attending conventions in 2007 that I will go the entire year without going to a convention.

Kind Words

This happened on Twitter a few days ago:

I was delighted by this, and so I thanked Michael, which led to this:

After that, Evernote chimed in:

As busy as I have been lately, as stressed as I’ve sometimes felt, little things like this brightened my day, and made me pause for a second, and smile.

Snowed In!

No posts yesterday or today (except this one) because we are snowed in. Kelly has been sick, and I’ve been busy with the kids, and shoveling snow. Schools here are closed through at least Tuesday and the Federal government is closed tomorrow, so there may be another day or two of absences here on the blog, but I hope to resume normal service soon. And I will do my best to have the next Going Paperless post out on schedule.

In the meantime, here is a picture of what our street looked like earlier this afternoon.

Blizzard 2016

Answering the Telephone

Somehow, I have managed to accumulate four phone numbers. There is the land-line at home; my personal mobile number; my work mobile number; and my Google Voice number that I use in freelancing work. I try to consolidate things. My personal mobile number forwards automatically to my work mobile number, since I don’t want to carry around two mobile phones. My Google Voice number forwards to my personal mobile. So in actuality, calling one of my numbers will virtually always reach me on my mobile number.

I dislike talking on the phone, and as time has passed, I find that I no longer answer phone numbers that I don’t recognize. With four phone numbers from which to attack, the number of unrecognized numbers goes up, despite having enrolled each of the four numbers in the DO NOT CALL registry.

The phone is there for my convenience, and there is no reason I have to take a call when the phone rings. This has virtually eliminated my interactions with telemarketers. I never recognize the number, so I never answer. If they choose to leave a voice mail message, I’ll listen to it, but it is rare that they do. And on those occasions that I find an automated message in my voice mail box, it confirms that it was a telemarketer, and I can block the number on my iPhone so that they can no longer reach me.

Many people I know seem to feel compelled to answer every call that comes in. I ignore most of the calls I get. Unless a name that I recognize flashes on my screen, I send the call to voicemail without a second thought. It is too easy to get trapped on the phone by an unrecognized number. Inevitably, I’ll see a number that I think looks familiar, and decide to answer it. Invariable it is some organization looking for money. “Consider a small donation of $50,” they ask. “Alright, send me the information, and I’ll consider it for next year’s donation budget. This year’s budget is already set.”

That does not deter the caller. “How about $25?” they ask. To which my response is, “We have a set budget for donations each year, which gets allocated before the first of the year. Since all of the money has been allocated, there isn’t an addition $25 to give, I’m afraid. I’m sure you understand the importance of a budget and danger one gets into when they overspend their budget.” This usually ends the call. But it is waste of time to go through in the first place, which is why I stopped answering the phone for numbers I no longer recognize.

I don’t lose any sleep over this. In an emergency, if someone couldn’t reach me on the phone, they would certainly leave a voice mail message. So far as I can tell, I have not missed anything important since I stopped answering numbers I don’t recognize.

Email is my preferred method of communication. It is brief and direct, and it leaves behind a record that I can easily refer to. It is more efficient than a phone call. This is why I try to answer an email I receive as promptly as I can.

I wish that Siri was capable of handling my calls. If a telemarketer called, and I foolishly answered the phone, I wish there was a button I could tap in the Phone app on my iPhone that would transfer the caller to Siri. I don’t mind letting telemarketers talk to Siri.

Psst! Wanna Buy a Watch?

I haven’t worn a wristwatch in over a decade, but I am thinking about buying one. Although I’ve been considering the purchase for a while, I was galvanized into action on Monday while attending the Little Man’s swimming lesson1.

One of the kids in the Little Man’s class is a little hellion. The instructor does her best to keep him under control, but often looks up toward where the parents are seated with an expression of can you do something about your child on her face. The effort always fails, but it wasn’t until this last session that I realized why. When I looked around me, every parent was dutifully ignoring what was taking place in the swimming pool. Instead, they were busy on their mobile devices.

I am just as guilty of this, I am afraid, or I probably would have noticed this sooner. Still, it came as a sort of shock to my system. I was missing stuff because of my mobile phone. Not everything. I made sure to look up every minute or two. When the Little Man looked over at me, I always gave him a thumbs-up, and he smiled in return. But I was not engaged in the event. I was not—to borrow a current buzzword—mindful of what was happening.

A younger version of me—one half my age—would react to this revelation with knee-jerk defiance. “That’s it,” he would say, “I am giving up my mobile phone. I’m better off being disconnected from this hyperconnected world, anyway.” But that is neither reasonable, nor true. The apps we use on our mobile devices, and the automations we enable with them can work to free up time for us to spend on other things—like watching our kids struggle with the backstroke.

On the drive home from that swimming lesson, I realized three truths about my mobile device.

Truth #1: my mobile device has become a proxy for idle time. Whenever I am idle, I pull my phone and look at something—often just to feel like I am doing something. Get on elevator—out comes the phone. Waiting for a meeting to start—out comes the phone. Waiting in line—out comes the phone.

Truth #2: my mobile device has become a megaphone to the larger world. Ooh, that’s a pretty sunset—Instagram it! Hey, check out the Little Man floating—update Facebook! I’m five minutes from home—better text Kelly to let her know that I am five minutes from home.

Truth #3: my mobile device has become my primary information source. What’s the weather like today?—check my phone. Is it discrete or discreet?—check my phone. What time is it?—check my phone.

It is a good thing to be able to have this information at my fingertips, but it can also take away from the experience. While I am updating Facebook with a picture of the Little Man floating, I am missing whatever it is he is doing next. When I pull my phone out to check them time, I am also like to see that 10 new email messages and 7 Twitter replies have come in.

Which brings me back to the wristwatch.

A nice analog wristwatch would allow me to check the time without pulling out my phone. It might not prevent me from using my phone as a proxy for idle time, or as a megaphone for what goes on during my day. But is provides one less entry-point to distraction.

I can do more. I can alter my alerts and notifications. I can leave my phone in the car for swimming lessons. I can leave it on my desk, instead of beside my bed at night. But I’ve learned that small incremental changes work better for me, and it seems like a wristwatch would be a step in the right direction.

  1. Early Monday evenings are a bad time for swimming lessons. On Sunday mornings, it takes 15 minutes to get to the pool where the lessons are offered. On Monday evenings it takes at least half an hour. Also, the entire high school next door has swimming practice making an already steamy indoor pool area almost unbearable.

Three Things I’m Enjoying

I have been enjoying 3 things over the last few days, and each one takes a different form of media.

1. Re-reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King. I have been re-reading King’s Dark Tower books. The first time around I listening to them on audiobook. This time, I am reading the trade paper editions (and making lots of marginal notes along the way). It’s been a lot of fun.

2. Listening to Danse Macabre by Stephen King. I really enjoyed the book the first time around, and I’m enjoying it even more this time. I’m listening to the book while I am walking, or in the car, or doing chores, and it is a great way to make the time fly by.

3. Watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary. This is my second time around on this one as well, and I am enjoying every minute of this series.

What has been interesting is that one isn’t calling out any more than the other. I am doing each of these things when and where they feel natural. It relaxes me, and it provides some nice changes of pace along the way.

I Forgot to Go to My Classes!

For the first time in more than 15 years, I had a dream last night in which I had gone back to school–the University of California, Riverside, where I got my undergraduate degree–and I forgot to go to my classes.

I was wandering around a campus that was very different than the one I remembered. But recall walking into the library. There polished marble floors. Tall pillars holding up domed and arched ceilings. It was quiet and virtually empty–nothing like how I remember the Tomás Rivera library at UC Riverside. I knew the books were “downstairs” but I couldn’t find my way down. I ended up going outside, and getting lost. But as I walked the campus, I remember this serene feeling that I was doing the right thing, going back to school. I was at peace with it.

That peace did not last long.

I found my way to a group of people. Among them was Scott Edelman, who pointed out that the way to get back to the library was to follow the metro tracks across a small grassy area. At this point, I had two large suitcases with me, and had to race along the tracks a la the gang in Stephen King’s “The Body1” before the train knocked me off. I made it.

It was only while I was searching for the doors to the lower entrance of the library (no longer with suitcases–apparently, my imagination conjured them only to make that track crossing more exciting) that I realized that while I had been at the school for nearly a full quarter, I had only attended the very first day of classes.

I was sort of bewildered by this. Hadn’t I had dreams about forgetting to go to classes for years after graduating. And now, here I was back in school and I had actually forgotten to go to my classes.

I woke up at this point, relieved that it had all been a dream. But also troubled. I hadn’t had an anxiety dream of this particular sort in 15 years at least. I’ve had others, most commonly, one where I am getting current with my pilot’s license, and take off, only to realize that I have forgotten to contact air traffic control. But it has been a very, very long time since I had the dream about forgetting to go to class.

  1. Or, if you prefer, the movie version, Stand By Me.

A Walk in the Woods

For the last couple of Sundays, we’ve taken the kids for short hikes in the woods. Last Sunday we took them to Scott’s Run, along the Potomac. Yesterday, we went to a favorite place of ours, Burke Lake. Kelly and I have walked around the lake several times over the years. It’s a 4.5 mile walk. Yesterday, we all walked but at the 1.5 mile mark, the Little Miss and I turned around, while Kelly and the Little Man continued all the way around the lake. I took this shot from the northwest corner of the lake yesterday.

Burke Lake, November 2015

There is something about walking in the woods (“No, Daddy, it’s called the ‘Wilderness’,” the Little Miss insisted when we talked yesterday.) that is relaxing and invigorating. Yesterday, especially. We are in the heart of autumn and the woods surrounding the lake were carpeted in leaves, and the smell of the those leaves, and the rich oxygen of the woods managed to wake me up, after an unusually sluggish start to the day yesterday.

There are benches on the lake front here and there, and every time I walk around the lake, I think, It would be great to take a book and sit on the bench for an hour or two, reading, surrounding by lake sounds. But the lake is a little too far from the house to make that practical.

We enjoy our walks in the woods. And the kids did a great job yesterday. The Little Miss managed a total of 3 miles with her short little legs. The Little Man did 4.5 miles. But then again, they’ve always been walkers.