Month: July 2016

5 Reasons I Like Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Been a while since I wrote about technical stuff. Having been involved with the Windows 10 Insider Preview for a long time, and it being less than a week before the huge Windows 10 Anniversary Update, I’d cover some of my favorite features showing up in the next release.

Windows 10 Start Menu Awesomesauce

1 – Start Menu

The iconic start menu that’s been around in multiple forms since Windows 95, is FINALLY getting a refresh that actually makes sense and includes some of the better features from Windows 7 and Windows 8. A fantastic merging of all things cool from all the previous Start menu’s that we’ve come to expect from Windows. Shortcuts to the most used items on the left margin: Power menu, Settings, Windows Explorer, and Profile. Most used applications in the next scroll-able column with Recently added (both can be removed) and the scroll-able all applications list. The final area to the left of the apps column is a smaller version of the larger Windows 8 Modern UI. Fully customizable with anything you want it to show, its very handy for application you use a ton but don’t want to always scroll through an applications listing.

2 – Settings

More settings (formerly in the Control Panel) are now accessible in the Setting menu. With a ton of added functionality and some better sorting that is actually, dare I say it, logical. Most of the common settings we need to access are now in the Settings menu rather than having to dig through to find the Control Panel. As they release further updates to Windows 10, more and more will be ported to the Setting menu eventually making the Control Panel irrelevant.

3 – Booting / Startup

Anyone with Windows 7/8 and a mechanical hard drive (spinning disks) can say they have to wait up to 3 minutes for the computer to become usable without hesitations. Windows 10 on the other hand, puts a lot of the boot process on the back end once the computer is full booted allowing you to get to work faster and not have to wait. You pair Windows 10 with an SSD (solid state drive, aka, not mechanical spinning disks) and you get a 10-15 second boot time and almost immediate usefulness. For those of us that hate to wait (Me) an SSD is a gift from the heavens and I hear violins playing every time I push the power button and have to wait only 9 seconds to get working. Totally awesomesauce near-instant gratification!

4 – Edge browser

I can hear you all right now “Edge, what? Seriously?” Yes, Edge. For all the short-comings and bloatedness of Internet Explorer, Edge has managed to smooth out the rough edges enough to make this browser my daily driver. I find that most of what I add to a browser (password manager, adblocker, secureVPN) are all now available in Edge. It’s a lightweight truly native HTML5 browser that is lean and mean. It has a brutalistically minimalist design that appeals to me on many levels and for movies/videos, it gets out of the way without having to do anything, as in content driven “full screen” mode that is automatically enabled/disabled.

5 – Native Windows 10 Apps

The Microsoft Store has come a long way in the last few months. There are native applications now for all kinds of things like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. Native apps do not require you to open them in a browser and have direct connections to the back-end servers making it a much more pleasant experience. I love how the Facebook app works in Windows 10 and favor it over using my mobile device or the website now. I’m not an app heavy user though, so your own experiences may differ from mine and I’m also running the latest release ahead of the production release on Aug 2nd.

Final thoughts

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 already, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why are you waiting?
  2. Who doesn’t like “Free”?
  3. What are you truly afraid of?

If you upgrade to Windows 10, hate it with a passion, you can downgrade back to your previous version within 30 days. At some point in the future though, you’ll be forced to upgrade or face the Internet with an unpatched and vulnerable operating system. Ask anyone who’s still on Windows XP how they’re making out!

July 29th is the last day to upgrade for free! After that, it’ll cost $100 or more to upgrade. The only valid reason I can think of to not upgrade is that your current PC is not compatible. You guys get a pass with that reason as a new PC isn’t a small purchase.

Three Things Thursday


As seen on Nerd in the Brain

1 – Listening friends

Hitting a rough patch this past week (see Where Am I?), I had the awesome opportunity and availability of a friend to listen to me, well, bitch/moan/complain. It was very therapeutic and certainly helped a lot. A few beers between friends helped keep the brain vomit flowing and they even joined in at certain points as well. Here’s to mutual friends helping each other out on a bad day.

2 – Arrow

I’ve embarked on another Netflix binge and am trying to control my “fires of hell” urge to call off work and rip through three seasons in under a day. After having come off watching Flashpoint, Primeval, and Leverage, I recovered enough to start watching Arrow. An amazingly dark and brooding type of show with just enough violence to make it interesting but not so much that it’s hard to watch. It’s also not bad seeing Emily Bett Richards and Katie Cassidy in almost every episode. Shout out to John Barrowman, who will be forever known to me as Capt. Jack Harkness (Dr. Who / Torchwood)!!!!

3 – Courage

I’m a private person, and have since 2012, run this blog as “private” and discouraged search engines. Having read through all the posts, and confirming that there isn’t a shred of personally identifiable information from my real life, I decided to open things up and make this a public blog. I’ve had several people stop by and start to follow, people I probably wouldn’t have found on my own. Discovered the long way that you can’t be found if you’re not listed in the first place.

5 reasons I chose minimalist

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found there is less of a need for “stuff” in my life. There was a time that I hardly threw anything away and had a bedroom full of crap that usually had the “I could use this someday” reason to keep. For years, I packed and unpacked this stuff from one place to another, a few times never unpacking the box and just moving it more than once in the same box. Most of it had some memory or sentiment attached to it that ended up being meaningless when weighed against the big picture. It wasn’t until I came to the conclusion that this stuff was my way of coping with anger, depression, and loneliness early on that I was able to start purging. And wow, did I purge. I’ve detailed my journey here in the hope that someone else might benefit from my experience and start to adapt to (or adopt) a minimalist lifestyle.

#1 – Simplification

It’s logical to assume that with less clutter and visual distraction, comes a simplified way of thinking. I can attest 100% that this is true, but everyone is different and each individual needs to find that balance. Most people think that simplifying their life is to remove color, visual accents, downsize their home, and keeping only the essential items required to survive. While that may work for some, my personal opinion is that is extreme and removes the warmth that life offers. I simplified my life by removing the clutter that I had been hanging onto for weak reasons. That binder from sophomore Biology class for example. The cardboard boxes of Dilbert desk calendars from 1997-2007 another example. There was no attachment, so many years later, to either of these items. They got pitched. I also simplified my wardrobe and donated all the clothes that I most likely will never wear again. Keeping a plaid shirt that still fit, but was from the late 90’s, no longer held an appeal to me.

#2 – Decreased stress

My view of a cluttered house often was paired with feelings of claustrophobia and dirt. My room growing up was a complete mess of pages ripped out of Rolling Stone (stapled to the walls), multiple desks and book shelves, dressers and a bed. Dust was the companion in this room to me as my time was mainly spent on the computer talking to people rather than being face to face. The stress I felt all the time, now reflecting, caused a lot of my issues over the past few decades that I’m now working through. I favor a much simpler environment that is easy to keep clean and has appealing aesthetics but is not crowded. A living room has a sofa (or couch depending on where you’re from), television with minimal components, a few wall hangings, and a neutral color on the walls. Color is added by a blanket or pillows on the sofa or some flowers. Items such as magazines, books, etc., are hidden in under sofa storage or cleverly organized in a small book case that matches the television stand. Naturally, with a lack of furniture and items, the floor is open and free feeling.

#3 – Less time consuming

A cluttered or disorganized space is time consuming in multiple ways. The act of cleaning is moving some stuff, cleaning that area, moving the stuff back, then cleaning the previous storage area. Constantly having to move around stuff just to clean makes it difficult and most people just stop cleaning regularly. Watch an episode of Hoarders and it all makes sense. The amount of furniture or obstacles in your path to walk also creates adds additional seconds to your daily routine. Add 1 second here for walking around a coffee table and 1 second there for side stepping a poorly placed end table adds up rather quickly to minutes, days or weeks per year. Time that could have been spent doing something more productive or something that made you happier and less stressed (see #2).

#4 – Downsize your home

While this wasn’t the case in my particular instance, as I purchased a slightly larger home, going minimalist in most cases will show you that the “space” you thought you needed was just an illusion. Bedrooms no longer need to be the size of small apartments, family/living rooms no longer need to be expansive open spaces the span the entire back of a home, and the 3-car garage for a family of 2 cars is no longer necessary. So many people I know that have embraced a decluttering mentality have moved in the past few years to smaller homes and have saved a lot of money in the process. In my case, our old house was 1700 sq. ft. and my new house is 1850 sq. ft., however, the footprint is exactly the same, 30′ x 48′. The layout is completely different and therefore, a much more efficient use of space for our current life situation. My daughter has her own space, I have mine, my wife has hers. We are careful not to take these separate spaces as a reason not to interact. My daughter gets an hour of television to herself, my wife reads at night after I go to bed, I use my space to get precious solitude when needed. We do make it a point to all eat dinner together and do something as a family even if its 30 minutes to play a simple game or watch a television show.

#5 – Saves money

Try to follow me here, as this is slightly intangible and sciencey. A home full of clutter will take longer to heat and cool due to the fact that mass will hold energy longer. A room full of books will require much more cooling than an empty room since paper has a much higher mass than air and walls. Removing the items that aren’t needed or necessary from your home will translate to lower heating and cooling bills as you’ve removed mass from the home that released heat in the summer and hold cold in the winter. Take a book from the garage in the winter inside and hours later, open and feel the pages and they’re still cold. In order to warm those pages up, it needs to take heat from the air in turn making the heat run longer.

Once you remove the clutter, you see that you don’t need all those things to live a happy and stress free life. Having what you need when you need it without excess will always save you money because you realize you don’t need to buy all the things you “think” you need or are swayed to a great deal for something you want, but don’t necessarily need. I walked past the great deal on an outdoor chair at the warehouse club over this past weekend because the outdoor patio set I have is more than adequate and still in good shape. I only have one butt, why do I need more than one chair outside to put it in? That was my thought process and I ended up NOT buying the chair.


I’m happy I decided to go down the minimalist path and I’m finding that it’s easier to keep the trend going in all aspects of my life now that I truly understand the underlying benefits. The theme change here is a good example as I no longer need to spend time trying to come up with colors and background images that put my mild OCD for perfection into overdrive. Things are so much simpler now that I no longer have all the excess crap around me. Even my desk at work has benefited as I now only have one picture of the family and a few items from my daughter she made for me. I focus so much more on my work than I used to as well and find distractions that used to make me angry so much less intrusive.

My recommendation is to look around and identify what you “need” to live, what you “like” to live with, and what you “don’t need or want” anymore but haven’t pitched for any number of irrelevant reasons.

Going minimalist

You can see by now that I’ve updated the theme, once again.  I’m never quite completely happy with any theme I’ve picked in the past, but this one is closer to my current theme in life.  Post on that soon, got it in draft.

Heartburn over next President

Inspired by In which I reluctantly “choose” Hillary by The Monster in Your Closet

There are some topics of discussion that will always get people fired up, one of them being politics. Reading the personal view from one such writer that I’ve been following for a while now, I felt it was about time for me to get out a subjective and honest post about my internal points of view and why I am or am not voting for specific people. As is the case with every political conversation I’ve ever had since forever, my points of view are largely based on observation, reading, listening, and forming an opinion from all those sources (both individual and mainstream). We won’t agree on all of this, but one of the things I find amazing in this country is being able to share opinions with others, not for acceptance, but because we can. Thousands of people do this every day without the need for violence or anger, so lets keep this civil, ok.

DonaldTrumpHairDonald Trump

I’m smiling and chuckling right now. Where do I start with this guy? Obviously I’m not a supporter of Trump at this point despite having a brief glimmer of hope very early on that he’d be the one to shake things up. Well, he’s shaken things up, but not for the better. I see Donald Trump as the poster child of the anti-government establishment and a member of the, often not thought of like this, the 1% (Bernie Sanders plug). I’m often left thinking how people who support him don’t see that he’s part of the group of people that have caused so many problems for all of us. I feel like the 1% see’s the rest of us as minions that help make them more money while we all get poorer. Mr. Trump is portrayed as a buffoon with little or no experience with politics, I offer an alternative theory. Mr. Trump is a lot smarter than most give him credit for and a White House with him a the helm gives me a very nervous view of the future. I see the potential for him to push through legislation that further separates the poor, low, and middle classes from the upper classes, further compounding the problems we’re currently experiencing. The 2008 housing crisis should have been a wake up call that the wealthy are gaming the system to make as much money as they can. They need to be knocked down a few pegs. Lets bring back some of the top tax bracket taxes that existed in the Regan years for starters.

Donald does not have my support or my vote in November.

HillaryClintonSurprisedHillary Clinton

Being the polar opposite of Donald Trump, my gut is telling me she can’t be trusted. I hear her say words, make promises, endorse the right groups and initiatives. I see her doing things that contradict what she says all over the place though that goes back years or in some cases, decades. Call her what you will; flip flopper, waffler, etc. Her track record is spotted with controversy through her whole career, which her husband didn’t help at all to improve. I’ve been in technology for my entire career and still can’t believe that a person in her position would even think that using a personal server was a good idea. This one action of hers forever made me distrust everything she has said since. She does do the right thing when required, she says the right then when people need to hear it, but her actions blatantly say otherwise and anyone who reads just a little (from reputable sources) will see the pattern emerge.

Hillary does not have my support, but could potentially get my vote in November.

Libertarian Party

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m behind on their agendas and candidates. Having seen a few of them in the news lately, I decided that a third party vote from me might be worth it. After reading a lot on Ross Perot and Ron Paul, I see the potential as well as the damage that a third party candidate can do. In the previous elections, especially Perot, they pulled votes from the mainstream party candidates and made what could have been a wide margin a very slim margin. I’m hoping that the strength of the third party here this election cycle could actually make a difference. Anyway, never in a million years would I see myself leaning to a party that also included John McAfee. My personal views on him are technical related and I think he’s just a complete moron.

GaryJohnsonI am supporting Gary Johnson at this point as my potential third party candidate. He has impressed me with the few speeches I’ve seen online and his agenda is actually quite logical and straightforward. The three front runners to his agenda are eliminating personal/corporate taxes, scale back government spending and U.S. entanglements overseas, and create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. I hate paying taxes and will endorse a plan that eliminates them provided that spending is cut more steeply than the lack of revenue from lost taxes. (See – Can Libertarian Gary Johnson Be a Factor in 2016?) I also support citizenship for undocumented immigrants because, at one point in our history, we were ALL from other countries revolting for independence from all of them. His main support is coming from the fact that he is neither Trump or Clinton, but that isn’t enough for me. I need to do more research.

Johnson has potential support from me and quite possibly my vote as well.

WeirdWeirdo 2016

This year has been one for the record books. Reality TV star as the Republican nominee for President, race violence at an unprecedented coverage level, rich people getting richer, not so rich people getting poorer, and multiple conflicts and wars sucking everyone’s money around the world.

Perhaps migrating to Canada isn’t such a bad idea after all….

Three Things Thursday: July 21, 2016




*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy* (Nerd in the Brain)

#1 – My daughter at her Aunt’s house

The daughter is spending this week at her Aunt’s house at the beach (the shore if you’re in New Jersey or Pennsylvania). With a pool in the backyard of her house, there is only one place she wants to be: in the pool. This picture was taken on the first day (this past Sunday) at around 8:45am. Seriously, she didn’t wait for anyone else to wake up before getting into the water. I’m sure if she could change into some sort of water creature, she would. I’ve reminded my sister-in-law a hundred times this week to keep her covered in sun screen. I’d prefer my daughter not look like crispy bacon.

#2 – Working from home

After weeks of pushing the request to work from home one day per week, it was FINALLY approved on a provisional basis until I can prove that I’m at least as effective at home as I am in the office. Well, duh, I’m more effective because I don’t have people rolling up and asking questions without regard for anything that I’m currently doing. My office is carpeted, painted, clean, and finally taken for a test drive yesterday. I intelligently stacked my day with document reviews and meetings to show I’m as available (if not more) when at home vs. in the office. My eventual goal is to work from home Tuesday-Thursday and only be in the office on Monday’s and Friday’s, typically the worst days of the week. No fair letting all the other people have fun on the top and bottom end of the week.

#3 – Spontaneous trip to the movies (wife and I)

Sunday afternoon the wife said to me “Lets go the movies.” I asked what she wanted to see and she told me Ghostbusters. I was like, “hell yeah” and snatched up tickets online. The daughter wasn’t with us so it was a pleasant surprise to do something without wondering if it would be a problem with the 9 year old CEO of the household. The movie wasn’t as funny as I had expected, but very entertaining none the less. Not sure it was $15/ticket entertaining, but whatever, it’s money that wasn’t spent on things for the house.

Fearful of the future

Once again, I read about another situation where civilians targeted police officers and people ended up being killed. I’ve seen conflicting information about whether the gunman called police to the scene on purpose or if it was just something else entirely, such as “wrong place at the wrong time”. There isn’t enough detail in the news that I can completely trust enough to know which side is right. To be honest though, it really doesn’t matter, people died for something that didn’t need to happen. I’m referring to the gunman AND the police officers, not one or the other. The thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing are hard to put into words.

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve said and done the wrong thing at the wrong time. In some cases, I was provided the opportunity to apologize and in others I wasn’t and lost the respect of the other person. That is all my fault, partly because I wasn’t thinking, partly because I was naive, partly because it’s what I had believed at the time and hadn’t been given all the details or facts. In all cases, I learned from those experiences, rather, the experiences that I was provided the chance to learn from. The individuals that enlightened me rather than hate me understood that some things just aren’t known to everyone all the time. They took a chance on offering their knowledge to me in a time when I probably didn’t earn it or deserve it, but had hope that a fellow human being could be helped to understand the bigger picture.

I grew up in a white neighborhood and went to a primarily white school. It wasn’t until I entered high school that I had fellow students that were not white. I was dumb, naive, and stupid about the larger world that I hadn’t experienced yet. At no point though did I treat anyone differently. Everyone started with the same level of respect and acceptance when first meeting me. It was only after their actions dictated a change in respect, I never got to a point where I didn’t accept anyone. My life the past 40 years has been dotted with situations that fall into the “shouldn’t have said that” and “shouldn’t have done that” moments. What most don’t see when they only look at the surface though is the fact that I’ve learned from every situation where I had done or said something stupid. As I progressed through high school, college, corporate work; those situations where I said or did the wrong thing have grown farther and farther apart.

A particular experience, that I’ll never forget, involved a co-worker at one past job where I was in my early 20’s. For months I picked up on negativity directed at me and others on the team that were white. Meetings were especially brutal for me specifically as I didn’t have the operating knowledge required to back up my ideas or suggestions. This person continually had the upper hand with me and I can’t recall a single idea that didn’t have a “devil’s advocate” approach from them. Months of this took place and I just accepted it. At the time I had no idea why I was the usual target, but reflecting now I can see why. One particular day, a specific comment was directed at me that struck a nerve as it turned personal that was directed at my wife. I asked, politely, to meet with them privately and they reluctantly agreed. I asked them why I was being singled out? I asked why they never gave me a chance? The answers weren’t surprising, but my follow-up caught them off guard; “Why does the color of my skin determine if I’m worthy of your respect and acceptance? At no point in the last 6 months have I been anything but respectful and accepting of you as a fellow co-worker. Do I not deserve the same?” I asked they just think about my questions before answering and excused myself from the room, I didn’t feel it was necessary to stay after confronting someone so personally. It was a few days later that they called me into the same room. I got answers to my questions that confirmed my belief that I was superficially judged and they didn’t allow themselves to see past that. Our working relationship improved from that point forward but it never progressed farther than that, mostly because of my unwillingness to mix work and personal life. I did earn their respect and acceptance and I like to think that I learned a little from the situation in that until you let someone know where you stand, nothing will ever change.

I try so hard to not judge others. I’m a fallible human though and nothing is ever perfect. It’s the imperfections in life that makes everything so interesting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I tend to accept more rather than reject, a fact that isn’t lost on me as this usually happens in the opposite direction for most people. I can’t recall how many times I’ve talked to my Grandparents and realized over and over that they were truly racist and bigoted people; a product of their time unfortunately. My parents chose not to instill those ideals with my brother an I and I’m thankful for that. It helped me to see and recognize the behaviors that perpetuated the violence and hatred from centuries past. I’ve lost friends over the years because they got angry with me for my refusal to polarize “with my own kind” (their words, not mine) when violence erupted over race. I’ve also distanced myself from people that perpetuated that kind of hate and rhetoric because I just don’t think it does any good to get that angry over something. Sure, there are bad people out there, sure things will happen regardless of our best efforts, but I cling to the hope that we’ll start to learn from our mistakes and expend energy on positivity rather than negativity.

I’m fearful for the future for the first time in a long time. Seeing and hearing about escalating violence is a major contributor to that fear in that it being a cycle that really never ends. It can get worse, or we can recognize our negativity and decide collectively to make a difference. I consider myself part of the solution more so because I’m willing to accept and learn from my mistakes, but that only works if others recognize that I’m going to make mistakes. Mistakes due to lack of knowledge or life experience, not due to malice, racism or bigotry. Where are things going to go? It’s up to the human race to decide, because in the end, our brains are grey and we all bleed red.

Virtual economy

As if, who writes checks anymore?

While sitting down and entering in receipts and paying some bills, I started to laugh. Looking at the electronic representation of money I never really had in my possession had a comical and humorous feel to it. I mean, I worked to earn the money that was deposited in my account that I then spent on things. At no point was this money actually ever in existence except as numbers in some software. It first started at my company, then transferred to the payroll company, then to my account, then to the final destination after leaving my account. It was all electronic transfer of money relying on a system that is horrifyingly fragile to a number of external threats, all of which are real possibilities in the future.


Somewhere out there is an electronic record of my finances that is being used to judge my creditworthiness for almost everything. The shear amount of things that require good credit is staggering especially when you consider that more than 50% of the country is in some form of debt beyond a home or vehicle. I’m in that category myself despite having significant control over what is purchased and when. Despite my best efforts, there always seems to be something that hits the bottom line making it nearly impossible to actually save money. Everyone wants their piece of the pie along the way leaving the guy at the end left to pick from the crumbs. I’m not complaining by any means, I take responsibility for the money I’ve spent regardless of whether it was a “want” or a “need”. There are certainly things I can live without, but weighed against whether I want to or not, some things are just too convenient to live without. An example, a garbage disposal, have one for 12 years and then take it away, you suddenly realize how convenient it was.

Recalling back the last several years, I realized I rarely carry paper money anymore. I’ve come to rely on cards (ATM/Debit, CC, etc.) so much that the need to carry paper money has all but disappeared. There are only a few places that I require paper money at this point, but only because they don’t accept cards. The only other reason is when you need a purchase to be under the radar (like an anniversary or birthday present). Previously I wrote about being off the grid as a personal decision. What if living off the grid was necessary because the grid was no longer functioning? As in the case of computer hacking, electromagnetic pulse bombs, or a complete collapse of the financial infrastructure as it exists today. What do you do then knowing you have electronic money but no electronic means of getting to it or knowing if it still even existed?

Doomsday preppers….  or a typical family in Texas, you choose, lol  (c) National Geographic

While I’m not a doomsday prepper by any means, I do want to make sure I’m sanely prepared for certain disasters that have a relative certainty of happening in the future. One of them being a collapse of the financial system where paper money might be the only currency that is left and actually still works. In the case of a market collapse, the only sure means of wealth to purchase what you need is precious metals like gold and silver. For over 100 years, the American currency was both gold and silver backed at least until the turn of the 20th century. People have been pushing for years to get back to that standard, however, it would mean pulling billions of dollars out of circulation in a system that is only backed by trust. Not a good place to be in my honest opinion because if it weren’t removed from circulation, the value of the dollar would fall significantly to match the gold or silver being used to back it.


With that said then, I’ve got a stash of paper money in my safe at home specifically for when all electronic means to access my money aren’t working. Regardless of the reason, until such a moment that the financial system collapses, paper money will still hopefully buy the necessary things to survive. Depending on the type of financial system collapse, paper money might also be worthless. An example of that was in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression, paper money was only worth cents on the dollar. The monetary system at that time was very different than it is today, however the underlying factors of wealth, greed, and power have never changed. Whether it be borrowing to purchase stocks (sometimes $.20 on the dollar) or to finance sub-prime loans for people who couldn’t afford it, economies will fluctuate regardless of circumstances. Fear is the driving force behind all the stock market plunges through history. If you objectively look at the system in place, it fundamentally doesn’t change pre-plunge to post-plunge, however people fearing they will lose money (they never had in their possession physically) make a run on a system that can’t support conversion from electronic to physical form.

redflagAn article I read recently detailed the warning sign that the housing market is again going to take a downturn. The basis of the article explained how seasoned infrastructure investors have backed off purchasing foreclosed (fixer-upper flips basically) properties due to demand for inventory and the return falling below 30%. The unfortunately side-effect of that is that novice or misinformed first time investors are purchasing these properties, on slim potential margins, often utilizing credit to do so. The red flag here is that there is the potential for that first time investor to not only lose the investment they just purchased, but also lose their current property as well. That doesn’t turn out well in a market still fragile from 2008 and serves to show that things haven’t changed that much despite the new regulations that have been put in place. Having just purchased a new home, I’m concerned that a downturn in the economy at this point would hit much harder than the previous one. The correction mechanisms in our economic systems have not recovered and would be inadequate to offer any help if a downturn happened now.

The bottom line here, and the main point of this, is we rely too much on electronic technology. There aren’t enough adequate safeguards in place to ensure the systems protection. The irony is that I’m explaining this through an electronic journal.

Oh, the irony!

Craving silence is not a bad thing

silenceThere are times I feel that something is wrong with me in how I process the world around me. Sounds, particular sounds, send me off the rails immediately and will always ruin the rest of my day if they persist long enough. Using an example that is affecting me right now, my colleague over the cubicle wall is being overly aggressive with his mouse. He clicks hard enough to make the mouse sound hollow, lifts and drops the mouse like it has a ball but is an optical, and doesn’t like to use the scroll wheel evidenced by the hundreds of clicks in a row all day long. This shouldn’t bother me. This also isn’t the first time crap like this has been the focus of my online writing. This sensitivity to sound is a constant reminder to me that I’m not like the ordinary person that can block this ambient background noise out. The frustration with my sound sensitivity manifests itself as anger, anxiety, and depression (when it persists without recognition). I’ve been off and on talking with doctors and being on this medication or that, always pushing to get away from those things. Medication specifically dulls all my senses and takes the color out of everything around me. I see the need for it at the time, but addressing the underlying issue in some way negates the need to keep taking said medication in my opinion.

As my wife and I were looking for a new house, I was extremely particular about where my office would be and immediately removed homes from the list that didn’t meet my requirements. The office had to be in the basement, and more importantly, in the corner to be less likely I’ll hear people walking around above me. It also had to be away from any common area in the basement or have a solid door to help block sound. She didn’t understand how one room could have so many requirements, she’s not an introvert. In the end, I got my office in the corner, but not with a solid door. I compromised when I saw that the radon mitigation system was going to be installed in the corner of my office providing the low hum of white noise that is so well at covering over other way more annoying sounds around me. I have yet to work from home to see if it truly is adequate or still bothersome. The only time it would be an issue is when my daughter is home during the summer, any other time, she’s at school all day.

I’m not alone in the fact that true silence is a fundamental motivator for me. In the absence of true silence, like now, I find that music in the background is the best method for concentrating on a task at hand. Silence to me lets my brain process, think, and wind down to where I can more easily focus on what I’ve decided to do. The week we moved in, I found the chaos of the house too much and ended up snapping nastily at everyone around me, mostly towards the end of the week. I ended up making a list, with my wife’s help, putting in the Bluetooth headset and just working through the list listening to music. Taking my time and working at my own pace, I got more done than either my wife or I thought and it was done right instead of half-assed. She saw that letting me work through a list without interruption or interactions with others was actually quite efficient. I truly think she’s starting to at least understand what I need even if she still doesn’t understand why, if ever.

The past several months I’ve noticed that my seeking silence has lessened to a certain degree. I’ve been continually saying to myself that getting frustrated or angry over something that isn’t in my control isn’t worth my time. Instead, I’ve considered alternatives that decrease the level of hell my brain is putting me through. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, depends on the day and how many problems have been dropped in front of me. I’m not full on with meditation, but I do try to get somewhere for a little bit each day that is completely quiet to clear out the brain buffer. I’ve also resisted having a beer or a drink like I had been doing the week I was off and unpacking into the new house. I came to the quick realization that it was just clouding things and artificially pushing thoughts into the background for a while before they would come rushing back. I do enjoy a beer or two over the weekend though when I’m much more relaxed.

My daughter is also showing signs of behavior that leans more towards the introverted rather than the extroverted. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I tell her she needs to go outside while I remain inside, I’m not sending the right message. I’m still not sure if she’s being a typical 9 year old or if there is something more that is underscoring her behavior. The wife and daughter over this past weekend decided to go swimming at a neighbors house we’re watching while they’re away on vacation (they told us we could use the pool). They left and I decided rather than sit at home watching TV or unpacking something, I ended up heading down to sit near the pool while they were there. It was forced from my perspective, but they appreciated the fact I was there even though I wasn’t swimming. I ended up relaxing a little more despite not trying too hard to do so. Silence, while something I seek all the time, isn’t always the right answer for every situation. I have to keep reminding myself that being around people is a good thing.

The natural tendency I have is to be alone. My entire life, that has been my tendency. Up until I met my wife, my life wasn’t anything special and I often spent many hours and weekends alone despite having friends that constantly invited me places. Most of my close friends understood me to an extent, and never really gave up asking, because they knew at some point I would say yes and join them. Now that I’m married with a daughter, being alone is more of a luxury I enjoy at the expense of everyone else. It’s a hard line to balance on that I need to continuously work on or things start to fall apart. After 18 years (16 married) with my wife, she reminds me when I go too far to one side without actually telling me and eventually I figure it out and come out of my inner reflection. Only time will tell if I’m able to continue adapting and balancing socialization with seclusion. What I do know without a doubt, if pushed or forced, I will always choose seclusion over anything else.

This was inspired partly by this post from The Indecisive Eejit

iPhone got chewed

I’ve been increasingly frustrated with my daughters use of devices that run on electricity with a connection to the Internet. Her addiction to these devices is becoming quite concerning for me as I see her emulating my wife’s use of the same type of devices. A recent conversation with my wife over the weekend consisted of half spoken sentences with a blank stare on the device screen, long pause, me saying “lets speak in complete sentences please” with little change to the communication taking place. My daughter is unfortunately not as adept at pretending to multi-task as my wife and flat out ignores you except for the uttering of the word “What?”….. I’m starting to dislike that word quite a bit.

We were cleaning out glass and wires from the dogs teeth for an hour

The dog ate my daughters iPhone 5C two weeks ago and I was excited to have it happen. She would learn a hard and valuable lesson in how to keep your things looking and working as expected by putting them away where they belong. The second was she would no longer have the ability to kill brain cells playing whatever game of the day she downloaded and installed. It was brief excitement on my part. My wife was ready to go out and purchase a brand new iPhone 6S, at full price, with a credit card of all things! NO! I made it clear that a new phone was the wrong decision and until the daughter could demonstrate some capacity of care with her things. As in my phone is in perfect condition despite not have a case or screen protector on it and being kept in my pocket most of the time. I was in a conundrum of a decision as I didn’t want to get her anything to replace the now broken 5C.

I relented to my wife’s insistence at getting her something to replace the dead device. “Fine, whatever” I said. She knew I wasn’t happy about it, but I very quickly told her to not buy anything, I would take care of it. Heading over to the Telecom Manager’s office, I started digging through the box of devices that were going out for recycling. I found a functional iPhone 4 with a horribly cracked glass back with pieces falling out. The screen was fine though, so I grabbed it and saved it from the inevitable shredding death it was in line for. Rolling past the receiving dock, I grabbed a measured piece of clear packing tape and stabilized the back glass. No more pieces coming off this thing! Throwing it on charge and hoping that the non-Apple charger would be recognized, it started to charge. Several hours later, I got to updating it from iOS 7.whatever to iOS 9.whatever, logging into her parent controlled account, and proceeded to download and install the massive list of applications she had listed.

My plan was to give it to her after some really good behavior based on the fact that she was so upset after the dog ate her last one. That unfortunately was not in the cards as my wife, upon asking to see it, immediately gave it to her. Nothing like not getting any support for well laid plans to have a behaving daughter for a few days teaching patience at the same time…. I walked away without saying anything as my daughter ran upstairs to her bedroom to start another iPhone induced coma under her covers. Just shook my head not getting it why my brand of discipline seems to always be at odds with my wife’s brand. Yes, she’s at home with her all day while I’m at work, however she is going to be 10 soon and honestly, if she doesn’t get what she wants, can handle it regardless of the scene she displays. When I was a kid and acted like she does, I got a smack and was sent to my non-electronic laden room. She on the other hand, gets a stern voice and ends up storming to her electronic heaven of a room, which is probably what she ultimately wanted anyway. Nothing like getting your way without having to ask for it.

The concern I have for the current generation is starting to hit frightening levels. Everywhere I can see younger and younger kids on devices they should never be exposed to at such an early age. I truly believe that the occurrence of ADHD and other disorders, especially in their numbers, is the cause of instant gratification always on electronics, applications, and television shows that wire their brains all whacked. Watch a cartoon with even mild action, and count how many times in 30 minutes the screen shifts to another view or flashes. If you’re less than 100 I’d be surprised or say you counted incorrectly. The last show I watched, some Jap-anime show, flashed or switched 314 times in just 22 minutes (watched on Hulu) or once every 4.2 seconds. Essentially it was visual queues paired with mind-numbing content that kept the developing brain amped for 22 minutes with bursts of stimulus every 4 seconds. I had trouble keeping up with the show honestly.

While I attempt to do my best with limiting electronic devices, the battle is futile the older she gets as her need to be independent grows. Now that its the summer and no school, she’s home all day with the temptation to stay in bed watching an iPhone without the ability to not give into it. Even as friends come over, her impulse is to watch Hulu or play on the iPhone and drag her friends along with her. Over the weekend I turned off the router (remotely) to force her to get outside and spend time in the land of the living. She protested at first, but I forced the issue saying that it would be boring to stay in the house as the router would NOT get turned back on until after dinner and it was dark. I’m working on a chore/rule list that will need to be followed daily if she is to get the WiFi password that I’m going to change daily each morning as part of my routine. It may seem extreme, but its for her own good that she won’t understand until she’s an adult and has kids of her own. I didn’t get it until I had kids and actually apologized to my Dad for the years of hell I put him through. That’s another subject for later.

Electronics are rotting our brains, its up to the parents that remember what it’s like to not have them to step up and do what is right. Limit the screen time.