Sleep

I have an app on my phone that tracks my sleep. After the initial novelty wore off years ago I deleted it, but lately I’ve been wondering if my sleep patterns have become truly as awful as I’ve suspected from the way I’ve been feeling upon getting up in the morning, so I reloaded the latest version.

The old version required that the phone be placed under the pillow on the mattress itself to track motion. I can only surmise there were some overheating incidents, so now it’s designed to sit on the nightstand and instead of tracking motion it listens to your breathing.

While I can understand how the previous version of this software would track your sleep stages via mattress movement, how this works now simply by listening escapes me (especially with more than just me in bed, the ceiling fan, the gurgling aquarium, and the humidifier whirring in the background.)

Even not understanding how this works, seeing this data has been—pardon the expression—eye opening. It verifies that I do often wake up—and remain awake for some amount of time before falling back to sleep—anywhere from 3 to 5 am almost every night. The fact that I almost immediately fall into deep sleep after going to bed explains why I’m almost never aware of Ben coming in later. It also shows the times I get up to use the bathroom.

What’s less clear is how “Sleep quality” is computed, because it seems the higher the score on that, the less rested I feel upon waking. Of the data I’ve posted here, the 67% night was subjectively the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks, while the 91% night was among the worst.

Blog Hosting

I’ve been with my current blog host for a little over four years now. I originally switched because I had issues with the service and reliability—not to mention the corporate philosophy—of my previous host. I don’t think I need to name this Phoenix-based company; they’re infamous.

My current host, while not cheap, has been rock steady, lets me post whatever the fuck I want (obviously), is very WordPress friendly, and when things have infrequently gone sideways, they’ve been fixed almost immediately.

That being said, they are a business whose job is to sell, sell, sell. Their website is confusing as hell to navigate and find what you’re looking for. My current hosting plan was due to expire in two days, so Friday night I logged in to renew my plan for another three months as I have been wont to do for these past four years. This time, however there was no “renew” button available, just “upgrade.” Oh great, I thought, they’ve changed their pricing structure.

Sure enough, clicking “upgrade” took me to a page with horrifically priced plans, all billable only on a yearly basis, none of which was in my budget.

I didn’t relish the plan of switching hosts because of the hassle of actually moving the website, but I asked Ben what host he was using because I couldn’t afford to stay where I was if these “upgrade” plans were my only choices.

I checked out their plans and they were dirt cheap in comparison to what I had been paying. I got signed up with them and with Ben’s help we transferred the domain name and hosting without issue. We ran into a problem, however, when we engaged the company to actually move my WordPress installation. I received a very curt email from their technical support:

Hello Mark,

Thank you for contacting [Hosting Company] Support Team.

Per our check, the voenixrising.com website violates our Hosting Acceptable Use Policy that you may find at https://www.[Hosting Company].com/legal/hosting/aup.aspx , namely Paragraph 8, Prohibited Activities:

‘By using any Services, provided by [Hosting Company] You agree: not to use [Hosting Company] services to host any website, other content, links or advertisements of websites that contain nudity, pornography or other content deemed adult related’.

Thus, before we assist you with your website migration, we would ask you to delete the content that does not comply with the above.

Feel free to contact us back anytime.

Well fuck thatI replied to the email telling them that was their prerogative and it was also my prerogative to spend my money elsewhere because of it. I asked that my hosting be cancelled. They responded with a link to cancel the service (which of course turned out to be a hot mess), but I eventually found what I needed and cancelled the hosting. I understand I’m stuck with the domain registration through them for 60 days because of ICANN rules, but I can live with that.

Seeing that I was growing increasingly angry and frustrated, Ben discovered another host that didn’t limit what could be posted. I checked them out, but they were the same price as my original host’s new plans and also could only be billed in yearly installments.

Reluctantly I returned to my original host’s website and looked at my renewal offer again. This was when I noticed that next to the “upgrade” box, there was also a link under what was showing as the price of my current, soon-to-expire, bill-3-months-at-a-time hosting.

When I clicked on that, it took me to a page that gave me the option to simply renew my current plan. Clicked and done.

Why couldn’t that have been on the original landing page, clearly marked?

Because they’re job is to make money. That’s why.

America, We Have a Problem

Reposted in full from Riding On:

So, I saw this article this morning and thought I’d talk about it a little.  America, we have a problem.  You see we have something called the First Amendment and there are a number of people out there who don’t like it.  They believe we should have a National Religion, which would happen to be theirs.  They call themselves Social Conservatives and they represent the ugly head of selfishness.  You see for them, their most favorite pronouns are “I,” followed by “my.”  For them “you” can be a really negative word because “you” is about someone else. These Social Conservatives have allowed their beliefs to evolve to a stage where “you” is not even secondary.  Since they don’t believe in evolution they would never understand this, but evolve they have.  And they like the Constitution, but only as long as it lets them be as selfish as possible.  They don’t like it when “you” means everybody.

These Social Conservatives want to change rules and create regulations that benefit themselves, alone.  They want to be able to say that “my beliefs say I can fire you from your job because my beliefs are more important than you as a human being.”  The truth is they don’t care about human beings at all, unless those human beings share the same beliefs.  These Social Conservatives want to be able to discriminate, not only against sexual orientation, but against race and nationality.  They don’t want to give immigrants the chance to possibly dilute, either socially or culturally, the purity of their own beliefs.  You see, it’s not just the jobs they claim immigrants will take, it’s the very blood coursing through their veins which these Social Conservatives need to keep out.

They will never understand how wrong they are, to even consider such an action would be to challenge the very soul of “I.”

A Masterpiece

When I first heard a Blade Runner sequel was in the works, my initial thought was, “For the love of all that is holy, WHY?!” Blade Runner stands as a cinematic masterpiece that needs no followup story, no re-imaging, no retelling.

And yet, after seeing Blade Runner 2049 yesterday, I take it all back. Admittedly I softened my stance somewhat by seeing the various trailers that came out over the past year and the reviews of the advanced screenings. But nothing prepared me for the tour de force that greeted me yesterday.

Every frame is an absolute feast for the eyes. If Roger Deakins does not walk away with an Oscar for cinematography, there is no justice in the world. The story answers many of the questions posed by the initial film and raises enough new ones to occupy your thoughts for quite some time. Twenty four hours later 2049 is still swimming in my consciousness as probably one of the greatest sci-fi films I’ve seen since the original Blade Runner in 1982.

The score—written by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch and not by Vangelis—retains enough of his influence that you’d think was the composer.

IMHO, definitely worth the price of a full admission and having to put up with the today’s increasingly unpleasant movie-going experience in order to appreciate it fully.

Quote of the Day

I loved to sleep with the window open. Rainy nights were the best of all: I would open the window and put my head on the pillow and close my eyes and feel the wind on my face and listen to the trees sway and creak.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Better Late Than Never

About a month before our wedding anniversary this year, I ordered a gift for Ben. When I saw it, I knew it would be perfect since both of us are such geeks. I thought I’d allowed plenty of time for it to arrive—but I hadn’t anticipated it sitting at customs in Los Angeles for nearly three weeks. As it turned out, it did arrive on the day of the anniversary, but it was still no good. It needed to be properly framed and there was no way Ben was going to see it until it had been.

finally got it back from the framer’s last night. And as I’d expected, Ben loved it!


But I’m not so thrilled. This star map is backwards from what you’d expect. It’s not what you’d see looking up, but rather what you’d see if you looked down onto the earth from a vantage point on the outside of some celestial sphere (or like on a globe) upon which the stars had been fixed. It’s very disappointing.

Aural Surprises

A few weeks ago I found myself wondering, “Was Billy Idol’s White Wedding ever actually released on white vinyl?”

Which would only make sense, right?

A quick trip to Discogs answered that question, and $15 later it’s in my collection.

Along the same, “I wonder if…” lines, the other day I was listening to The Peter Jacques Band’s Fire Night Dance (all four cuts on the LP massive disco hits back in 1979) and started wondering if they’d done anything thereafter. Once again I headed over to Discogs, and discovered that indeed, they had a followup release in 1980 called Welcome Back. Were they gone?

Anyhow, the album cover looked familiar, so I either had it in my collection back in the day and somehow neglected to catalog it at the time, or it was one of those I’d heard in the clubs, saw in a record store, and decided it really wasn’t worth spending $5.99 on.

I went over to Spotify, not really expecting to find it there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it—along with a couple other releases that I’ll explore at another time.

In tone and tempo, in a lot of ways it reminds me of Rice and Beans, another group from the era I only became acquainted with a few years ago. It has that definite not-disco but also not-quite-dance-music sound of the early 80s. It’s not bad. It’s not great. Welcome Back and Exotical L.Y. are catchy tunes. But I definitely understand why at the time I didn’t add it to my collection—or if I did, it slipped under the radar when the time came to catalog it.

Shower Thoughts

It’s Sunday morning, and last night someone (probably hundreds of someones) had a first date with someone else. They don’t know it yet, but they have met the one they will fall in love with, marry and raise a family. They have met the one they will stay with till “death do they part.” But they don’t know this yet. It was just a first date.

100 Things To Live By

1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.

2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.

3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.

5. Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.

6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

7. Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

9. Don’t dumb it down.

10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

12. Never park in front of a bar.

13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.

14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.

16. A suntan is earned, not bought.

17. Never lie to your doctor.

18. All guns are loaded.

19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.

20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

21. Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.

22. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

23. A handshake beats an autograph.

24. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

25. If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.

26. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

27. Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.

28. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.

29. Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.

30. When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.

31. Eat lunch with the new kids.

32. When traveling, keep your wits about you.

33. It’s never too late for an apology.

34. Don’t pose with booze.

35. If you have the right of way, take it.

36. You don’t get to choose your own nickname.

37. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

38. Never push someone off a dock.

39. Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

40. It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.

41. Don’t make a scene.

42. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

43. Know when to ignore the camera.

44. Never gloat.

45. Invest in good luggage.

46. Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.

47. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

48. Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.

49. Give credit. Take blame.

50. Suck it up every now and again.

51. Never be the last one in the pool.

52. Don’t stare.

53. Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.

54. Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.

55. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

56. Admit it when you’re wrong.

57. If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.

58. Look people in the eye when you thank them.

59. Thank the bus driver.

60. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

61. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

62. Know at least one good joke.

63. Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.

64. Know how to cook one good meal.

65. Learn to drive a stick shift.

66. Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.

67. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

68. Dance with your mother/father.

69. Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.

70. Always thank the host.

71. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

72. Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.

73. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.

74. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

75. Keep your word.

76. In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.

77. Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.

78. Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.

79. Don’t be the talker in a movie.

80. The opposite sex likes people who shower.

81. You are what you do, not what you say.

82. Learn to change a tire.

83. Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.

84. An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.

85. Don’t litter.

86. If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.

87. You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.

88. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.

89. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

90. Make the little things count.

91. Always wear a bra at work.

92. There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.

93. You’re never too old to need your mom.

94. Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet are killing you.

95. Know the words to your national anthem.

96. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.

97. Smile at strangers.

98. Make goals.

99. Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.

100. If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

~ A high school teacher’s list of 100 wisest words.

A Hot Mess

Many years ago, while out of work and undergoing radiation treatments for my cancer, I finally had enough free time on my hands to start a project I’d been wanting to undertake since the first flatbed scanner came into my life: digitizing the contents of my photo albums.

At the time, I really didn’t have a system for organizing the photos, and over the years this has proven to be a huge problem. I had something like ten albums, so I simply named each photo with a sequential number based on which album was being scanned, followed by a short description that included the year. If there were multiple photos of a single event, I’d append an “a” or “b” to the end.

During the years that followed the initial completion of the project, that convention completely fell apart when I stopped printing photos and putting them into albums. Adding to the confusion was the fact that sometime around 2006, I’d purchased a new scanner that could digitize slides. The slide scans (of already scanned photos) were far and away better quality than the corresponding photos, but I made no attempt whatsoever to integrate them into the existing naming sequence, simply naming them scan1, scan2, etc.

After my dad passed, I got hold of his family photo albums and scanned all those photos into the mix. His albums were roughly organized by year, so in the interest of simply getting it done, I took advantage of that rough organization and threw the newly-scanned images into yearly folders. Unfortunately I made no attempt to properly name any of them, opting instead of a generic album name 001, 002, etc. At some point thereafter, I went back and moved all my photos into those yearly folders as well, since there was no reason to keep them separate.

The other day I was trying to locate a particular photo I knew existed in the collection, but after spending the better part of an hour coming up empty handed no matter what search parameters I put in, I knew the time had come that something had to be done about the hot mess that this photo collection had become.

I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. There were exact duplicates in the same folders with different names. There were duplicates with different names and years in different folders. There were the hundreds of scanxx photos, and I soon realized this was probably going to be a weeks-long (if not months-long) project getting this disaster organized.

Add to that I’ve been sitting on a dozen or so of my mom’s family albums that are waiting to be scanned. My sister keeps asking if I’ve gotten around to doing it, and I keep putting her off, not wanting to wade into that without first organizing the mess I already had.

So the other day I created monthly folders in each yearly folder and started moving those items I had either previously named with a month, or knew with relative certainty happened at a particular time.

This time, my naming convention is year-month-numerical sequence-short description (where needed). In other words, 1989-06-0046-kevin ohm at sf pride.jpg. Fortunately Adobe Bridge has a batch rename function that allows me to do everything except the description automatically.

Even with that automation tool (and PhotoSweeper to weed out duplicates), at approximately 32,000 photos, this isn’t going to happen overnight, but it is forcing me to rediscover a lot of photos I’d completely forgotten about.