Category Archives: Technology

An Uneasy Observation

The TikTok I made about this interested me.

The original post from the wife I mentioned, it garnered the usual amount of teeth-gnashing; mainly from those who got irritated about the therapist’s quote:

“…your phone is YOU… the stuff you interact with…the words you share…your pictures…and most people keep that hidden for a reason…and it usually has nothing to do with privacy…it’s about controlling whether people know the real you.” (“Even your partner,” it should have said.)

Reading that smacks you in the face with the truth. It’s like if your browsing history were published in the newspaper or if a list of all the people you’ve texted, DMed, or interacted with were published for the world to see. Our phones are a great reflection of the totality of us, especially when juxtaposed with our relationships.

As Dave Worthen preaches: “You share your bodies, you brush your teeth together, you have children, you spend most of your lives connected, but lord help you if someone wants to share your phone, even with the best of intentions.”

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but reading and hearing all the commentary about this anecdote really gave me further insight into just how big of a problem this is for most of the modern world. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about this: most behaviors were direct and observable, and privacy/secrecy were not issues ideal partners had to confront.

Love, X

The Duh List For Phones (Please Argue!)

The Duh List For Phones

I wrote a series of bullet points like these for someone’s TikTok. They asked for 5. I’m a big fan of overkill, so here it is, stripped of the humor:

People first. If you’re with someone special or at a gathering, silence your phone and treat it as secondary to the event or the people in your presence.

The casual rule says that we can relax our rigidity when we’re with family, close friends, and partners – but you should keep it in the back of your mind. Using a cellphone in the presence of others is by its nature exclusionary.

Generally speaking, avoid texting while you’re having a face-to-face. If you do, politely ask for a moment.

It’s generally frowned upon to text/talk while you’re eating with others. It’s still not a good idea to leave it where people will see it flashing or hear/feel the vibration. Doubly so if it’s on the table.

IF you need to make/receive a call while eating, excuse yourself out of earshot of anyone trying to enjoy their meal. If you have important texts, please do the same.

Unless “everyone” has their phone out, keep yours tucked away too.

Just because your phone beeps or notifies you, it doesn’t mean you need to look at it or address it if you are with someone or a group. People first, and the ones (or one) you’re with trump others.

If you’re having a conversation, finish it before moving on to the next. Whether face-to-face or on the phone.

It’s a 24/7 world. Your phone has super-easy ways to keep it from ringing, beeping, or flashing. Use them.

Doubly so at work for the above.

It’s on you to assume that you could hear from any of your contacts at any second of the day or night. The person causing a notification might not be aware they are doing it.

With that in mind, YOU should take a second to ensure you’re not interrupted, woken up, or causing a disturbance where YOU are.

Likewise, you have do-not-disturb options on your phone for any time of the day or night – including when you’re sleeping.

You can set up exceptions where ONLY important people will go through anyway. For emergencies or whatever else.

Don’t talk on the phone when you’re paying unless it is truly important. And take a second to communicate that to the human helping you. Everyone universally shakes their heads at people that do this, but some haven’t understood the collective disdain for this.

Don’t text and drive. Or watch the latest episode of The Bachelor either.

No one likes seeing your screen at a theater. At all. Ever. It distracts anyone seeing the movie, play, or concert. Even if it’s “just for a second.” If everyone looks at their phone for “just a second” with 300 people in the theater… well, you get the idea.

ALWAYS turn your phone OFF if there is the slightest chance it will interfere with a funeral, church, business meeting, or any important occasion where people attend. The world will not end if you don’t have access for an hour. Humans evolved for thousands of years without immediate contact with the entire world. The entire group’s reason for attendance trounces your urge to be in constant contact.

It’s recommended to avoid using your phone while you’re doing your business in the bathroom. Unless you’re besties. But it’s true if you’re blathering on in a private conversation and other people have no choice but to listen. This applies to buses, doctor’s offices, etc.

Even though people don’t like hearing it, you sleep better if your phone isn’t in the bedroom. If it is, it should not flash, beep, or vibrate except for those on your emergency list. Study after study backs this up. Because you’re so attentive to your phone, it lingers at the fringe of your consciousness even when you don’t realize it. If it makes noise or light? Doubly so.

For business calls, voicemail is fine. For personal calls? Text instead and divulge at least the urgency or content of your contact.

If you get a text, don’t leave it too long “read.” At least politely respond with something similar: “I’m busy, but I’ll get back to you.” You can set pre-made messages to respond like this, too.

Never ask someone to wait to eat or drink so you can snap a picture.

Speakerphone in public is a no.

Talking about your nether-region warts in public is a bad idea, too.

Be aware that you generally speak louder than you think you do when you’re on the phone.

If someone is driving you, don’t use the time to jump into your cell phone. Unless it is a taxi or Uber. You’re in an enclosed space, and it’s a chance to talk or enjoy conversation with the person you’re with. It’s a common source of mild irritation for those driving to be ignored at the expense of a cellphone.

If someone is showing you something on their phone, resist the urge to reach for their phone.

As for group texts, err on the side of caution when including numerous people. If you see people not interacting at the same level, it’s best to ask them before the next time.

While we’re yapping about group texts… don’t use it to go across the line of appropriateness. Don’t be joking when it’s serious; don’t throw a wet blanket on the content by airing complaints or sidetracking the group. And no matter how clever you think you are, don’t drink and attempt to engage in group texts.

As you can see, as comprehensive as this list is, I’ve probably forgotten something.

And people will argue about some of them.

Phone etiquette is devolving, but the above list is generally accurate.

Love, X


People inevitably misinterpret this. It’s not about immediately replying to texts or messages. Fundamentally, it’s about the confusion you cause when you don’t answer, much less read messages from people close to you. Sometimes the messages are literally important. Sometimes they are important because of the state of mind of the person sending them. When people get confused in that manner, most of them are wondering how you could have missed their message, given that your phone is almost biologically a part of your hand. I say that partly in jest. Most of us have experienced it. It’s hard to ask about it because it comes across as needy or accusatory.

FYI Post For Finances

Many people don’t know about the Affordable Connectivity Program.

You’d be surprised at who might be eligible. I doubted I would be. Most of the people I recommended it to were equally surprised to find out they, too, were eligible.

For those eligible, you basically get a $ 30-a-month rebate on your internet service OR your cellphone plan. $360 annually is nothing to sneeze at.

Additionally, because I’ve been enrolled for quite a while, Cox sent me a partner offer through PCsforPeople. PCsforPeople also provides a lot of equipment to qualifying non-profits. I bought a perfectly good desktop setup for $20, shipping included. I could have chosen a laptop had I wanted one.

Cox (and others) also provide very inexpensive internet for families who qualify. One of the programs is called Connect2Compete. It offers 100mbps speeds AND a free modem. A lot of families who qualify don’t even know these programs exist. Another extremely affordable program Cox offers is called ConnectAssist.

Many of these programs are unknown to many people for a variety of reasons. It’s difficult to keep track of these kinds of benefits. They are out there if you need to utilize one of them.

If you have children in school or are on a tight budget, you should inquire and apply for the benefits. You can use the money otherwise spent on things your family needs. (Or be able to afford what you thought was otherwise out of your budget reach.)


Do Not (Be) Disturb(ed)

Neither picture has anything to do with the post. 🙂

Someone surprised me with a SPAM brooch this morning. I quipped that my new official title is now Spambassador.

The other picture is of the moon at 3 a.m., peeping through the silhouette of a dead tree amidst living trees.

I absolutely LOVE that people with smartphones don’t use their fantastic piece of technology to prevent late-night intrusions with beeps, alarms, and notifications.

Seriously! I get tickled. It’s like someone complaining that their ceiling light keeps them awake. Uh? Turn the light off!

You can sort it so that only specific people can call, text, etc. You can silence and blind all notifications with almost no effort on your phone. That includes vibrations, flashing screens, and phone rings.

You can even use do-not-disturb in such a way that only certain people will ring through or text regardless of the time of day.

Your phone is almost always near you. It only takes a few seconds to set it so that you’re its master as opposed to the converse.

If you don’t know how, a friend, family member, or phone store employee can demonstrate it. Or, you can use the fancy Google.

By using the DND features on your phone, you can still be contacted in case of a true emergency, which is the go-to reply when most people reply, “Oh, I have to be able to be reached if something happens.” It doesn’t even sound reasonable to offer that reply, not with the options available on iPhones and Android. People can still reach you if necessary – it just requires you to learn a little bit about how your phone works instead of using the goofy reply mentioned above.

Everyone works and sleeps on their own schedule. There is no longer a “normal” window. 9 p.m. is late for some. And others are up at 2 a.m. Lord knows that no matter how diligent you are, your apps are going to bink, boink, and sound at all hours no matter how careful you are with notifications.

You shouldn’t growl at someone for texting or causing a notification at 12:44 a.m. You should growl at yourself for not taking a few minutes and learning how to use that incredible piece of technology that’s inseparable from your hand.

If you use do-not-disturb features and your close family member still texts you at 11:30 p.m. to ask you if you use dust-free toilet paper, that’s a boundary issue you need to discuss. Also, that kind of person shouldn’t be involved in an emergency notification. In fact, they usually CAUSE them.

Because I don’t sleep with my phone near me, it’s not an issue for me. I tend to leave my phone on DND very often. For those who’ve had sleep therapy, you already know that keeping screens away from you while you’re getting healthy sleep is mandatory. We did it that way for thousands of years and the world still kept spinning. I am completely pro-technology. Phones aren’t the ruination of the modern world as so many people claim. Rather, WE are the problem. And if you’re one of those knuckleheads who keeps their phone buzzing, flashing, and ringing while you’re trying to sleep, I suggest you try another way. A simple, easy-to-learn, way. It’s built right into modern phones.

No, there’s no taser feature on them yet, because someone will hack yours and administer a shock when you’re talking to your mother-in-law about the niceties of mulch.

It’s common for people to grouch about phones. No one forces you to use them inappropriately, as in social gatherings. Likewise, you can easily learn to use the features baked into all modern phones, the ones that allow you not to be interrupted when you’re in a social gathering – or trying to sleep.

As for me, I assume that everyone uses the technology on their phones. So, if I message, text, post, or hit like at 3:37 a.m., I’m not going to be the least bit concerned if you say something like, “Your beep woke me up.” You can fix that. The first option is to pretend I’m dead to you. The second more reasonable option is to take a few minutes so that my interactions don’t bother you when you don’t want them to.

Not directly related to the above: everyone basically hates it when someone is using their phone as an entertainment device while they are supposed to be enjoying one another’s company. Focus on your activity and the people you’re with. You’re sending the unintentional (or perhaps intentional) message that their presence is less interesting than your phone. Put it face down, turn it off, or do whatever you must do if you’re with people. And, of course, turn the ringer off.

Grouch away, mofos.

Just saying…

Love, X

The Banana Apple Rule

Despite what I’ve been eating, I still weigh about 148 lbs. There’s a ‘but’ here.

I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve stepped on the scale lately, expecting to be over 150.

I think back to when I had the vision of what I’d look like. I didn’t expect a huge abdominal scar. But I love that it’s there. Really.

I’ve worked really hard since surgery to change my body. It’s working. My muscle mass is increasing. That creates the issue of burning more calories at rest than I previously did. I was wrong about needing to incorporate more weight training into my routine. Wrong seems to surround me when I think about what I thought I knew. I’m so grateful that I can do pushups again. Before my surgery, they were like meditation to me.

Now that I have a Fitbit, I know how easy it is to surpass 20,000 steps just on a normal day, one without a “walk.” I was fat with the same amount of activity. For years. That tells you how many bad choices I was making with the foods I was eating. It’s the fundamental truth of losing weight. Generally speaking, it’s the only reason you’re not where you want to be.

Fitbit watches are great for metrics. I thought I wouldn’t find it interesting. I was wrong, as usual. I got the 3-month trial premium plan. It tells me my heart rate, O2 level, sleep patterns, snoring, and of course steps. The threshold is 10,000 steps. It’s obvious that I will always go over 20,000 if I’m working. If I take a long walk through the streets around me, I can hit 30,000, or 50,000.

The Banana Apple Rule has helped me. If I go into a store, even an inconvenience store, and there are apples or bananas, I buy one and eat it. It’s a bit simplistic, but it works. It might not stop me from eating a bag of something stupid; it reminds me of why making different choices is a necessity.

When I lost all the weight, I didn’t change anything except what I ate.

Now that I’ve eclipsed a year of different choices, I feel humbled. No matter what else has happened to me, I can’t resist running up the stairs or wanting to hurdle over the side as I go down them, wondering if I might float.

When I think about where I was thirteen months ago, I float.

Thanksgiving is approaching. I thank the universe every night that I’m still here. I’ll make a lot of dumb choices because I’m human. But I’ll also make a lot of moments better because I’m still alive and being me.

Love, X

Much Ado

The picture is of me in 1985 at graduation. My Uncle Buck was so proud of me. As reticent as he generally was, he somehow managed to tell me that he was glad to be there to see me finish high school, something neither of my parents did. Mom got her GED when she was much, much older. She worked for Brinkley schools and somehow motivated herself to do it.

I have a FitBit now, another thing in a long series of things I thought I wouldn’t find interesting. I was wrong! The biometrics and mindfulness parts of what it provides are astonishing. This is something I obviously should have had back when I had to try to learn how to sleep again. The app doesn’t appreciate the fact that 6 hours is a great benchmark for me for sleep, or that I need an 18-hour notification window. I am fascinated by sitting in silence and breathing, watching my heart rate fall twenty-five beats per minute.

In the last couple of days, Ancestry provided me with yet another reminder of how tenuous life is. A friend of my dead wife Deanne had searched for her to reconnect. They were friends for several years back in the nineties. They lost touch. The friend, as so often happens, sought to reconnect with Deanne now that she’s older and appreciates the value of friends, especially ones who went through things together. She was heartbroken to discover that Deanne had died in 2007. I shared my 10,000 pictures of Deanne’s life with her through my OneDrive account. I’m sure there will be a lot of memories floating in her heart when she dives in. It’s one of the reasons I’ve kept my Ancestry account active. I’ve become the curator and biographer for so many friends and loved ones. I take the time to share the meaningful pictures there and document their lives. It is the least I can do to leave such memories for others to enjoy for as long as the internet survives. And the pictures? What sweet treasures, ones we often fail to appreciate and give them air to breathe and be seen.

Love, X

Bird’s Butt View

I have my own version of the Weather Channel now.

I bought a nice Blink wireless camera. It allows me to watch the birds on my plant/bird feeder balcony hook, as well as the world outside.

When I initially set it up, I was surprised to see that Amazon had somehow sent me the feed from the backyard camera at my old house on Vanleer in Springdale.

Having the camera also opens up a world of creativity, too, such as “Skits On The Balcony,” or “Let’s Look At Humanity” documentaries. (With “People of Walmart” in mind.) I will try not to be intrusive with this. However, that’s the problem with this sort of technology. I’m confident that I’m going to wake up to find I have an hour of footage of the neighbor romping in the parking lot in his skivvies. A few days ago, I stood on the balcony getting cooked in the sun. A car drove in, and a young woman hopped out without a shirt. From somewhere in the car, someone hurled a shirt through the passenger window. The woman caught it and put it on almost one-handed. There’s a lot of inferences I can make with this anecdote, some lewd, some amusing. When she looked up and saw me on the balcony, I gave her my Forrest Gump wave and laughed.

As old as these apartments are, somehow I was surprised to find no security cameras, even in the laundry room from “Nightmare On Elm Street.” They can be installed cheaply and require no monitoring. The type I bought can be used with a USB drive, hidden anywhere – and checked only when a tenant decides to test a flamethrower from the balcony. (Note: this isn’t unlikely.)

Last week, after a long interval of no additional improvements, a small crew showed up with a Bobcat (not the nocturnal prowling kind) and erected the bones of a lateral fence in front of the dumpster. This will ensure that passersby don’t see it, whereas the residents will get an enclosed cauldron of trash and insects. It seems like a fair trade. That fence will also obscure a big portion of my view of the intersection there. That’s too bad, as there are a lot of fender-benders there. Everyone attempting to pull in here runs the risk of getting hit from behind due to the unequal alignment of the apartment driveway versus the opposing cross street. The fence partially quashes my money-making scheme to sell the footage to those unlucky souls engaged in an impromptu demolition derby.


I’m making a list of tomfoolery in which to engage with this camera.

Love, X

You Can Count On Me

The census worker stood by my custom address plate when I emerged from around the blind corner of the house, holding a long metal ladder over my head like an idiot. I didn’t know he was standing there; the ladder was over my head for purely ridiculous reasons. The truth is that it seems perfectly safe and reasonable to run around one’s house with a long metal ladder above one’s head, much in the same way that scampering inside the house with two pairs of open scissors seems safe. I’m 53, so stupidity hasn’t so far been fatal. Check back tomorrow, please.

The census worker must have noted a large shadow was overtaking him because he turned around quickly. I’m not sure what he was thinking – only that he was perplexed. Without bothering explaining why I say so, he was the embodiment of what a census taker should look like. I wish he had been wearing a green accountant’s visor. It could save us all a lot of guessing and speculation as the workers navigate through neighborhoods. (If you’re with the Census Bureau, you’re welcome.)

“I completed my census form online a long time ago,” I told him. “Sorry about listing myself as a Vulcan. It was hard enough searching for ‘human’ on the checkboxes.”

“Yes, I saw that in my system. I’m doing a follow-up on a few of your neighbors.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” I told him. “I’m X, bilingual, and do genealogy and general nosiness.”

He smiled. “I’m having problems getting these two houses to respond. I’ve been here before, left notes, etc.” He pointed across the street.

“Yes, you’re not going to get a great response rate here for the reasons you’d expect.” I told him the number of people residing in each house and their general age, ethnicity, and why I thought they wouldn’t respond no matter how many times he knocked, called, emailed, or parachuted into their respective backyards. The census worker seemed surprised when I told him that the first house he pointed to had 6 cars usually parked everywhere. (It looks like a parking lot. The entire neighborhood is slowly becoming one – a fact I predicted when we moved here. A closed set of streets that allows parking on both sides is doomed to become a hazard.)

“You’re going to need to bring a minority census worker with you. You need to come back at 6 p.m. and approach the house when one occupant is already outside. And say, “We need your help” instead of whatever has been scripted for you.” The census worker nodded. We talked for a few minutes.

Before surprising the census worker, I noticed someone sitting suspiciously along the curb a couple of times. I imagined several imaginary scenarios for him: assassin, assessor, or inept thief. I’m still surprised that people distrust census workers. That says a lot about my sheltered life and privilege.

The total number of residents in those two houses is 15-17, depending on the time of the year. That’s a lot of federal money and representation missing. Multiply it by the likelihood that the same pattern is being repeated over much of Springdale, and you get the idea of how massive the problem is.

I’ve done more than my share to help people understand what the census is for and why citizenship is irrelevant for the purposes of counting. I can understand why some people might not be so trusting, given the White House’s occupant in the last few years. Since the census is being prematurely closed down this year, it is a certainty that we’re all being undercounted. Whatever else is going on, the current president isn’t helping matters.

Whether every person should be counted is an issue for us to decide and remedy via the constitution. Until we change the way we do it, we rely on accuracy to share dollars and representation. I get a little cranky about constitutional arguments, as the group of rich white men who wrote it managed to demean well over half the population when they did so.

I have a few white American friends who are also deliberately not participating in the census. Some do so out of privacy fears, some simply because they don’t understand how it impacts them, their community, or their children. The others fall into a category I call “boneheadedness.” That’s what democracy is for: to irritate one’s neighbors. As a liberal, I do my part.

Everyone failing to be counted is doing all of us a disservice. Unlike failing to vote, it is inaction that literally costs us.

With the technology we have today, it is difficult to understand why such a herculean bureaucracy is needed to do what consistently applied technology can. Before I pat myself on the back, I admit that such a system would rely on people much smarter than I am – and not as prone to shenanigans.

Meanwhile, countless residents refuse to answer their doors or reply to the mail the census bureau sends.

As for neighbors who didn’t answer directly, they can thank me for doing the heavy lifting for them. If I had the inclination, I would knock on their doors and leave a note to let them know that their secrecy in itself draws attention to a handful of possible explanations that tend to draw increased scrutiny rather than less. Unlike many, I understand their reluctance and remind myself that my reality is not theirs and to stop blinding myself to it.

I enjoyed talking to the census worker. He was impressively smart about a lot of topics. They really need the green visors, though.

Notes: The 2020 census was conducted with fewer than 1/2 the total census workers we used in 2016. Many Americans don’t know that everyone alive inside the United States is supposed to be counted. This is the first census that allowed responses by mail, internet, phone, and in-person. For those who don’t do genealogy, census data is released 72 years after it was taken. (This information is incredibly valuable to us tracking ancestors.)

Social Media Avatars

*At the risk of being shot, this is tongue-in-cheek.

I woke up this morning to a flood of avatars on Facebook.

Some are great, some are humorous, some are realistic. Some, however, are as far from reality as an alligator playing banjo on Mars.

As someone who has done a lot of photoshop or alternate pictures for years, I knew the day would arrive when Facebook would drop a bomb of avatars to its site. It was inevitable.

We’ve endured the misuse of softening filters for a couple of years. They have their place. Mostly, though, they obscure reality. It can cause grief when people use them and don’t realize they look a bit ‘off’ when using them. We have to pretend their baby isn’t hideous, so to speak, even as we wonder whether they’ll win the Halloween costume contest without the use of a mask.

Maybe I’m being judgmental. I love pictures – and I’ll take them any way I can get them.

The avatar fad that just exploded onto Facebook is a good thing overall. Anything that distracts people with a bit of fun or interest can’t be a bad thing.

It’s just that we all collectively share the same observations when people aren’t being realistic. If my avatar isn’t balding or fails to have a gut, it’s not realistic. It’s true I could simply use a Danny Devito gif to represent me, but that leaves him without a good one to use for himself.

Song: Do You Want To Date My Avatar?

The above song is old by modern standards. It did, however, predict the rise of avatars.

Because I knew she’d like it, I made a png cutout of her avatar so that it would include a bulldog, a symbol that best represents what she’s all about.




To be an idiot, I made a George Clooney png avatar for myself. When people compare me to others, George Clooney is somewhere around the 5,000,000,000 mark on the list of my possible doppelgangers.



Now that I’ve contradicted myself, I have to go make a mass of crazy avatars and pictures for other people. Some will challenge their notions of reality.