July 2022 Posts

Sadness and a Revelation - July 20th, 2022

A few months ago, my wife wanted me to see the first episode of One Tree Hill, a favorite show from her youth. Being from North Carolina (where One Tree Hill was filmed) and being a fan of late 90's teen melodramas she thought I might really enjoy it. And while I won't go as far as to say I love it, I do really enjoy watching it. It taps into nostalgia for a time when I was just coming out of high school and TV shows like this existed. Also, the WB always did a fantastic job with indie music and I love the soundtrack.

I mention all this because earlier today, I decided to see if there were any One Tree Hill tours still going on of the filming locations. Once Fall comes, I told my wife we'd spend a long weekend at the beach and I'm not so much of a sand and water guy, but I love the riverwalk and all the tourist shops. I also thought I'd surprise her with a guided tour if they had one, and if not, I'd just source some information online and we'd make our own.

Most of my top results consisted of bloggers who had made their own walking tours. Many of these posts were seven or eight years old, much closer to when the show was still on the air. I skimmed a few of these posts and I felt a profound sense of sadness.

Some of these blogs were abandoned, but many of them were not. Some of them were still being updated as recently as this week. These people never gave up on their writing and while I feel like a few of them drifted into influencer status, mostly these were just regular people chronicling that time they took a vacation to Wilmington and checked out some filming locations of their favorite show.

I thought back to all the writing I've done since some of these posts. How many different layouts, blogs, and names I've used. I thought about how I once posted with glee and excitement like these writers did and then I took a look at my page. It's clean, easy to read, and minimalistic. It's exactly what I set out to do, but does it make me happy?

I've known for quite some time that when I get scared or nervous, I began decluttering. I make life as simple as possible. I think it all dates to when I was kicked out of my house as a teenager. I had tons of things and felt secure in my living arrangement. It never occurred to me that I had amassed junk. Then one day, my life changed instantly, and I was faced with a new reality.

Now, when things get a little uneasy in the world, I get nervous and scared. Once that fight or flight kicks in, I begin making changes to my life. I start getting rid of things, I start cleaning things up, and I try to streamline everything. I try to make things as simple as possible and me as light as possible in case I'm forced to make some uncomfortable changes.

I've been triggered this year. Leaving my mother's house in basically one day after a blow out with my stepfather led me to a miserable apartment. I hate where I live and it's not comfortable. The house prices are ridiculous and I just don't know how I'm going to continue living where I do. This has frustrated me and caused me a lot of anxiety, almost daily and I think that has been reflected in my writing as well.

I streamlined my blog into something that reflects how I'm feeling. It's clean, neat, and extremely minimalistic. It's no frills because I don't feel like I can afford frills right now. I have complete control over this site with my basic HTML and that control brings me peace. I don't have control over most of the things going on in my own life, so I control what I can, which is my writing.

I looked over this personal blog with the One Tree Hill tour and I felt sadness. I felt sadness for myself. I've allowed my fear to control me lately and I'm just now realizing that. Instead of freeing myself and my writing, I've imprisoned myself just as much as I've ever been before. I've put a block between myself and fun, under the disguise of control and being taken seriously, and that sucks.

The last time, I was truly happy with my blogging was in early 2020. I started a fresh blog on Blogger and I made it fun. It was bright green and every day I posted just whatever came to mind. One day it might be a mini rant, the next day a book review. I left Blogger due to a frustration with their services, which is something I do not regret, but since then I've bounced from one place to another trying to capture something that was best left alone.

My constant moving has ostracized my readers and I can't blame them for that either. Who wants to continuously be updating RSS feeds or email subscriptions every few months? If I was a more talented web designer, I could have retained that list of subscribers, but that is beyond my ability.

So, now, I'm sitting here wondering what should I do. I'm going to take some time to meditate on this.

In-Soles for a Middle Aged Fat Kid - July 14th, 2022

I have flat feet. For those who do not have flat feet, flat feet are a pain to live with. It doesn't really seem to become an issue until your later teenage years, but suddenly foot pain is real. Finding shoes that fit and are comfy is a problem. And when you talk to a doctor about it, they give you orthotics which are horrible. They are basically hard shaped pieces of plastic to make your footrest on an arch like it's supposed to. But instead, it's like having a giant Lego in your shoe all day.

I feel like I buy more shoes than the average guy because I'm always on the hunt for something that fits me well. Because of my flat feet, I tend to walk more on the heel of my feet and I destroy insoles and shoes usually within six months of regular wear.

About a year ago, I took up walking for a short time and found quickly I was suffering from knee pain. My basic running shoes weren't helping, so I did a ton of research and settled on a stabilizing shoe by Saucony that was designed with people with flat feet in mind. The shoe was an instant game changer. The pain went away and I had never experience a shoe that fit so well.

About six months ago, I noticed my shoe was beginning to shoe signs of wear. The sole was slightly worn, but the insoles were looking rough. I went from wearing these shoes almost non-stop to only putting them on occasionally. I even went as far as to buy heel supports in hopes of salvaging these shoes for a bit longer.

My job's busy period requires me to be on my feet for a long period of time and that period just started this week. Tuesday was rough. I wore my Saucony's and it didn't really help. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive the next few months. So, I began shoe shopping and even considered Super Feet, some insoles I tried a few years back.

Super Feet are expensive, and I was trying to avoid dropping $40-$50 on some insoles. So, I decided to make a quick stop by Walmart where I picked up some Heavy Duty insoles for guys 200-300 lbs for $15. I've never been impressed by Dr. Scholls insoles, but anything had to be better than what I was dealing with at the time.

I pulled out my old insoles, cut the new ones, and stuck them in my shoes. Three days later, and my feet have never felt better. My shoe fits a bit tighter on top, but the support these insoles offer is mind blowing. Now, I have the support build of these excellent shoes with a little added cushion and padding. It's definitely the best of both worlds.

I'm hoping these insoles will get me another year or so out of these tennis shoes and help me survive the busy season this year. I'm glad I went with the cheaper option, as this fifteen dollars was money well spent.

Pixelfed - July 13th, 2022

Out of all the social media I ever enjoyed, Instagram was my favorite. It's weird, because I'm more of a writer, but I really enjoyed the simplicity of browsing photos and sharing information in quick small bites. I'll never forget the day Instagram was sold to Facebook and the founder promised nothing would change. And like in so many acquisitions and mergers, I knew that was a lie. It didn't take long for Facebook to monetize and make Instagram more invasive, and thats when I stepped away from the product.

Pixelfed is a Fediverse alternative that I've been dabbling in for a couple of years now. It reminds me a lot of early Instagram in that there are no ads, no algorithms, and so forth. It's just people sharing photos in chronological order without the mess that is Facebook's involvement.

I've created five Pixelfed accounts in the past two years. I'll create an account, experiment for a month and then delete it. The reason for me abandoning it is always the same, there is a major lack of things for me to follow.

Currently, I'm part of the pixelfed.social instance, which is the largest instance. The local feed is dominated by photos of flowers, cats, and hobbyist photographers. Usually when someone new joins that photographs something other than their local landscape, they post ten photos and then abandon the account. There just isn't enough traction there to make it worthwhile to grow their brand. Which is both a blessing and a curse.

I don't want to see Pixelfed turn into Instagram where most of the posts are low effort, memes, or advertisements. I'd like to see real people doing real things and people sharing their passions. But at the same time, there needs to be more diversity than just flowers, cats, and landscapes.

For example: I like discussing movies and pop culture. There is almost none of that on Pixelfed. Looking to chat about the latest book release? Good luck finding anyone with a post.

I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or not to be honest. I know that once a proper app is available more people may find their way to Pixelfed and I also know that I really don't want to see it become the cesspool that is Instagram, but I feel like there has to be a happy medium. There has to be a place with a bit more engagement from non-photographers, but not flooded with influencers.

When I first created my Pixelfed back in May, I used it solely as a place to post screenshots from Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed having an outlet to share these photos as it has become a bit of a hobby of mine. But I realized that all of my thoughts and frustrations about Pixelfed were not helped if I didn't use the service like I would like to see others use it. So, I scrapped my account, started over, and began using it like I did Instagram back in the day. I post the occasional Red Dead photo, movies I'm watching, random photos of things I run across, and so forth and it's just another place for me to share my thoughts and passions. There's not much of an audience for that, but I'm doing my part to help shape the community I'd like to see. Maybe someone else will run across my account and decide to do the same.

Owning Knowledge - July 12th, 2022

Growing up, I used to hoard books and magazines. I couldn't bring myself to throw any of them away. I remember in high school, I had this massive tub of wrestling magazines that was so heavy I couldn't move it. So, it just sat, in my room, taking up space and getting heavier by the month.

A few years later, I discarded those magazines as well as the books I owned growing up. I'm not really sure how many I owned, but if I had to guess I'd say somewhere around 150 books and 600 magazines and I haven't regretted it. I mean, the books that interested me in fourth grade aren't exactly the books that interest me now. How many times does one man need to read Bo Jackson's autobiography?

Consistently, when I run across people discussing decluttering, they always mention how books are off limits. They'll live with five t-shirts and three pairs of pants, but the four hundred books cannot go. This always amuses me, but I think the better question is why? Why do people feel so inclined to keep books? You don't see the same feverous loyalty to movies or even albums.

Well, the first thing we must take into consideration is the source. It's the internet. So, who knows what influence the various boards and social media has played in presenting a home free of distractions where book ownership is the ultimate goal. But if we put aside online peer pressure and/or aesthetically pleasing goals, I think it all comes down to: when someone owns a piece of writing, they feel like they own the knowledge held within.

Don't get me wrong, I know everyone has a favorite fictional book and it's like reconnecting with old friends, but a lot of the times people feel like once they own a book they don't really need to remember it. It's always going to be there if they own it.

I used to keep men's fitness magazines, because one day, I might need those advanced workout routines. I mean, how else would I find them again? I didn't think about the insane difficulty it would be to go back through a few dozen copies of Men's Health trying to find the one page with some advanced version of a squat. But I rested comfortably, knowing that I had it. It was mine and I owned it.

The same thing went for the wrestling magazines and books I once owned. My ownership made me feel like I was a keeper of the wrestling knowledge within. These stories and pictures were always going to be alive because I would have them. They'd always be sitting in this massive plastic tub drowning amongst their peers, impossible to truly find anything within, but I owned it.

Recently, a friend of mine reached out for some advice with his finances. The topic of streaming services came up. Like most of us, this individual was paying for half a dozen services, but only watching one or two of them. I struggled to explain that one service is enough, especially if you aren't paying your bills on time. I referenced back to our childhoods where we didn't have quite so many options and how much of a thrill renting just one movie was. I don't think my friend was getting it until I brought up a quote an old manager of mine at GameStop once mentioned to me, "You can only play one game at a time."

I try to remember that when I feel like I need more things. You can only read one book at a time, you can only watch one movie at a time, but for some reason we feel the need to have so much at our fingertips all the time. Is this part of the same desire to own information? Do we feel better because we have access to all these things through all of these services?

I don't really know, nor have I formulated much of an opinion on it. I do feel like there is some strange primal urge to own stories and guides that seems to override other desires. Then again, maybe people keep a ton of books around just because they think it makes them look smart.


Reflections on Society While Eating at Bonefish - July 11th, 2022

I took my wife to the Bonefish Grill this past Saturday night. It was my second time eating there and overall I was pretty satisfied. For a chain restaurant, the service was solid, the food was tasty, and the price was fair.

We sat ourselves at the first come, first serve bar tops. It was nice for the first ten minutes, until a group of people sat at the end of our table. I couldn't help but notice them, because they came in rather loud and obnoxious, and remained that way through dinner.

One woman's cellphone remained out as she took dozens of photos of her and her nephew with no regard to anyone else around them. She even knocked over a drink at one point and confessed to being obnoxious, but that didn't deter her from continuing with the way she was acting. There were a couple of minor political rants, the young child repeating some inappropriate phrases, and general behavior unfitting of any type of dining establishment, let alone something with food over a five dollar price point.

These were not the typical riff-raff that one might expect just stumbled into a restaurant without the knowledge of how to act civil. No, these were well-to-do, thirty-somethings, dressed nicely, and seemingly well off. I think that is why this made such an impact on me.

I sat there, focusing on my breath, and trying to make the best of the evening. I tried not to feel down about the world and my lack of faith in society, but it was so hard when watching these people interact the way that they were. I looked around the full restaurant at the other tables and tried to soak in that most of the people dining were not as ill-behaved as these folks. Then came a storm warning and I watched as dozens of little beeps notified almost everyone in the restaurant of the storm. There was a collective sigh and I just turned to my wife and said, "I miss the 90's."

I've been struggling the past couple of weeks with people. I find myself becoming more reclusive and I'm attempting to fight at it. I don't want to be one of those people who stays inside all the time and controls their environment, but being around people sure brings that out in me. I wonder if this is an age thing, where my idea of how people should behave clashes due to an ever-changing world. Or is the world getting ruder and meaner? Or am I suffering from mean world syndrome?

I realize that I need to do some work on myself. I need to find some more time for meditation, and I may need to recommit to studying Buddhism and Stoicism some more. I need to learn to control my reactions, since the way other people choose to live is obviously beyond my control.

Until then, I'll avoid the high-tops at Bonefish.

Pop! Os - July 5th, 2022

A little over a year ago, I finally had it with Windows. The constant updates, tracking, and shoving ads in various places just sent me over the edge. I decided it was time to give Linux an honest attempt since my previous attempts at using Linux were minor flirtations in dual booting.

I went all in, I wiped my laptop clean and installed Mint. It did everything Windows did, but faster and cleaner. There was a bit of learning curve with some of the command line stuff, but it took me back to installing DOS games in my youth. I was shocked that so many applications were able to install without the use of the command line and well, for most basic users, including myself, Mint had pretty much everything I wanted and needed after the installation.

Earlier this year, I was gifted a Lenovo Yoga complete with Windows 11. My previous computer was a seven-year-old Acer, so I was thrilled to play around with the solid state drive and touch screen. Soon, that thrill wore off, as Windows did what Windows does (manages everything for you) and I found the thirteen-inch screen was not to my liking.

After a few months, I decided to boot up my old laptop and get back to computing the way I enjoy it. It was a bit rough coming from the speed of the new laptop, not to mention, I blotched an update on Mint which slowed down my boot up time and ended up causing some issues with me updating some other applications. I thought about doing some trouble shooting but I just didn't have it in me. Instead, I planned to take part of my weekend and install a new distro.

Based on the hype alone, I decided to go with Pop! Os and I've been very happy with my decision. I remember Mint taking me some significant time to install but Pop! was downloaded and installed within twenty minutes. My mind was blown. I had figured I'd need at least three or four hours to get everything right.

Straight out the install, things worked even better than Mint. The store for applications was fully stocked and outside of some trouble I've had installing my VPN, things have been incredible. It looks gorgeous, runs incredibly fast, and I have absolutely no complaints. It has been an excellent upgrade for me.

For what I do on a computer, Linux has been a god send. It allows me to surf without feeling like everything is being monitored and tracked and it breathes new life into my old hardware. It provides me with all the tools I need in a computer and looks good while doing it. I'm quite thrilled with Pop!_OS and while I can't compare or get into the technical aspects of it all, I can say as a slightly above average user it's pretty awesome.

Exploding Head Syndrome - July 5th, 2022

So, uh, yea... how's that for a title.

For the past several months, I've been plagued by a strange occurrence. When I'm just about to fall asleep, I'll hear a loud noise. Sometimes, it's a loud boom, other times it sounds like someone beating on a door. Sometimes it sounds like a gun shot while others it's someone yelling. There is no rhyme or reason to what I'm hearing, it just occurs and startles me.

I'll wake up with my heart beating so fast it feels like it's going to explode and try to figure out what happened. I've gotten up more than a few times to check the apartment, verify the doors are locked, and that no one is inside. I feel a bit stupid doing this, because my wife is sound asleep next to me and the dog hasn't moved. It's clearly not something they have heard, but it's so real to me.

Hearing strange noises is terrifying. It's terrifying because its unexpected and terrifying because I'm pretty sure it’s all in my head. It's made me wonder a few times if I was losing it, but I decided to try and examine what happens when this occurs.

I've noticed it mainly happens right as I'm about to drift off to sleep, but occasionally does happen in the midst of a dream. I've noticed the sound does not fit anything that happens in the dream, which is part of why my brain and heart get so confused. It would be one thing if I was standing next to an explosion in my dream, but instead I'll be doing something relaxing or having a conversation when suddenly this sound occurs. No one in the dream reacts, so I believe I wake myself up thinking it must be something in the real world that created such a noise. Then I noticed my wife and dog have not heard this noise and it's just confusing.

Last night, this occurred once again. I'd been asleep a few hours when suddenly there came a boom. The best way to describe it would be like someone kicked a door hard.

I woke up startled and checked my surroundings. I told myself it was in my head and to go back to sleep, but then I realized I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't get up and check out the apartment. So, I grabbed my flashlight, verified everything was safe and no one was outside and then tried to get back to sleep.

I couldn't. I tossed and turned, still startled and frustrated. I mean, this makes no sense. I must be going crazy right? I decided I would see a doctor regarding this, and I did a quick search to see if anyone else has ever encountered this type of thing.

I was relieved to learn that I'm far from alone. There is even a name for this sort of thing: exploding head syndrome.

I won't recap the Wikipedia, you can read that for yourself here, but the cause of it is unknown although there are theories such as temporal lobe seizures, nerve dysfunction, or genetic changes that may play apart. Stress is also a potential risk factor and it's classified as a sleep or headache disorder.

There are no proven treatment options, but reassurance seems to help. I know it did for me. This sort of behavior is suspected to effect ten percent of the population and it seems to come and go throughout their lifetime.

Realizing that I'm not going crazy has helped take some of the pressure off. At least, I have a name (albeit a dramatic one) for what is going on. I know it's not going to change the confusion and racing heart when it occurs, but at least I can rest easy knowing that this is a disorder.

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