I don’t comment like I used to

The advent of smart phones has brought with it plenty of advantages. My smart phone means I rarely double book myself, I always have my price book/grocery list handy, and I can pull up my weight history or blood pressure history at the doctor’s office without a problem.

On the other hand, it has affected how I use social media – and blogs.

Facebook’s app made it way too easy to spend hours on Facebook, since it would give me frequent notifications that my sisters-in-law had posted new photos of nieces or nephews. I would get onto Facebook to see the photos and end up spending another 15 minutes just scrolling through my newsfeed – multiple times a day.

Eventually, I decided to uninstall the app. I still access Facebook on my phone, but I do it through the browser. I visit when I choose to, instead of when a notification tells me to. I still see the notifications once I get to the website, so I don’t miss anything – I just choose when I’m going to see them (and how many times a day I’m going to waste time browsing.)

I still probably overuse Facebook on my phone, but it’s better than it used to be.

But what concerns me now isn’t my on-phone Facebook usage or the amount of time I spend connecting via Facebook.

What concerns me is my on-phone blog-reading – and how the phone experience keeps me from connecting when I’m reading.

You see, before social media became a big thing, there was this little thing called blogging. I did it. Lots of people did it. We wrote “posts” on our “blogs”. We read other people’s “posts” and we left “comments”. When other people read our “comments”, they visited our “blogs” and read our “posts” and left “comments” of their own. We developed relationships through this mutual sharing.**

This was what I did.

And then the phone came along.

It was a boon to blog reading, with it’s available-everywhere-Feedly app. I could read in the car (while Daniel is driving, of course), in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, while sitting on the loo (yes, you do it too.)

But it was a death-knell to commenting. To comment, I’d need to click on the title, wait while the browser opens, scroll down to the comment box, attempt to type a comment, and try to get past my phone auto-correcting the word-verification caption. All this with an oversized finger on a tiny screen.

Then there’s trying to continue the conversation. I subscribe to the comments feed on each post I comment on because I want to hear if the author says something back or if another commenter riffs on the same topic. It’s a way to be a part of the conversation. But to do that on the phone, I’d have to try to find the RSS feed, try to copy the URL, switch from the browser app to the Feedly app, and try to paste the URL into the subscribe area in the Feedly app. All this with an oversized finger on a tiny screen.

So I read my usual blogs and think of all sorts of things I’d love to chat with the blogger about via comments. I mark the post “unread” in Feedly, figuring I’ll go back and comment when I’m on the computer. But there’s rarely enough time to go back – and when there is time, it’s weeks later and the post is old and conversation no longer happening.

I don’t comment like I used to – and I think it’s sad.

**Side note: Was this explanation necessary? I’m not sure. As I observe it, blogging has a very different character nowadays than it did when I first started. The blogging I see now tends towards selling stuff (even if that’s selling your own story) versus sharing life. Developing relationships through blogging seems much less common, while “networking” via blogging is perhaps more common. Blogging is a business venture rather than a friendship.**

In which something happened

It came out of the blue, the announcement that our web hosting service would be suspending our account due to menterz.com “consuming excessive resources on our database servers.”

We had three days to fix the problem and no idea what the problem really was.

We still don’t know.

But three days have passed and they haven’t shut us down yet (although we shut ourselves down for a while to try to stall whatever was causing the drag on the database servers.)

I’ve been searching access logs, removing potentially problematic pages, and writing access rules to block bad bots.

And now we’re back online–sans some files that I still want to clean before I put them back on the web. So if you get a few more 404 error codes than you’re used to, I apologize.

Something happened.

I’m still not sure what.

Opposed but not protesting

I am not in favor of SOPA or PIPA.

But I’m not “blacking out” bekahcubed in protest today.

I’m just busy.

The state is currently making demands on my professional life–such that I have little time to write.

Although, of course, I did take the time to write this, just so as not to give the impression that I’m “blacking out” as a social statement.

Not that I might not have made that social statement had I had the time to look into the topic in more depth.


Reading My Reader: A Systematic Approach

If your reader is anything like mine, it simply explodes during periods of unavoidable delay (mainly while I’m at work).

I leave with an easy couple hundred posts, but by the time I’m back my reader announces not a number but “1000+” behind “All Items”.

As such, I’ve taken to developing systems for dealing with reader overload.

I say “systems”, for I have several.

System 1 involves starting at the top and working my way down, reading every article in every folder. This is what I did at first–and what I quickly decided was unsustainable. I simply cannot read that much, and it leaves the poor “Younger Bloggers” in the last folder to sit in oblivion for what must seem to a youngster to be forever.

Enter System 2. In this system, I randomly select folders and scroll through posts until I find one that looks interesting. I read that, mark it as read, and continue scrolling. The problem with this approach is that I keep finding articles that I want to read eventually but don’t feel that I have time to read now. These are generally those posts that exceed the golden word count of blogging (500 words). Then, I end up scrolling through those same posts interminably. Very frustrating.

Which is why System 3 is at an advantage. With system 3, I read everything that has been written in the past 24 hours and one further article before moving on to the next folder. This has the theoretical advantage of not allowing me to get further behind–but still risks missing the bottom folders due to time constraints.

System 4 ensures that I get to all my folders. I simply read as many articles as are necessary to reduce my folder count to a multiple of five before moving along to the next folder. This means that folders with fewer posts (“People I know”, for example, or “2012-11-Comments”) get read all the way through, while folders with lots of posts (“News”) are barely skimmed. This is probably my favorite method except that it has gotten so boring to have all those fives and zeros on the ends of things.

That’s why System 5 is currently my preferred route. In this system, I choose an arbitrary number (not 5) to be my divisor. So, if I have chosen “8” (as I did immediately before beginning this post), acceptable ending post counts could be 40, 160, 144, or 24; but not 38. The next time I read through (possibly in the same sitting, possibly on another occasion), I choose a new number. This system has the same disadvantage as System 4, but with the added advantage of regular recitation of my times tables (which are admittedly rather rusty.)

Of course, the most effective system would probably be to subscribe to fewer feeds–but with so much to read each day, who has time to do that?

So tell me (have you ever noticed how often I use “so tell me”?), do you have a system for reading your reader? Please tell me about it–I love adding new systems!

Status updates

I’d been trying to get a hold of my little brother for weeks–and not just to chew him out for the birthday celebration that was (in my humble opinion) ill-advised. I was trying to get ahold of him because I hadn’t talked to him for a while and because I missed him.

So when I saw on Facebook that his relationship status had changed to “In a Relationship”, I was a bit disappointed.

And when he finally called a week later to ask if there were any boys around for him to beat up (Try as I might to make them understand, none of my brothers seem to have gotten it through their heads that at some point they might not want to be repelling all of their sisters’ potential suitors!), I chastised him for not calling me earlier.

He hemmed and hawed, talked about the distance between here and California, so on and so forth.

I told him I understood–and didn’t expect we’d stay as connected as when we were both in Lincoln. “But just keep me updated,” I requested.

In the past few days, he’s been faithful to keep me updated, little pings in my text message mailbox at all hours:

“Hey I’m eating pizza”

“At chow hall bout to go to church”

“Oh BTW I went to chow a while back”

“Just got done with field day………Prolly gonna go to sleep in like an hour…. :)”

I’ve been texting him back. Smiley faces. “Like”. The occasional personal update:

“On my way back from Grand Island. It’s really starting to feel like Fall, what with the wind blowing cold and the trees about half turned.”

It’s silly stuff, overwhelmingly mundane.

The sort of stuff I see on Facebook every day.

But these status updates aren’t the impersonal blobs on Facebook. These are opportunities to interact with and enjoy my brother.

I wouldn’t trade them for a dozen Facebooks.

Married before You’re Able

Everyone has different ideas about the ideal time to marry.

I’ve heard numbers as diverse as 18 and 33.

My answer will somewhat vary.

I think that depends on the relative ages of those intending to marry.

I have already invented a keen equation for determining one’s marriagable range–and now I’ve created a variation on the same theme. A calculator to determine the date at which any pair can first marry.

Simply enter the elder’s date of birth in the first line and the younger’s date of birth in the second. Press the “calculate” button and there you have it.

Older Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY): /
Younger Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY): /
Earliest Wedding Date:

When I was growing up, if any of us children sang at the table, we’d be admonished with my grandpa’s words–

“If you sing at the table, you’ll be married before you’re able”

This was a puzzle to all of us, since we couldn’t figure out how one could get married if they weren’t able to get married.

But, according to this little calculator, one could (legally) get married before one was able (mathematically).

So…tell me, were you married before you were able?

When did you get married–and when was the first date you and your spouse were “able” to marry?

For the record, once we children reached a certain age, this particular “threat” (of marrying before we were able) became more of an incentive for singing at the table.

A Rotten NewEgg

You’ve been graciously putting up with my erratic posting (and even more erratic commenting) since my computer’s been out of commission.

I’ve been trying to graciously put up with the dozens of hours I’ve had to put in to try to get my new build running.

Two motherboards and two months from when I first ordered the components for my new computer, I still don’t have a computer and have finally ruled out every other possibility and concluded that the second motherboard is defective.

Yes, that’s right. The motherboard NewEgg sent me to replace the first one (which, if you’ll remember, had an exposed circuit that glowed and smoked) is defective.

Not knowing how exactly to explain what is wrong with the motherboard (except to say that I’ve ruled everything else out), I decided to chat with a NewEgg representative online to help me figure out how to get another replacement.

The rep had bad news. I couldn’t get a replacement because it has been two months since I ordered my first motherboard.

If I had wanted a replacement on the second motherboard, I should have asked for it within 30 days of my original order.

Never mind that my replacement motherboard arrived exactly 31 days after I’d ordered the original one.

Nope, I should have known that the second was going to be defective. I should have put in my request for a replacement before I’d even received the second board.

Then, the representative (who I’m sure was simply following the script she had been given) kept apologizing “for the inconvenience this may have caused you.”

May have caused you?

Excuse me. There is no “may have” about it. This has been a major inconvenience.

I have been without a computer of my own for a month. I have spent dozens of hours trying every trick I (and my computer support friends/relatives) could come up with. I have purchased multiple additional components that I had not originally intended to purchase (so that I could rule out my legacy optical or hard drives, cables, or internet connection as causes of the problem.) I have spent money to ship them the first defective motherboard they sent me–only to have them ship me a second defective motherboard.

No “may have”. This has been an inconvenience.

They say I have no recourse but to call the manufacturer. Then they once again “apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you”?

It’s insulting. Don’t pretend you’re not at fault. Don’t pretend you did everything you could to save me from inconvenience.

Apologize for the inconvenience you HAVE caused.

Oh, and remember how I said they told me my only recourse was to call the manufacturer?

My representative kindly gave me the number to call.

Unfortunately, NewEgg wasn’t so kind as to let me continue to see our chat conversation once my rep had “hung up”. As soon as my rep logged off, the chat screen (and with it the phone number for the manufacturer) disappeared, to be replaced by a customer service evaluation form.

Then, to add insult to injury, the evaluation form limited me to 500 characters with which to evaluate the service I’d received.

I’d have liked to have been able to comment. I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their policy of only issuing returns within 30 days of the original order date (regardless of whether the recipient had received said item within 30 days of the original order date). I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their customer service script weasels out of taking any responsibility for the trouble they’ve caused (and in fact shows little sympathy for the trouble that has occurred regardless of their role in its causation.) I’d have liked to have given them some feedback on how their chat window immediately jumps to the feedback form when the customer service rep logs off, leaving the customer without vital information to fix their problem. I’d have liked to have given them some feedback so they could fix their clearly broken return and customer service process.

But they didn’t give me room. Apparently they’re not interested in my feedback–or my business.

A call for help

When Cathy said Erik was caught up in my computer-building drama, I didn’t really believe her. She was just saying that he’d be interested in it because he’s a computer guy–not because he actually is interested in it.

I learned that I was wrong when week after week, Erik asked me how the process was coming along.

When I started having difficulties and issued a general request via Facebook, he was pleased to lend me a DVD player.

When I described how I was moving my files onto my new computer via flash drives because I couldn’t hook both hard drives up and have them read correctly, he chastised me for not calling him for an adapter.

Then the computer troubles I thought I’d resolved began again. The OS that I thought I’d installed properly started giving me problems.

I had to start over–and I wasn’t sure how exactly to start.

“Call Erik,” Ruth urged me. “You heard what he said Friday night–‘If I have diet questions, I call you… If you have computer questions, you call me.'”

I didn’t want to do it.

My pride says I can do everything on my own. My pride resists asking for help. My pride wants to be in control.

“Either you call him, or I’ll call him for you,” Ruth threatened.

My throat started to close up and my eyes started watering. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to ask for help. Didn’t want to admit (until I’d figured out how to solve it on my own) that I was having trouble.

But I knew it wasn’t Ruth’s call to make.

It was mine.

I just had to be willing to humble myself enough to call for help.

I called. We talked. Erik gave some suggestions.

It wasn’t that bad.

It didn’t kill me–only my pride.

The Saga Continues…

A little more than a month after ordering the components for my computer, I now have all of the (presumably functional) components together again.

I have the new case, the new CPU, the new fan and CPU fan, the new memory–and another new motherboard.

The replacement motherboard finally arrived this Thursday.

(Tip for NewEgg returns: take a picture of your item before you take everything out of its packaging so that you can remember exactly what needs to be returned should something go wrong. I missed the CPU fan mounting bracket on my first return attempt–and lost myself a couple weeks.)

Since it had been a slightly-less-long day at the office, I decided I would go ahead and get the installation process started.

I installed the motherboard, the CPU and CPU fan, the memory. I connected all the various power cords and the like. Then I pulled my “big” hard drive from my old (current) computer and got it and my (also recycled) DVD drive hooked up too.

Now for the fun part.

Powering up.

Err, maybe I better flip the power switch on the back first.

There we go.

Punch my “del” key and examine my system.

Adjust a couple settings, insert my Windows OS DVD, begin installing my OS.

“Loading files”. A bar slides across the bottom of the screen. All good.

“Starting Windows” the screen tells me–

and then it freezes.

I wait, because sometimes installing an operating system takes forever. I know that.

But this doesn’t seem to be a productive wait.

I turn off the computer, turn it on again. “Del”. Check my system again.

Yes, I have it set to boot from the DVD drive.

Start it up again.

Same thing.

Text my dad.

Repeat. Multiple times.

It’s getting late. Dad wonders if maybe my DVD is broken. He tells me to try the DVD in another computer and see if it gets past the “Starting Windows” screen.

I move my DVD player (and the hard drive) back over to my current computer and try booting using the DVD.

It doesn’t work–my current computer is 32-bit and my new one (and the corresponding Windows 7 OS) is 64-bit.

I try the disc on every computer I can find until I get to one where it works. Okay, it’s not the disc. It’s something else.

An idea grows in my mind. What if it’s my DVD drive?

I remembered reading something when I bought it about it being a great secondary drive–but not so great as a primary. I paid it no attention then, because I already had a CD-Rom drive that I used to install XP on my computer. All I wanted was something so I could watch the documentary DVDs that I get from the library so I wouldn’t have to borrow Anna’s computer.

I hadn’t imagined that I’d buy a new computer and try to save money by using that same DVD drive. I hadn’t imagined that operating systems didn’t come on CD-roms anymore–making my perfectly good CD-Rom drive absolutely worthless as a primary drive.

There was nothing more I could do–except to send out a desperate Facebook plea:

“Anybody have a spare DVD Drive (component) I could borrow to see if that might be why my OS isn’t loading properly? I’d return it promptly :-)”

After work on Friday, I saw that I had a response.

Eric has one, Cathy said. Do I still want it?

Of course I still want it.

She’ll deliver it Saturday morning.

Which means I’ll be offline.

Lord willing, I’ll be getting my new computer set up (and, once the operating system is installed, I’ll be returning Eric’s DVD drive and using my own again).

I apologize to all you faithful readers who have had to sit through my technological tale telling. Really, I’m just bragging here. “See, I can build my own computers too.” (Albeit in a rather muddled manner.) I just don’t understand why men aren’t falling all over themselves to get me. I can cook, I can sew, I can read and semi-intelligently discuss issues–and I build computers! :-) Ha!

Marriagable Age Calculator

Do you have trouble trying to figure out what age range to enter in your e-Harmony match preferences?

Maybe you have trouble figuring out how low you can go without being a “cougar” (Rahr!)

Then again, perhaps you’re a friend of a single man and a single woman–but you’re not sure whether you can set them up because of the age difference between them.

Well, I have just the thing for you.

This handy calculator can tell you exactly what age range you (or one of your single friends) can marry within.

Just enter your age (or your friend’s age) and click submit.

Your Age:

Voila–no more guesswork, no more wondering whether your decision is appropriate. Either he (she) is within the range or he (she) isn’t.

**Please be aware that this calculator was created using the highly scientific process of… well, either I read the formula somewhere or I imagined it up myself. One of those two. Then, of course, I turned it into a javascript calculator using this handy calculator tutorial from About.com**

***You will note that this calculator does not allow you to enter an age below 18 or above 120. This is because the formula does not allow marriage below age 18 (an element that definitely suggests that the formula is an invention of my own mind rather than someone else’s)–and because one has to cut off the calculator somewhere!***

****For those interested in setting me up–I am most certainly interested. I have a nice wide range. To see it, enter “26” in the above calculator :-)****