Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pick Your Poison


Is it just me, or is it getting next to impossible to keep up with even just the "major" social media platforms these days? I spend quite a bit of time on the internet everyday be it for work or play on my laptop or phone. I really try to limit my time on social media, but like many, I'm not usually successful.  

My problem with social media is becoming less and less about how time consuming it can be, but rather how annoying it can be. I've long since realized there's no way I'm going to keep up with them all, so I just sit back and try to enjoy my favorites. 

I honestly don't know how many different social media platforms there actually are today. Doing a quick Google search shows me 15-20 of the "big guys" popping up in the rankings, but apparently hundreds of smaller sites based on the "social media" icon sets you can grab for your website. 

I've always been a "keep it simple stupid" kind of guy. Personally, I wish there was just one social media platform to have to get used to and keep up with. I do realize that having numerous social media sites creates competition and platform improvements. That doesn't mean I want to have to learn them all.  

Because of this, I tend to stick to three platforms: Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn. I like Google+ the most out of all of them, but typically spend the most time on Facebook. My usage seems to go in waves for each of the sites, but sticks fairly close to that order of preference in general.

Facebook
Facebook used to be a great place to keep up with family and friends. Now it seems more like a place to argue with strangers, troll other pages and basically get upset with people all around the globe. With over one and a half billion Facebook users out there, it's pretty tough to ignore it.

Many have left Facebook, myself included, because they're fed up with the garbage on Facebook. Most, myself included again, eventually work they way back to Facebook. Why? 1.5+ billion people. The odds are astronomical that your family and friends are on Facebook in some way, shape or form. I have found multiple times in the past that when I'm not on Facebook, I never seem to know what's going on with the majority of my family and friends. It sounds pathetic. It IS pathetic. But it's also true.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn used to be a great place for business people to network, share ideas and grow their careers. Now it seems to be turning into another version of Facebook. I'm finding myself spending less time on LinkedIn now because if I want to see all the Facebook garbage, I might as login to Facebook.... At least that way I'll be able to catch up an news from family and friends at the same time. 

My use of LinkedIn also goes in waves. Whenever my work role is changing, whether by employer or position within a company, I tend to spend more time on LinkedIn. It's a great place to get ideas, share ideas, network and learn. Over the past year though, I have been disappointed with LinkedIn within 10 minutes of logging in.

Although it beats the 30 seconds it takes me to get irritated on Facebook, I expect that of Facebook. I do not expect to be bombarded with garbage on "the world's largest professional network." Because of that, I spend very little time on LinkedIn anymore.

Google+
And then there's Google+. Personally, I  think Google+ gets a bad rap. I think it's because it's staying fairly steady and true to its purpose. Apparently not changing at the drop of a hat turns some people off. I love how it integrates with Blogger. (Duh - I write a blog.) I enjoy the collections for individuals, groups, companies, passions, hobbies....you name it. 

Sure, there's a bit of the Facebook type garbage on Google+ as well, but it's not nearly as much. I think my favorite thing about Google+ is the fact that it shows me what I want to see....rather than what Google thinks I want to see. I see posts from people and collections I follow and that's it. (Unlike Facebook where every fifth post is a suggested post that is not even remotely related to anything I've ever viewed, liked, shared or commented on since the beginning of Facebook history.)

This post, although terribly boring for you poor readers, has really given me a rejuvenated high regard for Google+. I think it's high time I made better use of Google+. Afterall, Google is tied into everything else I do on a daily basis. They probably know more about me than I do. I might even have to start promoting Jeremy Crow's #fixtheplus campaign to get Google+ the attention it needs from Google to improve its imperfections. (I never said it was perfect.) 

Since I'm not terribly concerned about the number of +1's I get from my seven loyal readers, I really only have one complaint about Google+. There aren't enough friends and family on here yet. Maybe if Google gets their act together and #fixtheplus, I will see that shift in the right direction. We'll see how that works out. Until next time....

Friday, June 24, 2016

Old School


Before I get started on this post, I want to let you know that I don't intend to write about every time I mow my lawn. That would be about as exciting as watching paint dry or water boil. I just had to sneak one more in because the whole ordeal has taught me a few things. For those of you who haven't read my post a couple weeks ago about my lawnmower woes, you can check out the post titled Wagon Wheel for the back story.

Long story short, for those of you who can't convince yourself to go back and read the Wagon Wheel thriller, here's the gist of it: My lawn mower wheel broke off. Yep, pretty exciting stuff. Well, this week's lawn mowing adventure was even more exciting....and educational.

I've dragged my feet a little too long in ordering the replacement parts for my mower, so I am still unable to use it and the grass just keeps growing. I found myself in the position of needing to ask a friend to borrow their mower so I wouldn't lose one of my kids in the tall grass. Actually, I ended up asking two friends, but I don't want to spoil the story for you. (I told you it was exciting.) 

I talked to my good buddy Matt first. He's one of those half friend, half brother kind of buddies. Always there for you when you need something. I knew he wouldn't let me down....and he didn't. As chance would have it, Matt actually had a second lawn mower at his place that he hadn't yet retired after buying his new mower. He offered it to me to use as long as I needed it. Awesome! I was in business.

I couldn't recall what shape the mower was in, but I knew it had to work better than the three wheeled mower in my shed. When I picked it up, I was pretty excited to find that the mower was actually in pretty good looking shape and it even had rear wheel drive. That's a huge bonus considering most of my lawn is a hill. 

I got the baby home and got ready to crank out the mowing in my usual 45 minutes. That's normally not an issue, but I was also running daddy day care at the time so I had a limited amount of time before I had to start the bedtime routine with my girls. I fired that green machine up (it's a Lawn Boy) and got to mowing. It ran like a dream for about 7 minutes and then shut down on me. 

Normally I would go to my number one mechanic guru friend (Matt) for assistance, but I was short on time. I shifted to plan number two.

My next door neighbor, who has coincidentally has been buds with Matt since long before I knew either of them, also offered to let me use his mower. I texted my neighbor Scott to ask if I could grab his mower and he gave the go-ahead. 

I grabbed his mower, which had a bone dry gas tank, and began to fill her up. I topped off the tank, set down my gas can and watched as the gas started pouring out of the mower about as fast as I filled it up. Apparently it was just a stuck float, but I'm the guy they put a picture of the gas can on the gas cap for....so I didn't know that. I just quickly grabbed my oil pan to dump out the gas before the whole tank emptied on Scott's driveway.

Well that was it for the night (last night). I was done. Not only was I extremely frustrated (not the fault of by buddies), but I had also run out of time to mow by then. I put Scott's mower away, let him know what I ran into and figured I'd give it a whirl the next night (tonight). Since Scott is considerably smarter than me when it comes to engines, he had the float issue fixed in 5 minutes and I had a new game plan for tonight.

I know you'll be a little disappointed with this part of the story, but I'll tell it anyway. Mowing the lawn went fine. I completed it all without any issues. I did learn a couple things though.

First, I have awesome friends. I guess I didn't technically "learn" that because I already knew it. I just didn't want to leave that part out. 

Second, I am glad I ran into this mower breaking saga. It helped me realize how thankful I am to have a self-propelled lawn mower. The mower I used tonight was a push mower and most of my muscles are aching tonight...at least the ones I can still feel. It also reminded me that I keep forgetting to pick up my blood pressure medicine refill at the pharmacy...not something you want to think about as you're pushing a mower up the hill over and over and over. 

In the end, it all worked out fine. Of course, I am pretending that the grass won't grow again for at least 3-4 weeks, but I guess that's not likely. Maybe I also learned a lesson about not procrastinating. Maybe, just maybe, this extended ordeal will get me to order those parts I need and fix my own mower once and for all. Maybe not though. Maybe I'm too tired and I'll forget all about it.

No matter how bad my memory is or how proficiently I procrastinate, I will not forget how awesome my friends are or how much I appreciate self-propelled mowers. Then again, maybe a good old fashioned reel mower is what I should get. Minimal maintenance and less weight to push up a hill might not be an all bad thing?? We'll see about that. Until next time....


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Double Down on 21


I made it! It's that time of year again that seems to happen like clockwork....I just had another birthday. For some reason the clock seems to be going a little faster every year though. It's probably just my imagination, but you never know.

I hit 42 years old this year. It really doesn't seem that old to me now that I'm here, but my body doesn't always agree with my perception of its capabilities. In my head, I'm a couple of 21 year olds trapped in a 42 year old body. Sometimes it works out ok for me, but other times something as simple as mowing the lawn can make my back sore for a day. 

There are only a few changes I have really noticed between the 21 year old me and the 42 year old me....in terms of how I feel physically. First and foremost, I tend to enjoy my sleeping time a lot more. Maybe "enjoy" isn't as accurate as saying I "need" my sleeping time more. One late night seems to have lingering affects for the couple days that follow. Gone are the days of going multiple days in a row with only 3-4 hours of sleep each night. 

Kinda tied into that is that I don't seem to have as much energy as I did when I was 21. My wife would tell me that it's because I don't exercise enough...and she's probably right. She's always right. It's hard to argue with that since my "exercise" mainly consists of mowing the lawn and occasionally letting her use me as a punching bag while sparring. 

Other life changes must also be taken into account. Back in my 20's, I was in the Marine Corps and had jobs like climbing trees for a living. Now I pretty much sit behind a desk. It's a lot harder to get away with not exercising when my occupation no longer includes a 12 hour built-in exercise routine. I hate to say it out loud, but my wife's right when she points that out too.

My appearance has changed a bit over the years as well. I have been producing more grey hairs every year. To be fair though, through the majority of my 20's and 30's, I didn't really have any hair. I got used to the high and tight haircut from the Marine Corps days and it pretty much stuck until I turned 40. So maybe I've had grey hair since I was 25 and just didn't know it. All I do know is that my five year old daughter is very good about reminding me (frequently) how many grey hairs I have.

I can deal with the appearance changes and even take steps to correct them. The one change I'm not looking forward to as I age though is if or when my memory starts going. As far as I know, it hasn't happened yet...at least not that I can remember. 

Come to think of it though, maybe a little short term memory loss wouldn't be all bad. It might come in handy to have an "official" reason for not doing something my wife asked me to do. Being able to legitimately say, "Sorry honey - I forgot...because I'm old," could save my bacon. (Mmmmm...Bacon)

I guess it doesn't do much good to dwell on the differences too much. The end result of the effort is that I apparently need to exercise more. Then again, if my memory could start failing a little, then I wouldn't remember what has changed since I was 21. No. I have too many good memories I wouldn't want to forget. I guess the exercise part is the lesser of two evils. 

I'm going to run for now. I can smell a birthday cake baking in the oven. That means I should probably get up and do something active to proactively counteract the cake I will be enjoying tonight after supper. Until next time....

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wagon Wheel


I got home from a whirlwind trip to Wisconsin over an extended weekend to find that my grass had grown about a foot in the five days I was gone. Fortunately, I figured this would happen so I made sure to arrive home early enough to have time to mow. For the record, it's kind of nice to mow the lawn after sitting in the truck for almost six hours driving home.

The only hesitation I had was the fact that I have had a loose wheel on the mower and I have been preparing myself for the day it finally breaks completely. I had actually replaced the wheel last summer after nursing it for a month or more. Unfortunately, the new wheel only lasted about a month before it stripped out as well. 

The Wobbly Wheel
Normally a wobbly wheel wouldn't be a huge deal, but I have a rather steep hill on the back and side of my yard. That means that running across the hill at an angle puts a lot of stress on the wheel. Since I am not fond of going straight up the hill over and over, I risk the angled path that adds more stress to the already weak wheel.

Well, this was the day the wheel decided to completely break off. I wasn't overly concerned because I only had about ten rows left to cut in the back yard to finish up. Since I was too lazy to throw away the old broken wheel last summer, I still had it in the shed. After a two minute wheel change (I know - I'm not NASCAR efficient), I was off and running again. For about 60 seconds...

The old broken wheel only made it through two rows before breaking off completely like the newer broken wheel. I now have a 16x25 foot patch of uncut grass smack dab in the middle of my back yard. 

The old and new broken wheels
Truth be told, this turn of events didn't really phase me either. I might have been a little more concerned if the uncut grass happened to be in the middle of my front yard, but it isn't. I also happen to have a really good neighbor that will probably let me borrow his mower to finish my lawn. (I don't really have to worry about that today since we have thunderstorms rolling through this afternoon.)

For some reason, I started thinking about one of the Little House in the Big Woods stories my daughter and I read a few weeks ago and it really brought things into perspective. The portion of the story I recalled was when Laura Ingalls' family was travelling to their new home by means of covered wagon. At one point they came upon a couple with a broken wagon wheel. 

That couple was pretty much stuck where they were until someone came along that happened to have what they needed to repair their wagon. In all reality, they probably starved to death or were killed by Indians on the plains. That's why I only waited for three hours sitting next to my three-wheeled mower hoping someone would come along with a new mower wheel. I didn't want to starve to death in my own back yard, so I dragged the mower over to the shed and went inside to grab a bite to eat. 

I learned two important lessons with this whole ordeal. First, don't bounce your mower to knock out wet grass that's clogging the mower. (Or don't mow wet grass.) Apparently, I keep breaking wheels because the shaft is bent on my mower...probably due to my own mistreatment of my mower. Second, only mow your own lawn. That way, when the wheel falls off your mower, you don't have to drag a three wheeled mower very far.

My plan for tomorrow is to pull the weeds and grass out of our little garden. I shouldn't run into too many issues with that. Then again, after spending the weekend helping my wife's parents move, my back might give out with all that bending over in the garden. In that event, I might actually have to stay put until help arrives. Until next time....


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Brownie Points the Easy Way


I have had the pleasure of another Daddy-Daughters weekend with my girls. My wife made the trek over to her folks house in Wisconsin to spend a few days prepping for an upcoming move. Sounds like a lot of fun, but since they've lived in the same house for 35+ years, there's a lot of stuff to go through.

Somehow I seem to be getting a lot of easy brownie points out of the deal. Don't get me wrong, I love accumulating brownie points whenever possible - who knows when I'll need them?? In this instance though, I don't really think they're all deserved. At the very least, they weren't very hard to earn.

I thought I would take a few minutes to go over them to see if they're really deserved. It's not like I'm keeping track or anything. (That's a lie. I meticulously document all brownie points earned - just in case I need to cash one in at a moments' notice.)

"Allowing" my wife to head to her folks solo.
I'm not really sure how I got automatic brownie points for this. There was never a moment of doubt in my mind that helping her parents get ready for a big move wasn't a good idea. That's what family is for. I can't fathom a reason I wouldn't have encouraged her to help her parents. After all, our parents spent the last 40ish years of our existence helping us.

Although I would have been happy to head out with her to help, this stage of deciding what goes and what is disposed of does not sound like a lot of fun to me. Fortunately (or unfortunately - depending on how you look at it), I have a finite amount of vacation to use. This allows me to save my helping resources for the manly, heavy lifting stage of the move.

That being said, I think I got the better end of the deal. I get a free pass on the decision making part of moving that I don't enjoy, but still get to help out later when the actual move takes place. I will still be able to spend time with the folks at that later date in the near future, so it's a win-win.

Staying home "alone" with the girls.
I would never pretend that I can hold the house together anywhere near as well as my wife does. I still don't know how she does it. You can check out an earlier post called My Wife in a Word...or 365 if you want to know more about that. Maybe the way I am awestruck by her abilities leads her to believe that I doubt my own ability to at least keep the house together for a few days in her absence.

She certainly sets me up for success. She plans everything for me before she leaves so I don't forget some inconsequential thing like making sure the girls take a bath or get something to eat occasionally. She typically schedules one of the meals while she's gone to be something like Happy Meals from McDonald's. Pretty easy as far as food prep, but also a treat for me as I like burgers as much as the next person. I also get to make Mac and Cheese for one meal because it's easy and apparently I make it better than Mom does??

It shouldn't have to be said, but I love my girls. That means I actually enjoy spending time with them. Who'd have thunk it? Having my wife out of the house means that I am their number one go-to person for a brief period of time. Truth be told, they usually default to going to Mom first when she's around. Now that they don't have that option, they are forced to have fun with Dad instead.

Once again, I don't think it's brownie point worthy, but I'll take it. I get to have fun with my girls and all the planning was done by my wife before she left. I just have to try and follow the plan as much as possible.

Having the girls take turns being sick.
It never seems to fail that when my wife leaves us kids alone at home, one or more of us gets sick. Well, this time was no different. My wife left on Thursday afternoon and my older daughter Ziva started throwing up Friday morning. It did hurt that I was then forced to take a day off of work since I didn't want to pawn off a sick kid on the pre-arranged  babysitter. It was apparently some 24 hour bug because she was fine by mid-morning Saturday.

My younger daughter Siri apparently took that as her cue. She started throwing up Saturday evening just after supper. It seemed to hit her a lot harder in terms of how many times we struggled to make it to the bathroom and/or her "sick bucket." The plus side is that she got over it about as fast as it hit her. She was feeling better by mid-morning today (Sunday).

Now that both of them are in good spirits and feeling well, guess who doesn't feel 100%. Yep, me. I managed to avoid the getting sick part, but can't seem to kick this raging headache. (For the record, both my girls had really bad headaches as well.) Let's just say Gatorade is making a pretty penny off our family this weekend.

I can almost see how this one would warrant a brownie point, but it almost makes my job easier. Maybe I should say it makes my time at home more productive rather than easier. Since at least one person in our house has been under the weather the whole time, we've had a lot of around the house lazy time. I got a number of projects done at home since we didn't want to head out too much with the risk of someone getting sick out in public.

I won't turn down the brownie points, but couldn't in good faith accept them without at least acknowledging that they weren't all that terribly difficult to earn this time. I better add them up though because next time might not be quite as easy.

I better run for now. I have a load of laundry in the dryer that needs folding. (Did you hear that honey? I did laundry.) I should also take advantage of both of my girls feeling better to get them outside on this beautiful, albeit windy, Sunday afternoon. Until next time....