This site stinks

Well, not really, but it needs a refresh. The design has been the same for a long time in internet years. But I’m also kind of lazy and undecided on what to change.

Maybe a logo in Comic Sans to be ironic? Post-ironic? Perhaps Papyrus would be better.

A new color might be in order. I like the green, but perhaps blue, not because I am blue, but because blue looks clean and soothing and who doesn’t want to be clean and soothed?

So many decisions.

I’ll decide later.

EDIT: Okay, I went for the blue. I may fiddle with the logo and shade of blue but for now it’s a tiny bit different and a tiny bit different is better than the same old thing, says I.

New Year Resolutions 2020: More cat, less fat

First, a review of how I fared for my resolutions for 2019. I deliberately made the goals broader and easier to attain after more or less bombing on nearly everything in 2017. Here they are, graded as if by a mean grade school teacher:

  • Drop to 150 pounds. As of today I am 170.1 pounds, which any mathematician will tell you is more than 150 pounds. A lot more. Alas. Looking at the year overall, my weight held pretty steady for the first six months. In July I finally started shedding pounds (I was also running more) and this continued until September, when the weight not only started creeping back up, it climbed even higher. The only good news after this is that by some miracle (and a treadmill) I managed to actually reverse the weight gain in the last two weeks of December, when it would normally be spiraling ever-higher. Still, short of shedding a lot of water weight tomorrow (the 31st) I am going to end up a bit heavier at the end of the year than at the start. Grade: D
  • Write something every day. Technically, I achieved this, between blog posts, journal entries, posts to social media and other miscellaneous stuff. But I wrote almost no fiction, so that still knocks a grade or so off. Grade: B+
  • Run at least once per week. According to the Activity app, I did 58 runs in 2019 as of today (I may do one tomorrow to top off the year. That means I did in fact run at least once per week! Grade: A
  • Read at least 52 books. I revised this goal partway through the year when it became obvious I would not read near 52. The new goal was 26, which I achieved. There’s a chance I might finish Book 27 before the year ends. For some reason I had a lot more gaps between books, possibly because I read a few too many bargain novels that may have been bargain-priced for obvious reasons. Grade: B
  • Eat better. A mild improvement at best. Grade: C+
  • Learn and practice meditation. I thought about this. I did not actually do it. Grade: D
  • Stretch. See the above. Grade: D
  • Redo the Complaint Free World 21-day challenge. I’m wearing the band again, but haven’t yet started the formal challenge. Still, just wearing the band has helped me to stay more positive. Grade: B

2019 was a pretty even split between triumph and not-triumph. It was a difficult year in many ways for me, so the result is not unexpected. For 2020 I am going with a slightly revised set of goals:

  • Drop to 150 pounds. I actually think I have a better shot at this than in the past few years. Really!
  • Be creative. Do one of the following every day (more than one is even better):
    • Write a blog post (Note: Jogging/treadmill workouts do not count)
    • Write some fiction
    • Draw something (not to be confused with the app)
    • Take a photo
  • Exercise at least three times a week. One of the exercises should be a run, the others can be treadmill walks or something similar. I can no longer use the weather as an excuse to be lazy and fat.
  • Read at least 26 books. I think a book every two weeks is fine and I can probably do better that that with a wee bit of effort. Maybe I’ll start counting comic books or something.
  • Eat better. I went cold turkey with my diet once before (this did not involve actual turkey), I can do it again. I think.
  • Start stretching. If I can do this, I’ll move on to meditation. Maybe it’ll be easier that way. Stretch the body, then stretch the mind. Pretty deep, man.
  • Investigate other careers. I like tech and I like helping people. I am less convinced now that I like both together.
  • Just generally improve. Try to be kinder, more thoughtful and helpful. Lead by example.

Darwin Award candidate rides bike on SkyTrain

Today I was waiting for the Expo Line train to arrive at Lougheed Station. As I waited, a Millennium Line train pulled in. These are stubby li’l two-car trains because Translink simply doesn’t have enough cars to outfit the Millennium Line properly. They are working to fix this over the next year. The people smooshed into these cars during rush hour will be grateful.

These two-car trains are (works out math) twice as short as the usual four-car ones, so they stop in the center of the platform. Because Lougheed has an epic-length platform, you have to cover a surprising distance after ascending the stairs or escalator to get to these shorter train.

A man seeking to ride on the wee Millennium Line train approached from my right, dangerously skirting the yellow line along the platform’s edge. He doubled the danger by bringing a bike. And when I say bringing, I mean riding. Yes, he was riding a bike on the platform. He did not have the surest grip, so there was some wobbling. I expected him to just go straight into the track area, set off the track intrusion system and then possibly electrocute himself on the power rail as he tried to get out.

Instead he made it to the train, but as he zoomed up to the open doors, he got into a brief conversation with someone onboard. Shortly after, the doors closed and the train left. I assume this person was telling him there was no room, or perhaps that he felt morally obligated to refuse entry because what kind of a dope rides a bike on a SkyTrain platform, anyway? The final part of this pantomime occurred when the guy pedaled farther down the platform. I didn’t see what transpired after that due to the crowds, but I’m kind of hoping he rode straight toward a SkyTrain official standing there with their arms folded and a, “Oh no you di’int!” look on their face.

Anyway, people are weird.

On the first day of winter…

I forgot to post.

Yesterday was the first day of winter, the shortest day of the year, and thus my dread enemy. Today, the sun will set very slightly later and before you know it, summer will be here.

The day itself was pretty typical of winters here…damp, cool, but not frozen. And I saw a 10 p.m. showing of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, which I will expand upon in another post.

As for the now-completed Fall 2019, it was…okay. Some thing improved, some stayed the same, some got worse. I will focus on the positive:

  • I managed to put the brakes on my annual fall weight gain. It’s holding steady and before the end of the month I hope to start sending it downward.
  • Related to the above, I continue to use the new treadmill regularly
  • I did Inktober! 31 drawings, yay! I’ve only done one since, true, but still…
  • I made the right call to skip National Novel Writing Month. I am not ready…yet.
  • I got my ears cleaned, my eyes checked and thought about stretching. Soon I’ll actually stretch.
  • And some other stuff I can’t remember

ScareTrain

This morning I did something I almost never do.

I got off the SkyTrain. You may be thinking I actually do this a lot and you would be correct. During a normal work week I exit a SkyTrain 28 times.

What was different this morning is that I exited at Royal Oak station instead of the usual Waterfront. Was there a system malfunction? Did I suddenly develop an allergy to rapid transit? Did I decide to play hooky and irresponsibly gallivant around Burnaby?

No. Or at least not this time. Rather, I was on one of the original trains and with SkyTrain just this month celebrating its 34th anniversary, that means the train I was riding was significantly older than many of my coworkers. Jeff and I affectionately (?) refer to these trains as three wheelers because they are noisy and tend to offer a rougher ride than the newer ones.

This morning that rough ride was, as they say, turned up to 11. The car was swaying enough that I looked out the windows to see if trees were bending in half from high winds that might also be buffeting the train. But it was calm, with only a light rain falling.

As the train traversed from Edmonds to Royal Oak it began to pitch from side to side strongly enough that I put a hand on one of the poles to steady myself.

I was sitting at the time.

I’d had enough. Carefully hanging on, I got up and exited at Royal Oak, waiting in the light rain for the next train and hoping its twin was not coming. A woman also got out and stood by me in the rain. We exchanged knowing looks.

Fortunately the next train was a Mark II and the rest of the ride was uneventful.

But I’ll be on the lookout for 046. If I want to feel like I’m on a boat pitching in the high seas, I’ll get on a boat that is pitching in the high seas. I prefer my commuter trains to be a little steadier.

UPDATE: Today (the 17th) Jeff reported experiencing the same thing on another train, this one 152. We have your numbers, SkyTrain!

Escaping the Googles

Back in its early days Google had a simple motto:

Don’t be evil.

This motto still exists in their official Code of Conduct, right near the end of the very long document:

And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!

Since changing their official motto to Do the right thing, Google has seen itself increasingly mired in controversy, most of it borne from the fact that the company makes its money through selling the data of its users to companies that then use the data to target users with ads, ads which often follow them around the internet. Google is essentially a series of services—most of which are free to the user—designed to harvest data and sell it for ads.

Put more simply, Google is an advertising company. Nearly everything it does is in service to advertising. This is the code of the company and is likely to remain so into the foreseeable future.

Is this bad? Is it evil? On a relative scale, not so much. To paraphrase Stockard Channing, there are worse things it could do. But what it does is enough to have finally given me pause after years of using their free services:

  • The Chrome browser is near Internet Explorer 6.0 levels of dominating the browser market, with sites increasingly being tailored for and only tested with Chrome. This is not good for the web, web standards and basically everything a free, open web stands for.
  • Gmail, Google search and other free services are tracking users across the web, feeding their surfing habits, random clicks and more to companies that use that information to target the users with ads and services. Most of this is done surreptitiously, without the user being aware.
  • Chrome is easing restrictions on some kinds of ad-blocking, for obvious reasons

Basically, I’m not comfortable supporting this model anymore. I think it makes for an unhealthy web. So I’m making changes. Some are days, some are more difficult.

Let’s start with the easy ones:

  • I haven’t used Chrome as my primary browser for quite awhile, having switched to Firefox long ago. If I need alternative browsers for whatever reason, I can use Edge (!), Vivaldi or Brave.
  • I’ve switched from Google search to DuckDuckGo. Plus DuckDuckGo is way more fun to say. Are the searches less comprehensive? Maybe. I can’t say I’ve never not found what I was looking for yet. In fact, the searches are more accurate because I no longer have Google trying to shape (or contort) the search results to better “fit” what I am allegedly looking for.
  • I no longer use Google Drive for cloud storage (I use OneDrive and iCloud Drive)
  • I have long abandoned Google’s office apps, like Docs and Sheets

And now the harder stuff:

  • Google Maps is still by far the best map site/software, though Google is doing its best to clog it up with services, suggestions and generally getting in the way of what should be simple directions on how to get from A to B. The alternatives are still not quite there. Apple Maps is improved, but it’s limited to Apple platforms (which, honestly, is kind of dumb—Apple should have a browser version, and I don’t mean one that requires Safari). Apple is also way behind on its equivalent to Street View. Then there’s Bing Maps. It’s okay, but it lacks in so many little and some major ways. I will keep using these and hope they improve, but it will be a meaning process. I don’t use maps much, anyway.
  • Gmail. This is the big one. I have had a Gmail account for a long time. I have thousands of messages and many subscriptions and services tied to my gmail address. I can direct new subs to an alternate email address—I have a more “serious” email address at outlook.com, for example, or I can use one from my own domain, @creolened.com, though that looks a little weird, really. This is a long term project, one I’ll probably tackle piecemeal. There is always the fear that whatever other service I switch to could disappear, while Gmail is one of the handful of Google services that seems relatively safe.

All said, I’m making these moves to help simplify my interactions on the web, to get less ads and less shaping, to find what I am looking for, without handing over information that really sin’t anyone else’s business. Excelsior, as they say.

Another awesome book review

On kobo.com the book Fire and Fury, about the first year of Trump’s tenure as president, features this 1-star user review. Keep in mind that user reviews are held in a moderation queue before being posted.

Is the user’s name Ana Nomous or did they just stumble that badly when trying to spell “anonymous”? Whatever the case, it is both curious and interesting that someone took the time to post a 1-star review in which they forthrightly state they have never read the book and would never read the book because ewww.

This is a close cousin to the “I must answer every reader question about a product on Amazon even if I have no actual information to provide” posts featured on, well, Amazon.

People are weird.

November 2019: Bah

I’m not sure why, but November was kind of an off month, despite some positive developments.

On the plus side:

  • Improvements in workflow at work
  • Ran a 10K
  • New headphones provide relatively silent sanctuary on public transit
  • It didn’t really rain that much and up until the last few days, it hasn’t been that cold, either

On the negative side:

  • Return to Pacific Standard Time has probably led to some kind of SAD. Getting out from work and seeing that it’s already getting dark is never not depressing.
  • Still not reading as much
  • Writing has gone from minimal to micromal. Yes, I just made up that word.
  • Even blog writing has tapered off. This will be post #21 when I’d normally be on post #30.
  • After a month of Inktober and getting into sketching again, I only did one sketch in November
  • Fat. Up 2 more pounds.
  • Pulled two muscles
  • Not running as much (see bullet point directly above)
  • General feeling of malaise with working in technology. I’m tired of fixing things. I want to make things.
  • Have not started stretching
  • Have not started meditation

I don’t have a witty summary to sum up the two lists. I also have no expectations for December. I hope it doesn’t snow. That is all.