How I gave up Facebook and why I don’t regret it.

Roughly a month ago I gave up Facebook.  Let me clarify: I did not delete my account.  I deactivated it.  The difference is important to help understand my actions and for anyone that is considering taking a break from FB but may not want to delete the Facebook world entirely (or “commit facebook suicide” as others have called it).  the difference is explained in decent detail here.

Flash back to early 2005.  I was working at a .edu and signed up for Facebook to help check out and evaluate student employee applicants (yes, people actually do this). After that, the account mostly sat idle until around 2007 when others started adding me.  From there it just snowballed into an unwieldy free-for-all  social quagmire.  It became time consuming.  It became far too much like work to troll through everything that was there.

I will fully admit that some of this was my fault.  I blindly added pretty much everyone that sent me a friend request.  Before I knew it, I had FB friends that were not even really casual acquaintances in high school….and I’d been out of high school for 15 years at the time.  I had “friends” that were people that I did not even know.

Essentially, it became work. But it was an addictive kind of work.  It was far more addictive than I had realized, actually.  I would habitually check it to “see what was up” with a group of people, a large percentage of whom I did not really even know.  Sure, there was family on “the book” as well as many close friends.  The thing about that is, I can find out what is going on with them or what they’re doing by actually seeing them.ThumbsDown  Or calling them on the phone.  Or via email.  And will by far more personal.  …it just won’t be as convenient and condensed into a single place.

I tried pruning the list but it was just too out of control.  It needed a controlled burn, but I was never really able to come to terms with that.  So I let it continue to grow out of control.

I came fairly close to giving up on it a few years ago, I was far too busy with work and family to spend any time on it but I never deleted, deactivated tended to it in any way.  After a while without it I found myself looking more and more at it again.  I made a vain attempt at controlling the visibility of stuff to a select few.  That half worked.

Then facebook decided to change the way it displayed things.  This was very annoying to me (and many others) and was more or less the last straw for me.  Playing with the security controls led me to the elephant in the room.  Facebook’s privacy policy.  Have you ever read it?  Probably not.  The words “transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license” are no fun.  I believe there are ways to opt out, but honestly, I didn’t feel I should have to do that.  Now it really was work.  I don’t feel comfortable dealing with a service that I don’t read the privacy policy for.  Yes, I’m that guy.

* Yes, I use google products.  Yes, I read their policy

I let it go.

And now we arrive at a month ago.  I was traveling for work and did a facebook update.  I got a few emails from them indicating abnormal behavior, I had been changing attributes of my account while coming from different address space (which I believe is very good security policy, actually).  I did not want to deal with it, so, on a whim, I decided to deactivate the account.

Done. Easy. Gone(ish).

It’s now been a month and I cannot express how different it is.  No updates.  No checking in on people I don’t need to see and barely know.  No time vortex or compulsive facebook app phone checking.  No hearing about people’s politics, religion, weird ailments or plans for the weekend.  No hearing about random sports team and a play that happened that I don’t care about.

Free.

In a month, though, I’ve noticed a few things.  Facebook auth is everywhere.  Of course it is.  They want to know (just like google and twitter) where you go online, what you do, etc.  It makes sense.  I actually like the OAuth stuff.  It makes things convenient.  I no longer have that option with a FB account.

Many, many, many companies make product announcements on facebook.  I can not see those, either.  I can clearly live without them, but they are convenient.

I don’t get to see updates from family.  This part is a bummer but my wife is still on there so I get them by proxy.  I could probably do without and force email correspondence if I really wanted to.

Overall, I can say that I really don’t care to turn it back on.  If I ever do, a purging of pretty much everyone but family will directly follow, but I find it unlikely that I’ll even do that.

Only time will tell if I enable it again, but I have no current plans to do so.

Boba Fett, 1981

IMG_3433While at my parents last weekend, my oldest son together with my youngest brother both pointed out that they’d found one of my most prized possessions, both as a 6 year old and even today at 38 years old.

A Star Wars action figure that I had thought was lost to the sands of time, used as a dog chew or generally played with and abused by a 6-7 year old in the early 1980’s then tossed into the abyss of garage sale and second hand toys…..My original Boba Fett.

Boba Fett, before the prequels ruined the mystique, was the most intriguing, most widely loved minor character in the Star Wars universe.

I remember very clearly as a child in 1983 , with my mother, watching ROTJ in a theater in Decatur, IL, lamenting the fact that Boba Fett had been reduced to Sarlaac food with such minor fanfare…how could the movie go on?

The draw of Boba Fett was that he was not really a villain, he was vilified, but he was really just morally ambiguous. Good?  Evil?  Boring.  Boba Fett was a working man.  He did the job and he did it well.  Damn the morals, rules and laws. He didn’t need the force.  He didn’t need a cause.  He got shit done regardless.

I remember that this figure, along with IG-88, which I broke the right arm off of, were my two favorite and most prized action figures.  Ever. Period.

Of all star wars characters, I always identified most closely with Boba Fett. I never really wanted to be a Jedi as a kid.  It was cool, but Boba Fett had style and power without the shackles of the labels of good or bad that the force imposes.  Not a Jedi but skilled in his own way, not to be trifled with.  Does what needs done.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Like Peter Griffin once said: No Matter How Sure I Am, I Never Risk The Fett Man..

 

Streaming options for movie lovers

I am a big fan of movies. I had an enormous VHS collection, then lasterdisks, now DVDs and Blu-Rays. I worked in a video store back in the early 1990s. I minored in film in college. For a period of time during college I saw literally every movie that was released in the theater, even if I had no desire to see it. I wanted to appreciate any artistic value it may have. Before we had kids we spent a great deal of time and money on going to the theater. I frequent the ebertfest film festival. I guess I was “that guy”. I wanted to be a film maker or a cinematographer. I’m probably a step or two away from the folks in the movie “cinemania“. All that said, I clearly like movies and a lot. So, I tend to take my experience fairly seriously (within the budgetary constraints I have).
I like the streaming media options available now and use them a lot. I find a digital format easier for consumption and am a big fan of the plex platform both for its transcoding functionality and it’s ability to present web media in a convenient, standard format on my TV. I had been using a hacked AppleTV for this. I like the Apple ecosystem for many things, but having to jailbreak the ATV and install sometimes fairly untested apps into it was a pain, especially since other people need to use this device.
Enter the Roku.

20130706-114739.jpg This device is everything that I had hoped that the google TV was going to be. It doesn’t have the apple ecosystem integration, as much as I wish it did, but it’s got so much more I don’t actually miss it.
With the Roku, the big win for me was the channels, more specifically, the Fandor channel and the Plex channel. For those that don’t know about Fandor, look into it. It has a monumental amount of art and indie film. It’s got a niche for everyone, is all streamable and is very reasonably priced. They have mobile apps which are all very elegant and a well put together Roku channel.
With the newest interface update the usability and capabilities of the Roku (I have an XS because I wanted a wired ethernet port) allow me to do Amazon streaming, connect to my Plex instance running in a linux VM in my basement, connect to NetFlix, PBS streaming, HULU Plus, the list goes on and on. There are so many channels that as long as I have a reasonable internet connection, I can stream just about anything I want, and it’s easy. The remote is simple and functional (and I’m pretty sure it’s bluetooth, not IR). There is an iOS app for remote and other administration that works well. It is an all around great device. Oh, and it’s only $80.
The other option I’m playing with is the raspberry pi with the plex build, rasplex. It allows for a USB powered device with all of the capabilities of plex. 20130707-122846.jpg So, I can plug it into the USB port of my TV for power and it streams plex over the existing network. Very cool stuff, albeit not quite as elegant as the roku.

I guess the point is that there are a lot of budget friendly ways to get great streaming film options in a user friendly way, which is a big win for consumers of this media.

Traveling with bags

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in my life, specifically in the last 11 or so years.  During those years, I have been all over the world, both personally and professionally, and I learned that checking bags is inconvenient.  I stopped doing it.  I will never check a bag if I’m traveling for less than 7 days.  I have always taken a backpack as my personal item / overflow bag.  I’ve had quite a few, Targus, Ogio, Jansport.  I tend to prefer Ogio backpacks and have owned 4 of their backpacks in different styles, 3 of which I still have, and my original is still in use today be someone else.    I like a bag that can hold quite a bit of stuff, but that isn’t inconveniently huge. I’m pretty picky about it, actually.20130601-104903.jpg

I tend to carry in my bag, on any given day:

  • 15″ macbook pro
  • ipad 3
  • Power adapter for ipad3/iPhone
  • power adapter for macbook pro
  • Extended power cable for Macbook adapter
  • MiFi (sometimes)
  • Evernote Moleskine notebook
  • Kensington laptop lock
  • Various USB keys
  • Keys for car, home, office and laptop lock
  • Passport
  • various pens / highliters
  • A length of paracord or twine woven into something (generally small, ~5′; for securing things together if needed on the return trip)
  • various cables, USB, car adapter
  • Garmin GPS (if going somewhere new)
  • ~2 packs of gum
  • Small flashlight
  • Bottle opener

It’s really not that much stuff.  I have paired it down from when I used to do a lot of work that needed things like console adapters, tools, needed extra batteries, etc. so I switched a few months ago to a fairly nice Targus messenger bag.  I actually really like this bag, and I love the idea of a messenger style every-day carry bag.  This bag works great for my for every day commuting.  It holds everything I need, has an easy open front and has both protected tablet and laptop compartments.  A messenger bag looks a tad more professional than a backpack, and while I don’t really have any reason to need to appear like a suit, it’s always a good idea to step outside of comfort zones and try new things.

20130601-104849.jpg

So, in a recent trip to boston for a few days, I decided to try this messenger bag for my laptop/personal item.  Where this became problematic was during long layovers.  I will fully admit that part of my problem may have been that I’m just not used to a messenger bag, but whatever it was was apparent right away.

The messenger bag was unwieldy when trying to hurry through the terminal and drag a rolling bag with me.  The messenger bag puts pressure on one shoulder / side of the neck.  The messenger bag doesn’t have any real room for incidentals that I may want to jam into the bag.  These are all things that I have taken for granted when traveling with a nice, roomy backpack.  I had to tack things onto the outside of the messenger bag to carry them and that became even more unruly.  My neck and shoulder started to get sore on the trip back from carrying around the messenger bag.  It started to feel a bit heavier faster than a backpack usually does.

Once I got back, I moved back to my primary OGIO backpack to truly compare.  The nice, form fitted straps with the clip 20130601-104510.jpgreally made a huge difference.  As much as I really want to love a messenger bag, I really don’t think I can ever truly switch to one for a primary gear toting bag.

Perhaps I need to pair down pair down what I carry again.  If I had, say, a macbook air, I could probably switch, but given that my primary work-provided laptop is a standard 15″ macbook pro, that option is not likely.

I’m very curious as to what other IT road warriors use as a carry bag for day-to-day and for travel.  I know my pal Jon Dugan uses a now discontinued Timbuk2 backpack for travel and is pretty happy with it.  He can fit a few days of clothing and his macbook air and other items in there pretty easily.

What do folks carry?  What bag style and brands/models?  Sound off.

 

Why you should host your own [social media] content

Yes, that is me in a ridiculous beret. No, I don’t actually walk around in a beret, it’s just for “artistic shock value”.  But, just like most people, I have had a “social media ” presence for a long time. However, unlike many, I have had an “online presence” that predates stereotypical social media by a very long period of time. I have a fine art background. I’ve always enjoyed creating things, drawing, photography, writing, video production, basically anything that lends itself to creativity. I enjoy social interaction and love to share my creativity, with some caveats.
This is where it all starts to unravel.
When it comes to technology, people need things to be easy and 99% of the population doesn’t want to understand how the internals of things, social media included, works. It just needs to be simple. This is why, and how, entities can take advantage of the masses. They can, in trade for making it easy, use your content and images for marketing and basically anything else they want. For example, I use twitter a lot.  Twitter used to allow for better 3rd party image hosting since they don’t really support inline images very well (it’s better than it used to be but it’s still an afterthought).  So, in order for users to attach images, they have a service called twitpic (there are others, this one is arguably the most common).  Here is what they say about your image content:

You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic's (and its successors' and affiliates') business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

In exchange for using their service, you retain “ownership” but they can use the content at their discretion. they can license your content. They can change your content. For most people this is probably no big deal, if they actually understand what it means.  It means that if you place an image of your cat doing something cute, they can use it for marketing.  They can make changes to it, and they can make money from it. and so can anyone that they license it to.

I’m not even going to go into what Facebook can do. I have mostly given up on them. Their policy changes too much and they just seem …shady. Unfortunately, this isolates me from a huge number of people and resources. Google is only a little better, they have a monumental amount of information about so many people, myself included, that it’s scary. We trade our privacy and license to our lives for free, convenient and often well performing, easy services.

So, in an attempt to take some of this back, I moved 95% of my stuff off of services like blogger, twitpic and onto a series of self hosted wordpress instances. All that is old is new again. I decided to use one of the many domains that I own (the shortest one) for image and content hosting.

Something else I was really wanting to do was to host my own twitter images.  There are a few mechanisms for doing this.  I went with the wordpress plugin twitter image host.  There were a few I liked better, but none were as reliable and straightforward as twitter image host.  To fully utilize this, I purchased Tweetbot for both iOS and Mac.  Setting up the image host was really strightforward, just follow the instructions. For TweetBot for mac, it’s really easy:
Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 6.50.49 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 6.51.11 PM

 

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 6.51.36 PM Just go to preferences, choose the account and then change “image upload” to the private API endpoint you set up.  That’s it.  Under iOS it is essentially the same.

 

 

 

 

 

What does this give me?  Not much other than more control of my content and an interesting project to work on.  As someone that has been a creative professional in the past, I can only describe this as a control issue.  If anyone is going to make money from my creative content, it should be me, not a faceless corporation.

 

RIP Chloe Buraglio. 1997-2013

A constant figure in our lives for the last 15+ years, Chloe was our faithful companion.  I recall taking her to work with me in my early days in
IMG_0749the networking industry, going in on Saturdays to study and lab stuff up as far back as 1998.  I would often drive an hour from Bloomington to Champaign to let her out and walk her while Rebecca was studying during her time in veterinary school.

Chloe was our faithful co-pilot on many adventures, outliving nearly all of her “vet school buddies” and all but one of our original seven pets. IMG_0500

Chloe came from the vermilion county  pound as an adult, likely a year or so old when Rebecca found her in 1997 as a junior surgery dog at the UIUC Vet school. She went from being a timid, quiet dog to the alpha female of the house in a very short time.  Being obviously part corgi, she would often herd cats, other dogs, kids, whatever needed put in line.  There is almost no story I can think of over the the last ~16 years that don’t involve or are related in some way to Chloe.

There is a very distinct absence in our home without her that will, just like with Lenny, likely never be filled.  She will be missed greatly.

Chloe Buraglio 1997(?) – April 6, 2013

 

Finnish war mead – SotaSima

Based on some comments in the thread of my how to make simple mead how-to video, I threw together this 1 gallon batch of “Sotasima” or “Finnish War mead” based on this recipe. I, of course, took out the refined sugar and substituted honey. Here is the result:

I don’t think I’d make it again, it’s very tart regardless of the fact that it’s been bulk aging for a year and that I used a sweet yeast. It was a fun project, though!

Top 5 post-apocalyptic movies

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I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic movies.  In fact, next to humorous horror / gore movies (that’ll be my next list), I think they’re my favorite.  This is a subject that my longtime friend and fellow movie enthusiast (as well as ex-video store co-worker) Sean Holland and I have discussed at length.  In fact, this is eventually to the be subject of our first podcast.  So as not to spoil the content of said podcast, I’m just going to give a list with minimal detail as opposed to a complex description of my reasoning.

 

5. Shawn of the Dead.  England.  Pubs.  Zombies.  Funny.  What is not to like?

4. A Boy and his Dog. A talking dog, Don Johnson and a drive to get laid.  This one is funky and cheesy but totally list worthy.

2. Damnation Alley.  If you’ve not seen this, find it and watch it.  It’s campy and cheesy but amazing at the same time.   and Jackie Earle Haley, giant cockroaches and a badass vehicle.  I always wanted a toy of that truck.

snake-plissken-jacket2. Escape from New York. This one was very close to being #1 on my list.  Once I got drunk and drew the snake tattoo on myself.  This movie is amazing in every way. I often ask myself  “What would Snake Plissken do?” and take that into advisement.  It’s 1980’s cheese but fantastic at the same time.  The sequel was a pile of crap and as far as I’m concerned does not exist.

 

 

 

roadwarrior1

1. The Road Warrior. The Second of the “Mad Max” trilogy.  Probably the first of this style that I ever saw.  Also my favorite.  Max is the tortured hero that somehow kinda does the right thing but it no one to be trifled with.  Watch this with commentary on for a really interesting take, but if you’ve never seen it, watch it undisturbed first.  Great movie, I can watch it over and over.

 

 

 

Honorable mentions:

The Book of Eli.  I’m not a Denzel fan.  At all.  I had almost zero expectation of this movie.  I was very surprised and entertained and actually went back and watched it a second time to make sure it was not a fluke of some kind.  Even given the religious overtones, which I also generally don’t like, I enjoyed this movie.

Mad Max beyond Thunderdome.  Also great.  Now that I’m writing this, I may choose to replace Shawn of the dead with this flick.  I actually saw this one before the road warrior as a kid, but that didn’t change it at all, once I saw the road warrior I rode my bicycle to the video store and rented this for another go.  It just made it better.  Angry Anderson is the subtle star as “IronBar”.

I have a huge list of more that I need to watch and re-watch, so this list will probably change.  In particular, I want to see Six-String Samurai, La Jatee and a handful of others I was not familiar with.

 

Exercise for the oversubscribed, how to get and stay healthy in 2013 and beyond.

I’ve been a pretty active person for a long as I can remember.  I try to stay physically fit and have done a lot of competing in my life.  Triathlons, 5k, 10k, century bike rides, submission grappling tournaments, boxing…..lets just say I like to get out and push myself.  I’ve trained with several guys that fought in the UFC….granted, they kicked my rear….but that doesn’t change the ffeact that I worked with them over the course of the last 10 years of my training.

Exercise is my stress relief and I turn into a real grump when don’t get to work out.
Now that I’m older and have more responsibility, the days of 3 hours at the gym and 50 mile training rides are gone.  At the time of this writing I’m a month from 38 years old and I have a 1 year old and a 4 year old at home, a full time job and a list of consulting gigs to do after hours.  In addition, I need to keep up to date, read, blog and generally not stagnate in any aspect of my life.    Some of these things alone are a tall order, add them together in addition to being a dad and husband and there isn’t much time left over.  I’ve had to drop hobbies like home brewing beer, attending my jiu jitsu / wrestling class, and until recently, any kind of regular scheduled exercise.
This is really not an acceptable model to me since I rely on exercise for stress relief.  I needed something manageable that worked within my already packed schedule.  To that end, I’ve had to adopt a modified exercise routine using what I’ve learned over the past 20 years of being active.   I realize that this may not work for some people, I know how my body responds and what my thresholds are for heart rate, metabolism and endurance.  Your mileage may vary.
First things first.  Lets put any unreasonable ideas aside.  I’m essentially 38 years old, and while I’m in pretty decent shape, I’m probably never going to have 6 pack abs again.  I’m not going to be shredded like brad pitt in fight club.

And that’s ok, I really just want to be healthy and feel good.  Second, set some reasonable expectations.  Not goals.  Expectations.  I wanted to work out 5-6 times a week, but I’d be happy with 4.  I’m older and my body needs a tad longer to recover and things come up that may prevent work out time.  All of these exercises can be done with stuff around your house or that are reasonably obtainable.  Although my entire basement is essentially a gym, I have used a lot of the techniques promoted on this site.  This guy is an interesting character but his methods and reasonings are sound and sensible.  I don’t want to be a bodybuilder, so I don’t follow what he says per se, but his ideas on form and mechanics are very good.  For me, it’s not about being buff, lifting the most weight or proving how strong I am, and I think I’m with the majority on that one.  For me, it’s about feeling good.  That’s my expectation. I want to do this to feel better and have more energy.  That being said here is my ever evolving plan and my 10,000′ view of my workout schedule:

Method: hybrid circuit training.  Pick 3 – 4 exercises and cycle continuously through 8-10 reps of each for the duration of the workout (15-20 minutes).  3 exercises 15 minutes, 4 for 20 minutes.  Get creative, mix them up.  Use enough weight to make it a bit difficult, but low enough that you can achieve as perfect form as possible.  Don’t just grab weight and try to rip through the sets.  Take your time, do the reps slowly and concentrate on form.

Schedule: 5-6 times a week, be happy with 4. 15 to 20 minutes.  Set a timer. Cycle through the circuit of exercises.  Make one day a week of intense cardio for 15 minutes.  I like intervals.  You can do interval sprints on a bike or running or on stairs, 1 minute at peak, 2 minutes recovery.  I like running stairs, everyone can find some and they’re always a challenge.  Walking them briskly works too until you can work up to running them.

Work large muscle groups.  Shoulders, back, chest, legs.  The rest works itself in if your form is good.  Thrown in abs if you really feel you have to, but keeping good form implies you’re keeping a tight core.
My go to stuff is military press, push press, push-ups, flat flys, incline flys, dips, squats, cleans, front squats, pull ups.  Nearly all can be done with dumbbells or with stuff available around the house or than can be inexpensively purchased.

Diet.  This one is the easies to say and the hardest to do.  Don’t eat garbage.  Moderation.  I don’t eat much processed food anyway since it disagrees with my body, so it’s pretty easy for me.  My go to meals are generally lots of lean protein.  Chicken, fish, turkey.  Lots of greens.  Spinach salads,  broccoli, pretty much any vegetable.  We want our kids to eat healthy as well, so this works out for us.  They eat what we eat.  Making multiple meals is a pain and isn’t reasonable for us, so we all eat the same meals.  I don’t eat out much, but if I do I try to make smart choices.  I take snacks with me.  Always. Lots of nuts and seeds, a protein bar, bananas.  For breakfast we eat a lot of hard boiled eggs, plain oatmeal with fruit or protein smoothies. The kids call them milkshakes. Eat lots of fresh fruits.  Drop the soda.  It’s empty calories and terrible for you.  Drink lots of water.  Moderate or cut out alcohol.  I have cut my beer consumption down quite a bit, which was difficult since I like good beer but but it’s not impossible.  Cut out the extra sugar, it’s also empty calories.  I like to get plain greek yogurt and add a few blueberries or a tiny bit of honey. It’s a filling high protein snack.

Don’t over do it.  Know when your body has had enough.  Let yourself recover.  I used to be terrible at overtraining, I felt like I had to train every day regardless of how I felt.  It takes longer to recover now, but recovery is necessary.  Don’t overlook it.

Be able to adapt.  If your expectations were a little to high or too low, just adjust them.  There is no failure if you actually try.  If you run short on time, walk the stairs in your office building for 15 minutes before or after work or over lunch.  Get outside and do a brisk walk over lunch.  I’ll often run the stairs in my parking garage at 4:30 if I think I’m not going to have time at home.

Rest.  Get enough sleep.  I’m not good at this one but you’ll feel far better if you sleep enough.  Most people need 8 hours.  I need about 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep…I generally get 5.  I’m working on this one.

Post your thoughts and results.   Talk about it.  Adjust.  I guarantee if you try you’ll fee better.  No pressure.  Have fun and wait for the results to happen because they will.  Who doesn’t have 15 minutes a day?