Matthew the Engineer

Random musings of a modern geek

Early last month, I realized that I was on a crash course to a near mental and social breakdown. I hadn't been sleeping well, I was constantly anxious, I was always tired. I was lashing out at my wife, my kids, my coworkers, my friends, random internet people...everyone.

What is going on? I asked myself over and over.

In a word: Overstimulation

My social media habits

Lets put aside the privacy aspects of these listed services and just talk about them as a service.

Very long ago I deleted my Facebook account and deleted all of my messages, pictures, friend connections, etc. The site even back in 2012 (a lifetime ago for some) was turning into a flamewars board of nothing but political hate, groan worthy memes that aren't even funny, and unrealistically staged photos from friends and family. It was, and still is, toxic in every sense of the word. I never understood the point of Twitter either back in its early days, but nowadays it is just as toxic (and the Signal-to-Noise ratio makes it completely unusable to me for a communication medium). Mastodon at times can be as bad from a S/N perspective as Twitter, but I still find it a more welcoming service.

I discovered Reddit sometime in the mid 2010s and found it to be a massive messageboard, of which I had ample experience with in the late 90s and early-mid 2000s. But I was mostly a passive user, and rarely interacted.

Youtube is of course one of the go-to websites of the Internet these days for news, communication, and entertainment. I'd say that I spend more time on Youtube than I do looking at any other website, or any TV show or movie.

It wasn't until 2018 that I discovered Mastodon. Then I discovered Discord, Telegram, Matrix, all with their IRC-like chat systems and relatively easy separation. And all of these services have a much better S/N ratio for communication, and you at least have a prayer's chance of staying up to date.

I was hooked. Most idle moments were spent bouncing from Reddit to Youtube to Mastodon to Telegram to Discord, and back. It started eating into my free time when I could be doing something else productive. Dozens of /r communities needed to be followed to stay up to date. Ignore Telegram for more than a few hours and you will be spending hours catching up with the chat logs. Same with Discord. And as for Mastodon, I long gave up trying to follow my Home feed greater than an hour or so, and instead use my Local Instance feed to keep informed.

Looking back, it was exactly the trap I wanted to avoid, and I want my wife and kids to avoid, but here I am.

It comes crashing down

The wake up call for me was when I posted something in a Discord channel, trying to get attention. “Hey you, look at me, here I am!” The community I was in was right to call me out on it, and tell me to stop.

And at that moment, I realized I had gone too far.

It shook me for hours. Maybe even a few days. What was I DOING? I asked myself.

This, on top of the last year or so of pandemic-induced stress, was a symptom of poor mental health. I was lucky that I spotted the symptoms in myself when I did.

Immediate triage – going on a social media diet

The first thing I did was uninstall Mastodon clients, Reddit, Telegram, and anything else that I could, in an effort to reduce quick access to these services, from my phone. I went into Discord and MASSIVELY trimmed down my channel list, including a few of the ones I was spending too much time on. I logged out of Mastodon, and stepped away.

I went into my web browser's bookmars and deleted the shortcuts to the websites I most frequently visited. If I wanted to visit them, i would need to type them in manually. Every website that I could, I would log out completely. It will take some effort to log back into them again.

I couldn't do anything about many other stressors in my life that were negatively impacting me though. I can't do anything about the pandemic. I can't do much about work. I can't do much about my kids being kids. But I could remove some of the unhealthy things I was continuously exposing myself to.

Longer term planning

I knew at some point I would want to get back on Mastodon at least, but before I did I would need to do some things.

  1. I will not install an Mastodon client on my phone ever again, or on my computers. If I want to access Mastodon, it will be by web browser on my computer only; phone use is forbidden.
  2. SEVERELY limit what Discord servers I connect to. That is a big triage right there.
  3. Do not under any circumstances log into anything else. No Reddit, Telegram, other Mastodon websites.
  4. If the option exists, do not even visit other websites.
  5. Continue to blacklist Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I also knew that I needed a mental break from work. My job being what it is, it can be extremely stressful on me, on my family, and every one of my coworkers. The pandemic isn't helping things; if anything it has made things worse.

Last week, I took a much needed vacation from work, coinciding with my son's spring break from school, and made it a priority to do some self reflection.

Although I didn't get a lot of down time to just sit and rest (when does a parent ever get to rest?) it was VERY nice to spend time with my family, and actually do a few things with my family (even if the options were severely limited due to said pandemic; sometimes its the simple things in life that matter).

What next?

Right now I'm feeling like my mental batteries are recharged, and I don't feel like I'm about to have a mental breakdown anymore. I feel like my normal self again: calm, collected, generally upbeat, and mostly content.

I'm going to give this social media diet a longer term go. I absolutely cannot afford to get back in that mindset.

I also spend an unsafe amount of time browsing news sites. This recent political season has been a roller coaster that I hope I never experience again in my life, and healthy or not the news sites have been feeding the need to know what's happening. I do it when I'm bored or I have downtime.

It needs to stop.

In the near future I'm going to trim my rotation of news websites down considerably, and limit my access to them. It's just as bad as browsing other websites, and with the utter madness of the political season finally winding down to a normal level, there just isn't any need anymore.

Things are normal-ish, except for the pandemic. But I'm going to stop worry about the pandemic because we actually have some competent leaders now handling it (don't worry, I'm not going to do anything dumb to risk my life or my family).

Lastly, I'm going to get back into blogging this 100 days to offload. I was off to a good start, but I fell off the bandwagon. I'm also going to get back to reading and journaling. Journaling has always been helpful for me to organize my thoughts.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #SocialMedia #MentalHealth #Overstimulation #SocialMediaDiet


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I'm a pretty big fan of dystopian science fiction stories. It happens that many of them tend to be the young adult variety, of which The Hunger Games trilogy squarely fits. Although the trilogy has its flaws (both the books and the excellent adaptations) I would rate them in my list of must read books.

When I learned about a follow up book, titled A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, it piqued my interest. It also happens that my wife likes the trilogy, so I surprised her and bought it.

Before I go any further, here there be dragons. If you do not like spoilers, stop reading.

Read more...

My job issues company-controlled cell phones for our job (BYOD is not a thing, thank goodness). I “upgrade” from a Samsung Galaxy S7 to a Samsung Galaxy S9.

My old phone has a heavy duty phone case on it to protect it from falls, scratches, etc., which is important because I work in a factory where the floor tiles are literal steel waffle irons.

My new phone did not ship with a phone case. As a result, I'm afraid to hold it, because I will likely drop it, and instantly break it.

I hate modern cell phones due to lack of durability

Modern cell phones (phones made in the last 3 years) are flimsy things that are surrounded by a layer of glass on all sides. Which means they are NOT meant to take a beating, and will crack or break at the slightest provocation. I hate it.

For the price that these phones are running these days (this one originally retailed for around $900?) you would think that an emphasis on durability would occur. But it seems that durability is an inverse function. Additionally, repair costs just continue to go up.

Maybe this is by design?

I especially hate Galaxy phones

Samsung likes to do their own thing for their phones, and make it as anti-base Android as possible. This thing is so NOT like vanilla Android its not even funny.

And don't get me started on the Bixby button, which will never, ever get use except when I accidentally hit it. You can't even remap the button or disable it outright, so it might as well be taking up extra space.

I really hate the lack of buttons

In my opinion, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the perfect physically-designed phone. Power button, volume buttons, physical home button on the front screen, and permanent menu and back buttons that are not software driven.

Every modern cell phone is moving away from physical home buttons, and it won't be long before we move away from physical volume buttons. It wouldn't surprise me if they somehow do away with the power button.

I hate camera notches

The Galaxy S9 does not have a camera notch, but almost every other modern phone does. I understand why they have a notch, but they are just an eyesore to me.

I hate how expensive good phones are

My personal phone is a Motorola Moto G7 which I bought for $250. It is about as perfect a cell phone as I would expect for the price, despite its flaws.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 retailed for around $900 when it first launched, and for the price, it does not do enough to make it worth the premium.

Every modern phone suffers from this problem. For the asking price, they just don't deliver anymore.

I like Android, privacy issues aside. I hate customized Android

Ignoring the privacy issues with Android (and there are numerous), stock Android is a pretty nice cell phone OS these days.

Samsung's version of it is not that. They have a habit of changing things for the sake of change and to make it as NOT stock Android as possible. It is annoying, and there is no gain.

But how's the call quality?

There hasn't been significant improvement in cell phone reception in decades, and microphone and speakers are about as good as they are ever going to get. The biggest upgrade is in a good bluetooth headset, which is device agnostic.

So, meh?

I hate modern cell phones overall

There is nothing to like about modern cell phones. They are flimsy, poorly designed pieces of glass that cost as much as a decent laptop.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Work #Phones


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I have strong opinions on this, which I will write about later, but the short of it is going to be this:

If Epic Games “wins”

What does that look like exactly? Does that mean Apple will be forced to allow sideloading on iOS like Android? Will it mean that apps will be able to have their own microtransaction system? Google too?

What does this look like for other closed ecosystems, like on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch? What about smaller marketplaces?

If Epic Games wins, does the consumer actually win?

If Epic Games “loses”

Frankly, even if Epic Games loses, the consumer will not be better off. But on the other hand, I know app developers that are happy to fork over 30% revenue to Apple just because the payment system becomes “somebody else's problem”

The consumer loses, no matter what

Epic Games ain't a pro-consumer company. They are just as involved in shady business practices as any other company.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Gaming #EpicGames #Google #Apple


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As I get older and my responsibilities grow, my spare time gets less and less. I simply do not have enough hours in the day anymore to devote to recreation for myself. There is also precious little time in the day to pursue hobbies, interests, or other projects outside of needed house projects. Maybe this is a symptom of being a parent of two young kids, as well as my current career, but I'm beginning to accept that I simply don't have enough time in the day to pursue the hobbies or projects that I want to anymore.

I've already talked about the terrible state of putting a kindergartener through online school, but when I'm not doing that, I'm also either chasing the one year old around, or doing my day job as a process engineer. Depending on whether I am on call or not, I am required to put in about 40-60 hours a week to my job, not counting indirect activities related to the job like travel to-and-from. And if I'm on call, I can basically forget about doing any sort of fun activity over the weekend without being on a short leash.

I have a number of projects I want to work on, but just not enough time in the day to work on them. And besides that, not enough mental power at the end of the day (when the kids are asleep) to do anything besides the most basic relaxing task.

What am I interested in these days?

Learning to program

I have been trying to teach myself a useful programming language for the last 30 years or so. I know bits and pieces of Python and C++ but not enough to do anything particularly useful. I've signed up for lots of courses on the subject too (some of which I'm actively working on, mental energy permitting), but I struggle to retain the knowledge.

Gaming

This should come as no surprise, I like to play video games.

However, the games that I want to play, and the games that I actually play, are in two different categories. Almost always I am playing Super Smash Bros in some form, or a classic Nintendo game (or often a randomizer of one). I tried to get into the Animal Crossing series, but after a certain point I burn out. I used to play competitive Pokemon, but I'm completely burned out on that too; I can't even work the energy to play through the single player modes. I play Rimworld on occasion, but depending on how long my colony goes on, it does eventually become a slog. I want to play Stardew Valley, but I just can't devote the energy to it like I can other games.

Then don't get me started on the long list of games that are on my bucket list, such as the Final Fantasy series.

I don't do table top gaming, be that TTRPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, or traditional board games. Very few people in my current inner circle have schedules that line up well with mine (especially when you factor in kids). Friends I used to play board games with all the time have also moved on with their lives, and doing regular meet ups is just not possible (even when you don't factor COVID-19). Maybe when my kids are older I can introduce them, but for now they are just too young. My son is barely old enough to play video games with any degree of competency, and the games I would want to play with him are either too mature or too difficult for him for now.

Reading

I sometimes read, but finding a good book to catch my interest over the long haul is tough. Lately I've been trying to read through Neuromancer at long last, but it is a tough read. I used to be a heavy reader as a kid, but as I get older, it gets harder for a book to get my attention and keep it. I'm also not one to reread a book once I've read it.

I don't mind reading on a tablet, but my current tablet isn't the best device for reading. I would like to get an e-ink tablet of some sort.

Journaling

I do journaling nightly. I'll talk about that some time. However it is more of a “do this before you go to sleep” task, as opposed to “do this through the course of the day”. Sometimes I wonder how people can just write so dang much.

Other

I don't watch a lot of TV or movies anymore. Since much of my other entertainment is already multimedia based, it leaves no room for TV or movies, other than the occasional action flick with my wife. Besides that, a lot of newer shows these days are just too depressing, and harsh on the main characters for no apparent reason. I don't like watching TV shows where the main characters are one heartbeat away from a mental breakdown, and those kind of shows seem all the rage these days.

Besides that, well there's always poking around with a random Linux distribution, but that is getting old. Been on Fedora for awhile and I think I don't want to mess with it anymore.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Gaming #Recreation #Adulting


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I am the type of person that is easily distracted by something shiny or new. I'm also the type of person that can get into a mental zone or hyperfocus state with some ease, but with some difficulty staying in it. This is an especially pleasing state to be when I'm gaming, or especially when I am working.

However, in today's modern environment, it is also extremely easy to get distracted, especially from our computers and phones. Usually these are in the form of notifications, such as an IM ping, email, text messare, and so on. Some of these are useful, but many of these are distracting, and break me out of the zone. So, to aide with this, I try to keep my electronic-based notifications to an absolute minimum.

For the most part, these notifications consist of:

  • Text or Video direct messages (Signal and SMS, plus Skype/Teams at work)
  • Email notifications
  • Calendar notifications (rarely use them outside of work)
  • Phone calls and Voicemail notifications

Basically only things that need immediate attention because they are essential for functioning in modern society.

I do not have notifications turned on for Mastodon, Discord, Telegram, Reddit, or any other service I use. Those services are not things I need to respond to, or even need to use. If I stopped using those services, I would not lose something important in my life, just something fun.

Separate Priorities, Separate Disruption

All forms of communication can fall into a few basic categories: critical, important, low priority, filler, and noise. Additionally, all communication falls into a disruption category: interrupting, interjecting, distracting, and background chatter.

Priority Levels

Critical

Critical communications are things that need to be acted on immediately, usually due to time sensitive. These also tend to be highly interrupting (and for good reason). Good examples would be:

  • The house is on fire
  • I need your TPS report right now
  • The Internet is down again

Important

Important communications are things that need to be acted upon quickly, but do not need immediate action. They can wait a short period of time. However these are often mistaken to be critical, and are often needlessly interrupting. Examples would be:

  • Please send me your TPS report by the end of the day
  • Hi husband, please pick up dinner on the way home from work.

Low Priority

Low priority are things that can be placed in a queue, but will need to be eventually acted upon at some point. Examples:

  • Today is Monday. I need your TPS report by the end of the week
  • Your electricity bill is due, here is the date and amount owed

Filler

Filler messages are messages that may or may not be useful at some point, but are definitely not garbage. They might be automated build emails from a server farm, or periodic status updates, or a mailing list of some kind that you regularly read. Most of the time you will be looking for this kind of communication yourself, and do not want to be automatically notified when you receive it.

Noise

This is everything else that you clearly do not want to read. Spam emails, game notifications, things trying to get your attention but do not actually need to be read in any way.

Distraction Levels

Interrupting

This kind of message is the kind to break your focus off of whatever you are doing (interrupt) and immediately change your focus to something else. Phone calls are great for doing this.

Interjecting

This is the kind of message that tries to butt in (interject), but it is just below the threshold of forcing you to change your focus. You know it's there, you know it needs to be acted upon, but it does not need you to drop what you are doing. It can wait a few minutes if need be.

Distracting

These are the kind of messages that will nag you until you pay attention to them. They do not need your immediate attention, but they want your immediate attention.

Background Chatter

You know when you go to a restaurant and you hear the constant chatter of everyone in the restaurant, but its so mixed and indistinct that you cannot pay attention to it unless you intentionally give it your complete attention? That's background chatter. Many, many messages fall into this category.

Breaking down the different types of notifications

So, how should we break down each type of notification, trying to get your attention? Lets break it down by ideal priority level

\ Interrupting Interjecting Distracting Background Chatter
Critical Face to Face,
Phone Calls
Voice Mailn/an/a
Important n/a Text Message,
Calendar Notifications
n/an/a
Low Priorityn/an/a Email (direct to you) n/a
Fillern/an/aEmail (not direct to you)n/a
Noisen/an/an/aEverything else

My rules of thumb are:

  1. Critical messages get responded to immediately because they are meant to interrupt your work.
  2. Important messages I get notified, and I respond to quickly, but not so quickly that I drop what I'm doing. If its that urgent, make a phone call. Text messages get an audio notification, but it is not meant to interrupt.
  3. Low priority messages I get notified, but I will not respond quickly. I do not look at low priority messages unless my immediate/instantaneous workload allows it. Because low priority messages are email, if its more important than email, text or call to let me know. These notifications also do not get audio. If, for some reason, an email message needs to be flagged as Critical or Important, use your email program's filters to generate a pop-up message or some other form of notification. However these messages should be automatically determined ahead of time.
  4. Filler messages I do not get audio or visual notifications, however they will be placed in my queue. Since they are email messages, I will run the appropriate filters on them (move them to appropriate folders/subfolders, give them proper tags, etc), and go through them as I can. If its something that is not filler, then shoot me a text.
  5. Noise I don't even look at for any reason. I don't get notified of their existence unless I actively seek them out. I will actively disable notifications of this type if I can. Don't even bother trying to get my attention if its noise.

Blocking out the noise

In real life, its easy to block out noise and distractions: A good quality pair of headphones, music or podcasts, and a reasonably quiet work space. If need be, I work in an isolated space in complete silence; no music, podcasts, TV shows, or anything that can possibly distract me..

On phones and computers, its a bit harder. You have to spend the time to disable notifications on most apps that you use. Usually they will respect your settings. However if they do not, re-evaluate if you really need that app, and if you don't, get rid of it and never look back. Email wise, unsubscribe to mailing lists you don't read, use your email spam filter to mark spam and unmark messages that are not spam, and routinely purge your inbox of clutter. Pick a non-interrupting audio notification (a simple chime or musical chord) for text messages, no audio queue for email, and no notification at all for filler, noise, and background chatter.

How well does this work in practice?

For me? Fairly well as long as everyone is on the same page. Of course, people being people, there is always a person that treats everything as a priority. Sometimes you gotta deal with these difficult people.

Other times, my system works well for me. I can still do some fine tuning, but I'm getting there.

How to keep the kids from distracting you

You don't 😅

At least, if you are forced to be in the proximity of your kids while you do critical work, you are S.O.L. unless you give them something to entertain themselves. If you have someone else that can watch your kids, you will have better luck.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Declutter #Distractions


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As a geek, I have always been a fan of the predecessor to Emojis, the ever-present emoticon. You know, the combination of letters and symbols to represent an expression of some kind. Such as:

:) - Smiley
:( - Sadface
>:( - Angry face
(^-^) - Very happy face
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) - Lemmy face
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ - Flip a table because of anger
<('.'<) (>'.')> <('.') (^'.'^) - Kirby dance

They can be used to express emotions and expressions that a normal string of text cannot.

Emoji are simply pictoral representations of these emoticons.

I might also add, the Unicode standard now defines Emoji.

Some of my favorite emojis include:

🤨 – Face with raised eyebrow (aka The Colbert) 👍 – Thumbs up (and the companion 👎 Thumbs Down) 🖕 – Middle Finger 🤦 – Facepalm

I also appreciate the different color and skin tone support that many emoji have:

Man: Beard, with six different skin tones: 🧔 🧔🏻 🧔🏼 🧔🏽 🧔🏾 🧔🏿

Of course, there are a few major problems with Emoji:

Inputting Emoji is difficult 🤔

Outside of a cell phone interface, it is difficult to insert an emoji, depending on what software you are writing with. On GNOME at least, there are a few shell extensions for emoji support (such as Emoji Selector).

However in a pure terminal environment, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to insert emoji. This is purely the realm of graphical interfaces

Inconsistent pictoral representation 😬

Some emoji are pretty straight forward, and difficult to misinterpret.

However, some platform providers have chosen some...odd paths. Emojipedia explains the history

And because some cell phones literally do not get updates after release, people will be stuck with this misinterpretation for years.

Emoji needs grow faster than new emoji are developed and implemented 📲

Because emoji require the Unicode project to develop and create new emoji, it can often lag significantly behind what users actually want out of emoji. And if the Unicode folks don't make an update...well, then we don't get new emoji. Even then, implementation often lags behind development.

Oh well 🤷

You win some 🌟🥇, you lose some 🥉, and you compromise 🥈🤝


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Emoji


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Markdown it seems is all the rage. In theory it is easy to quickly format a plain text document without having to use cumbersome things like html tags, or phpBB pseudocode, and supposedly you can tell at a glance with almost no knowledge of coding what something is supposed to look like.

I hate it as a markup language.

Why use Markdown

Markdown was written with the purpose of readability in mind. In theory you should be able to see something like ### Header and know that it is supposed to be a header. Likewise *italics* and **bold** are supposed to render italics and bold.

And inserting inline images and hyperlinks is supposed to be fairly straightforward, you make a code snipplet like this: ![Alt text](/url/to/image) and hyperlink like [this](/url/to/link) and its supposed to magically work.

Why I hate it

My issue with markdown is that it is not as intuitive as people think, and it is missing some key, basic, things to really make it useful.

For starters, no underline.

You would think that doing _text_ would result in underline text where the text is underlined, but instead it renders as italicised text.

Is *this* bold or is it italic? Turns out, its itacic. If you want bold you need **this** which is just a straight up eyesore.

And if you want both? ***This is required*** Or some combination of underscores and asterisks.

If this is supposed to be a plain text format, then it fails on these counts. Maybe a 'single quote' should be used for italics, but it turns out 'it does nothing'

And that's the tip of the iceberg

For someone that has spent most of his life with knowledge of HTML code, various bulletin board formats (phpBB for example), and of course decades of WYSIWYG word processor usage, this breaks everything that has been in place for years prior to Markdown's invention.

Not to mention it falls flat on its face when you start to deal with the advanced features, and you compare it to other popular formats (and even some popular programming languages):

Nested lists require two spaces between levels, and if you include more than two, it falls on its face

* Level 1
__* Level 2, this works because of two spaces
___* Level 3, this breaks because of 3 spaces.

But then you look at popular programming languages like Python, they are built around four spaces.

Hyperlinks and Images are just a royal pain in the ass to wrap the syntax around. Instead of wrapping your hyperlink anchor around your body of text <a href="url">like this</a> or inserting the image <img src="url"> like so you have to do some funky sequence [like this](url). Images are just as bad. The one feature that is nice about Markdown is being able to insert reference links [like this][arbitrary reference], and later in the text insert that [arbitrary reference]: url. It appears like this:

arbitrary reference

Mixing HTML and Markdown is a recipe for disaster

What is the output of this string of text?

*arbitrary <U>long <B>text*</U> block</B>

If it were HTML it would render the same as <I>arbitrary <U>long <B>text</I></U> block</B>. But how does it actually render? Lets find out

arbitrary long text block

Something break? It's possible depending on the parser that the </U> tag broke. Lets fix that, just in case.

Conflicting standards

Did you know that Markdown is not governed by a body in the same way that HTML is? There are many versions of Markdown that have varying degrees of compatibility. What makes this a problem is that the creator of Markdown does not want a unified standard.

Why? Makes no sense. So there's no guarantee that Markdown code will stay consistent as a result if you change ecosystems.

There are some good things

If you use a text editor that recognizes Markdown (off the top of my head: Notorious, Gedit, VSCode/VSCodium, Pycharm) it can parse it and help you find errors. WYSIWYG editors also exist, which are nice.

And I guess if you don't need to do anything fancy, it is a pretty decent format. Just don't expect to do anything precise.

You know, when I think about it, maybe it isn't all that bad. It's not perfect, but it does get the job done. Maybe, just maybe...

... I don't hate it?

As I tell my son, hate is a strong word. Maybe I just am not in love with it, because its not my native tongue if you will. Maybe I'm just an old fart that needs to get with the times. But maybe if I just spend time with it and learn the language, I can appreciate it a bit more. Plus having a good Markdown parser is always useful.

Just don't call me a Boomer. That honor goes to my parents.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Markdown


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This is a follow up to day 1.

Our son started online kindergarten, and it was different than we expected. It ended up being a LOT more stressful and time consuming than we anticipated.

Scheduling

The first day schedule went down like this:

  • 0900 – 0930: Live meeting
  • 0930 – 0945: “recess”
  • 0945 – 1015: Video + activity
  • 1015 – 1045: Live meeting
  • 1045 – 1105: Video + activity
  • 1105 – 1145: Lunch
  • 1150 – 1220: Live meeting
  • 1220 – 1315: Video
  • 1315 – 1345: “recess”
  • 1345 – 1400: Video
  • 1400 – 1440: Final video

What it actually ended up being was:

  • 0900 – 0930: Live meeting
  • 0930 – 0945: “recess”
  • 0945 – 0955: Video + activity
  • 0955 – 1015: Downtime
  • 1015 – 1045: Live meeting
  • 1045 – 1055: Video + activity
  • 1055 – 1105: Early Lunch
  • 1105 – 1145: Lunch
  • 1150 – 1220: Live meeting
  • 1220 – 1230: Video
  • 1230 – 1315: Downtime
  • 1315 – 1345: “recess”
  • 1345 – 1400: Video
  • *1400: “early dismissal”

Quite a bit more downtime than we were anticipating.

Granted, this is the first day, and I'm still going to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, but it certainly feels like there is more downtime than there ought to be.

A few questions:

  1. Is this high amount of downtime due to it being the first day?
  2. Is it because we are dealing with kindergarteners, and not older kids?
  3. Is the high downtime because we have to keep pace with how in-person will be?

The second day looks like it will be somewhat better, hopefully with a bit less downtime. I also hope that everyone falls into a groove and things go smoother, especially on the kid side of the equation.

Distractions, Policing, and Self Sufficiency

Something else that was obvious is that the parents will be required to police their kid. This was especially true for my son.

  • My son fidgeted with the mouse. Removed the mouse, and he fidgeted with the trackpad on the laptop.
  • My son loved to play with the microphone mute/unmute button. Constant policing of that and reminding him to not play with it.
  • With headphones on, I could not hear what the teacher wants next, and kids at that age are almost incapable of remembering for themselves. Which basically means the parent is required to sit in on kindergarten.
  • There are a lot of print outs and activities. Parents will be required to stay on top of things, as kindergarteners are incapable of handling it themselves.
  • There is a lot of switching things around, between joining the videoconference, opening different videos, opening different documents, moving handouts and crayons and pencils around, and the like.

This certainly feels only one step removed from a proper home school curriculum. But somehow it feels even more stressful.

The big one:

Absolutely vital that all external distractions are removed, which includes:

  • Televisions
  • Video game consoles
  • Tablet computers
  • Music players
  • Siblings
  • Toys
  • Interesting scenery

Our house is barely set up to support this. We have a common room that we figured out how to cordon off, but just barely. My son's only other option is his bedroom, or the master bedroom, both of which are out of the way. My work from home office will not work, because I work from home in there to pay the bills, and the distractions would be very real, and not conductive to my success at work and his success at school.

You can forget about getting anything else done

Prior to starting school, you could at least plunk the kid down somewhere to entertain himself, and get some housework done (as long as all kids allowed it). Not so with online kindergarten. You are stuck at the kid's side micromanaging all day. Need to prep a roast for dinner? Too bad, you have kindergarten. Need to change the baby's diaper? You better hurry, you have kindergarten to worry about. Have a doctor appointment? Better make sure your significant other is there to watch the kindergartener while you do it!

😭

I have no idea how we are going to keep this up long term, and retain our sanity.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Parenting


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Up until a few years ago, I resisted podcasts like the plague that I thought they were. For one I didn't want to be associated with a fruit brand, and I just didn't get it.

That was, until I had a decently powerful cell phone and needed something to do while at work and while doing daily walks with the dog. I also happened to purchase an audio book through an online bundle (I think it was HumbleBundle) and started listening to it on my phone.

Then it clicked: Podcasts are what talk radio and radio drama used to be, but now can exist without the rules that hold radio back.

From then on, I was hooked.

Podcasting is the new Radio

Ever since television came into the forefront, radio was left to fill two gaps: Something to listen to in the car, and something to pass the time when television is not only a distraction but also not feasible. I remember growing up, and my dad listening to conservative radio, and it wasn't until much later that I understood why: It is much easier to listen to something and do work, and much harder to watch something and do work.

Radio itself has been on the decline for a very long time. Television shows killed the radio audiodrama. Portable music media (CDs and cassettes) are killing radio music stations. 24-hour cable news and television talk shows are killing the radio news stations and killing the radio talk show.

So where does podcasting fit in? Well, television shows as we know them are on the way out thanks to Internet streaming. Portable music media is replaced with digital players (stand-alone or built into everyone's cell phones) and even those are being replaced by Internet streaming. There is still a niche for 24-hour cable news and television talk shows, but those are being replaced by on-demand Internet news and streaming channels. And along that wave, podcasts are replacing most talking-based content. Many types of shows are just better suited as an audio-only experience, and one can produce (and also consume) audio content much faster than video. On top of that, the barrier for entry for a podcast show is next to nothing: A working microphone (built into every cell phone), an internet connection (almost a universal given these days), and something to talk about.

Lo and behold, before we knew it, there are about programming languages, humor, love, war, politics...you name it, there is probably a podcast about it.

Poor terrestrial radio doesn't stand a chance anymore.

My Podcast Preferences

I listen to a lot of podcasts, perhaps more than I can ever keep up with. But I am addicted to them, I can't help it. My list changes all the time and is ever evolving. Some I have only listened to for a few weeks. Some a few years. Some I stopped halfway and will never listen to again. Some I started late, and will never hear the beginning of. Some I have actually listened to completely from beginning to current. Some I try to share with my wife, while others she has no interest in.

I tend to gravitate to technology and gaming. I have no tolerance for bullcrap, and anything that I feel wastes my time gets the axe. Additionally, I (for the most part) expect a certain level of professionalism and respect for the audience. Some podcasts I've listened to over the years don't respect the audience and like to waste time, and for one reason or another I will drop them.

The master list

I'm going to include podcasts that I no longer listen to, but I think are worth subscribing to.

Linux & Open Source and Tech Podcasts

  • 2.5 Admins One knucklehead from Late Night Linux, and one knucklehead from BSD Now talk administration.
  • Ask Noah Show – no longer subscribed This is a weekly talk show that embraces the terrestrial radio format. Often it is informative, however the host doesn't respect the audience and gets very, very preachy. This is an artifact of terrestrial radio, and why I don't listen anymore.
  • BSD Now – no longer subscribed A BSD-centric podcast, usually around FreeBSD. I have a love/hate relationship with BSD, with right now it on the hate side of things, so I don't listen. However it is a fairly high quality podcast.
  • Command_Line Heroes Published by Red Hat this podcast talks about the history of computing, where it is, and where it's going. It isn't strictly about Red Hat. Definitely worth a listen.
  • Darknet Diaries Ever wonder what happens on the shady underside of the Internet? This guy explains it, with interviews of convicted criminals, infosec folks, and even government folks involved in taking down organized crime rings.
  • Destination Linux Probably the number one Linux podcast right now, several goofballs discuss Linux on a weekly basis. Production quality of this show goes up with each week, though they are beginning to plateau.
  • FLOSS Weekly – not currently subscribed Excellent show, although their RSS feed only goes back a dozen episodes. They have a huge backlog, and they talk things Free and Libre Open Source Software...weekly.
  • FOSS and Crafts One of the hosts from Libre Lounge discuss arts and crafts, and free software and free culture, and where they meet in the middle.
  • GNU World Order – no longer subscribed This guy talks Slackware for the most part. I don't get it either. He is an interesting guy, though. If you like Slackware, I would give this podcast a listen.
  • Hardware Addicts Some of the guys from Destination Linux have a hardware-oriented show.
  • Late Night Linux Foul mouthed talk about the latest happenings in Linux. These guys also used to run Linux Luddites
  • Libre Lounge As they put it, a casual podcast that's about user freedom.
  • Linux For Everyone Jason Evangelho, a writer for Forbes, talks about his journey into the Linux ecosystem.
  • LinuxGameCast and Linux Weekly Daily Wednesday These knuckleheads host a weekly Linux Gaming podcast, as well as a general Linux News podcast.
  • Linux Unplugged – no longer subscribed Used to be the number one Linux podcast, but has had a fall from grace after Jupiter Broadcasting got bought out by a cloud company. Frankly I can't stomach the main host anymore.
  • Open Source Security Podcast Podcast about security in the Internet age, especially as it pertains to open source software.
  • Sunday Morning Linux Review One of the longest running Linux podcasts, their rate of shows has gone down drastically since the pandemic. However they are pretty light hearted and fun to listen to.
  • This Week In Linux One of the hosts of Destination Linux runs his own weekly news podcast. He is an interesting character and is not afraid to share his opinion.
  • Ubuntu Podcast – no longer subscribed If you love Ubuntu, then you need to listen to this podcast. Me and Ubuntu aren't on speaking terms right now.

Programming Podcasts

  • Coding Blocks This podcast is all about the art of programming. Just started listening to this one again.
  • CppCast This podcast is all about C++, the programming language. Only just started listening to this one, trying to get a feel for it.
  • Real Python Bi-weekly podcast about Python, with an emphasis on learning.
  • Talk Python To Me Another Python focused podcast. Just started listening to this one.

Gaming Podcasts

  • Completely Unnecessary Podcast Pat Contri, aka the NES Punk, and his buddy a game store manager discuss pop culture and gaming. One of my favorite gaming podcasts because of the off-beat humor.
  • Critical Hit: A Dungeons and Dragons Campaign This D&D Campaign has been running for over a decade. Start at the beginning, and be ready for a hell of a ride.
  • Go Mode: A Link To the Past Randomizer Podcast I play a few randomizers, which i will talk about on a later blog post. These guys are all about the A Link To the Past randomizer. Well worth a listen.
  • LinuxGameCast and Linux Weekly Daily Wednesday These knuckleheads host a weekly Linux Gaming podcast, as well as a general Linux News podcast.
  • Nintendo Power Podcast – no longer subscribed Love Nintendo? Remember Nintendo Power? It's back, but in podcast form.
  • Its Super Effective, the Pokemon Podcast Probably the leading Pokemon Podcast. The early episodes suffer badly from a lack of professionalism and turned me off, but later episodes might be worth listening to.
  • Retronauts These guys have been going on for well over a decade, and talk all things retro gaming, memorabilia, and the like. They also feature interviews with game creators and developers. Absolutely must listen to this podcast if you love gaming.

General News and Politics Podcasts

  • Intercepted – no longer subscribed The Intercept has their own podcast. I had to stop listening to it because I would get very angry at the things being discussed. Seriously, don't listen to this if you enjoy being calm.
  • Techdirt These guys discuss politics and technology, and where and when they intercept each other.
  • Valley 101 My local newspaper, the Arizona Republic, hosts a weekly podcast that is all about the Phoenix metropolitan area. As a Phoenix native, this is required listening for me.

Music Podcasts

  • Music For Programming These guys occasionally republish music for you to listen to when you need background music, but you don't want it to distract you.
  • Open Metalcast Free (as in Libre) metal music, all of it licensed under Creative Commons.
  • Super Marcato Bros. Three music discuss video game music, but from a musical theory perspective. Very different than most other music podcasts out there, and a must listen if you are curious about music theory in any way.

Miscellaneous Podcasts

  • 99% Invisible – not currently subscribed For those with an eye on design, this podcast is for you.
  • Death of 1000 Cuts – not currently subscribed This guy dissects writing to make you a better writer.
  • Goulet Q&A This is an odd one on the list. This one is all about fountain pens, hosted by Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens, a fountain pen retailer.
  • IRL Podcast: Online Life is Real Life Mozilla publishes a podcast about the dangers of the Internet and where it intercepts real life.
  • Lifehacker Podcast At some point they switched to an interview-style podcast as opposed to a lifehacks style podcast. You might like this, but I don't anymore.
  • Millennial Podcast – ended A Millennial podcasts about being a millennial. Hilarity ensues (kind of).
  • Not So Common Podcast – Companion to Completely Unnecessary Podcast Currently inactive, more of a rambling podcast than anything.
  • Reply All – Not currently subscribed A podcast about the Internet. However I don't feel the hosts really respect the audience all that much, something about it seems too unprofessional.
  • Security Now – Not currently subscribed Same folks as FLOSS Weekly also talk security. HUGE backlog.
  • The Way I Heard It Mike Rowe talks about history, but in a fun way.

Current Subscribed List

As of 2020-08-05:

I have 1805 hours worth of podcasts to play through to get “caught up”. At a potential 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, that will take me about a year to get caught up. I better get going.


I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.

#100DaysToOffload #Podcasts


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.