Accidental Fifty

19 February 2024 • Personal

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CW: this post talks about alcohol and sobriety. If you, or someone you know, is in need of help, please call the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

You ever accidentally do something really cool?

I feel like every activity has a couple of little things that you end up doing accidentally for the first time. Guitar playing has pinch harmonics. Baseball has breaking pitches (or knuckleballs). These things that you do inadvertently and go “whoa… that’s cool!” and then spend countless hours attempting to recreate.

That was me on January 3rd. I went out to the garage to get a beer, and was like “hang on… I haven’t had a beer yet this year.”

I’ve been drinking since I was 18, with a few gaps here and there over the years. I started drinking beer in 2010, and really started to pick up on the craft beer scene around 2013. Since then, I’ve gone to numerous conventions, traded beer with people all across the country, and been a bartender at 4 different breweries.

When we found out my wife was pregnant, I drastically reduced my consumption of alcohol in solidarity. After she was born, we started getting non-alcoholic beers to have around so that my wife could have something other than water. Even now that we’re mostly back to normal habits, we still keep a solid supply of Brewdog’s gin & tonic-inspired NA for my wife. After months (years?) of reduced consumption, some days even one beer would make me feel a bit tipsy, so having NAs on hand was always nice.

So here I was, on a cold January day, standing in front of our fridge, realizing I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol yet. “Well, what’s another couple of days to make it a week sober?” became “Well, what’s another few weeks to make it a month?” became “Well, I could make it 50 days, yeah?”

Turns out, yes I can.

I’m not someone who often sticks with things. Learning a language. Exercising regularly. Drinking enough water. Self-study for… well, anything. You name it, I have fallen off the habit train numerous times. So to know that I was able to just say “hey, I can do this” and see it through has been pretty cool.

I don’t know how long this will continue. Having this little widget on my home screen has certainly helped. I’m not an alcoholic, nor someone who deals with substance abuse, so this hasn’t been something I’m doing out of necessity; I’ve actually held off posting something for weeks, simply because I didn’t want to seem insensitive or that I was glorifying my iron will of giving up booze or something.

I just did something cool on accident, and thought maybe I’d share.

Understanding: Notebooks

15 January 2024 • 2024 Theme

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As part of my 2024 theme, Year of Understanding, I’m doing a bunch of introspection about various things. This is one of a series of posts about me working towards understanding some aspect of my life.

Write it down.

I can still hear my dad telling me that phrase over and over and over again as I grew up. Write it down. Is it important? Do you need to remember it? Write it down.

I was always terrible at taking notes growing up, and still am to this day. In class? Eh… I’d get some of it. A planner? I’d use it for a week or two, and then it’d get lost in my backpack somewhere. A journal? Good luck. A pocketbook filled with joyous moments? Abandoned. A little musical ideas notebook? I feel weird about adding things to it, so it lays abandoned.

I’ve always been envious of people that take notes on paper, and/or have an interesting and varied enough life that warrants something like that. Same with people who draw and have oodles of sketchbooks, or nice pen collections with which to write things. The whole “scene” surrounding notebooks and writing has always been very appealing to me (I’ve got a massive stack of notebooks around here somewhere, including a really nice leather-bound one my wife got me as a gift years ago). And yet, try as I might, I cannot break into it at all. Especially now, in my Work From Home era, when I just wear sweatpants or shorts around the house and don’t have any of my EDC stuff on me.

Also, there’s that stupid pressure of “oh jeez, do I REALLY want to use THIS notebook for THIS topic?” or “well, now that I’ve used 1-3 pages of a project that’s abandoned, I can’t use this notebook anymore”… brains are weird.

For me, digital is so convenient. It’s faster for me to write. It’s portable, now that I carry a smartphone around every day. It’s legible, as my handwriting is objectively terrible. I’m also not a very sentimental person, so while I think it would be cool to have something worth keeping around, I’m not prone to forcing the issue (see: the joyous moments notebook project being abandoned).

The one place that it’s managed to actually stay present in my life? The weekly checklist.

My wife and I have 2 shared reminders lists; one is our grocery list, and the other a list of things to be done around the house. Both of these are more of a “don’t forget about X” thing, as opposed to what I’d deem to be things I want to take action on with any sort of urgency.

At some point last year, I started jotting down the list of things that I wanted to accomplish each week on a scratch pad at my desk. It was similar to what I’d been doing in my Theme Journals of the past, but rather than daily lists, I settled with weekly. It seems to be a perfect fit for me; enough of a reminder that makes me want to get things done, but passive enough that I don’t feel any guilt about not accomplishing things.


What Do I Understand Now?

I’m not someone who sticks with writing anything long-form down with pen & paper.

Am I OK With This Understanding?

Yes; ultimately, any instance of me trying to use a notebook for anything has been because other people do it, and I want to feel hip/cool.

What Will I Change With This Understanding

  • Continue to use my weekly checklists
  • Stop buying more notebooks for things; I have plenty
  • Remove anything related to writing from any sort of long term wishlist (sorry, Cortex and Studio Neat - you’re not getting my money)
  • Give more consideration to the “why” of doing something; is it for me, or is it because others do it?

My 2023 Books, Games, and Media

2 January 2024 • Personal

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One of my main goals for 2024 is to read a lot more, finish more games, and actually consume some great shows & movies1. I keep meticulous track of these, and I thought it would be fun to share what I had done in 2023.

Books

It’s funny - I have my Kindle, but I barely read on it. Most of my reading comes via the Kindle app on my phone. Convenience plays a large part of that, I assume.

Books read in 2023: 25 (2022: 30, 2021: 50, 2020: 23)

  • Ruination by Anthony Reynolds
  • Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky (my top read of the year)
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Poppy War series (The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic, & The Burning God) by R.F. Kuang
  • Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
  • Silo series (Wool, Shift, & Dust) by Hugh Howey
  • The Divide series (The Last Watch, & The Exiled Fleet) by J.S. Dewes
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Newsflesh series (Feed, Deadline, & Blackout, + Feedback) by Mira Grant
  • This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
  • Rubicon by J.S. Dewes
  • The Stormlight Archive 1-3 + 2 novellas (The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Edgedancer, Oathbringer, & Dawnshard) by Brandon Sanderson

Games

My PC game playing dropped a ton this year for a few reasons. Moving helped me hit the reset button a bit, and with Pixel dying, I made it a focus to hang around my cats more often in the evening; they really like being downstairs at the new house, so that’s where I am too.

Games beaten in 2023: 4 (2022: 15, 2021: 5, 2020: 22)

  • Horizon: Forbidden West (PS5)
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Steam Deck)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch) (my favorite game of the year)
  • Spider-Man 2 (PS5)
  • I also played waaaaaaaaaay too much World of Warcraft (and will continue to do so, thank you very much)

Other Media

I went through a couple of different spurts this year, sitting downstairs watching shows every night for a week or two. Maybe I’ll have to find another film series to do that with.

(This list is totally from memory, so it’s likely I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff)

  • The Bear, seasons 1 & 2 (this rules and if you haven’t watched it you should)
  • Reacher, some of season 1
  • Jack Ryan, the whole thing
  • Primo
  • The first 6 Mission: Impossible movies (rankings: Rogue Nation, 3, 4: Ghost Protocol, 6: Fallout, 1, 2)
  • Most of the MCU (I think I stopped at Endgame because of the proliferation of the shows)
  • The start of the DCEU (Man of Steel & BvS - I couldn’t finish Suicide Squad because it was so bad)
  • A whole bunch of NBA, MLB, NFL, F1, & Premier League
  • A whole bunch of Bluey, Sesame Street, Super Simple Songs, Daniel Tiger, Blippi, and more
  1. Watching TV and movies is honestly my lowest priority for hobbies; however, I’m also trying to get in to crochet, so I think these might dovetail nicely. 

Year of Understanding

1 January 2024 • 2024 Theme

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As 2023 comes to a close, it’s time for me to figure out my yearly theme for 2024.

Recap

Rather than doing resolutions (which seem destined for failure), over the past couple of years I have been doing yearly themes1; not as much tangible goals that I’m attempting to measure myself against throughout the year, and more guideposts that I aim to stay between (or adjust appropriately) as the year goes on.

In 2022, I did Year of the Garden. Its aim was to encourage the habits and hobbies that I wanted to flourish in my life, while simultaneously pruning back or razing the things that were making me unhappy or taking up too much of my time. This was mostly prep for my daughter being born, as I knew that I needed to learn how to prioritize my time well.

2023 was more of the same - I went with Year of Sustenance. While I was initially annoyed realizing the similarities between my 2022 and 2023 themes, it sank in that the core goals were what I truly needed to focus on, as I don’t feel like I really “completed” my initial theme2.

Themes can definitely be similar to resolutions; a great thing to start your year, and something that you just fall off of hard within a few weeks or months. Unfortunately, this is what’s happened to me. When they say “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” they could’ve written that about a growing toddler.

My main goal with Sustenance was focus on blocking out and planning my time, while simultaneously giving myself the freedom and flexibility to make changes as necessary. But I’d go one week where I forget to make that plan because I was stressed out from parenting things, and suddenly I was in a tailspin that I couldn’t seem to climb out of.

Deliberations

So here I was, on break for the holiday, trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. Some more garden theme stuff (Year of Cultivation)? Another year of trying to iron out my free time so there are no wrinkles? That just didn’t sound… fun. Enjoyable. Purposeful. It made me feel like I was in a rut.

As I’m contemplating all of this, I happened to be listening to the most recent Cortex episode where Myke and Grey were talking over their themes from last year and sharing what they’re doing for this year. I don’t remember exactly what phrase Grey said, but it triggered an absolute lightbulb moment for me.

2024 - Year of Understanding

Understanding. “A mental grasp; the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars; a mutual agreement not formally entered into but in some degree binding on each side.”

As 2023 wore on, I found myself doing a lot of analyzing of not just what I did or said or emoted, but how I did these things, and why I did them. Why do I gravitate to games that take up all my time? Why do I think that carrying a notebook with me will make me feel better? Why do I not want to touch my piano or make music anymore?

Many of the adjustments that I have been making in my life have been ones where I am just changing to change. Making adjustments without thinking through the “why” behind it. A literal manifestation of “fuck around and find out”. Sometimes the results are great, other times hilarious, but many times things just don’t stick and I find myself getting frustrated. That notebook I was so excited to carry with me and write in? It’s been sitting on my dresser for weeks.

I’m not exactly sure how this is going to look, especially as I dive into it more, but here’s what I’m thinking:

Continue Gardening

Lol.

And here I thought I was gonna escape my last two themes. NOPE! I do want to continue this work, carving out opportunities for joy in my life, and prioritizing the things that matter the most. Because right now, that’s what’s most important to me, is making sure my family is taken care of, and that my physical, mental, and spiritual health are all maintained.

As of right now, this will look a lot like last year - making lists of the things I want to accomplish, blocking out the time to do them, and finding some sort of way to keep track of stuff in a way that allows me to see the success.

(I will say, I’m really happy that this general theme worked so well for me that it’s taken over my life. That means I did something really well a couple years ago.)

Schedules, Planning, & Recaps

I’ve discovered over time that I work really well in small blocks of time. Developers might think of this as “agile methodology”, where I carve out the work I want to do in 1-2 week blocks, commit to doing it, getting it done, and then repeating those steps over and over until the project is complete. It’s different when the project is “life”… but not really.

In my head, this looks like 3 separate things:

  • Schedule out time for me to do concrete, repeatable things (gym time, woodworking time, and dedicated game time with friends). Get these on the calendar, make them repeating events, and stick to them. I’ve already gotten a jump start on a lot of these, and so far it’s worked out well.
  • Plan out other activities. Things like the books I want to try and read this year, or the woodworking projects I want to do. That way, when I go to do those activities, I don’t get into the wheel-spinning rut of “well what do I do?”, and I can just dive in.
  • Recap frequently. Instead of revisiting just quarterly, do small weekly recaps, and medium sized monthly recaps as well. Break things down to a level that gives me the freedom to reset accordingly as I go, while also letting me build up to bigger and bigger things.

Analysis & Deep Dives

This is the crux of my year, and how I’m mixing things up from the last two years. Using what I learn from each weekly recap, I’m going to try and do more digging into the how and why of the things I choose to do, say, and think. Did I not follow through with something I really wanted to? Ok, fine… but why? What was the thing that made me go “yeah, I want to do that”, and why was I unable to continue that train of thought to success?

I’ve set way too many arbitrary goals with no plan on how to get from A to B. Instead, I think it’s time I look at some of these pathways, and figure out what it would take to keep me on course. Whether it’s some sort of motivation, or smaller goals, or milestones to make sure I hit… whatever it is, this is what I need to figure out.

(Some of you will look at this and go “hey that’s like therapy”, which will then make you think “hey maybe you should go to therapy, Nic”. And you’d be right on both counts.)

I’m super excited about this theme, and I think figuring out a way to make my analysis somewhat public or outward-facing could be a really fun exercise. We’ll see how this goes.

  1. They’re more like guidelines, really. 

  2. This is not the goal of themes, but that’s just how my brain works. 

Pocket Notebook

2 October 2023 • Personal

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I’ve been carrying a notebook around in my pocket for a week now. Maybe it’s the “hipster” thing to do, but I’ve wanted to use a pen and paper for… something. It’s taken me ages to figure out what, but I think I’ve landed on something.

From the first page:

This notebook is going to be a journal of things that give me joy. I want a reason to carry around a pen & notebook, & I can think of no better reason to have one.

Having this kind of mission, of purpose, has led me to reach for it multiple times per day. Focusing on joy has helped me lean in to the happy moments I experience.

Maybe my daughter will find these tucked in a box one day and flip through them. I hope so.

Sept 2023 Life Updates

15 September 2023 • Personal

👋🏻 Hello, everyone. We’re officially halfway through the month, and I thought I’d update on some fun things that’s been going on.

New blog theme

As you might be able to see, I have a new blog theme. Still utilizing Jekyll on the backend, but I finally revamped the look and feel of the site, switched over to Bootstrap 5, using some different fonts in places, & finally figured out what I wanted to do with footnote styling after… what, 10 years? 1 Anyway, if you see anything hinky with the site, please let me know.

Raising money for St. Jude

I’ve done a handful of little activities here and there working to raise money for St. Jude via the Relay FM campaign. I personally have been able to raise (at this time) $890, which is super cool. Relay as a whole has cracked $321k, which smashed their monthly goal of $293k that they had set for themselves; this also means that over the 5 years they’ve been fundraising, they have managed to raise over $2.5 MILLION dollars, which is just incredible.

Leaning in to new hobbies

I’ve barely played any video games in September (I’m right at the start of Act 2 in Baldur’s Gate), as I’ve been focused on some other hobbies. Mostly, this has centered around my new desk that I’m sitting (actually standing) at as I write this. I’ve been utilizing my father in law’s workshop behind their house to do some woodworking, which included finishing this desk, and this whole week has centered around getting my office a bit more organized. I’ll probably do an office tour here in the coming days. I have a whole bunch of woodworking projects that I want to tackle, and I think I’m going to start looking into a 3D printer for the two of us to dabble with. This could be fun.

I’m also still in a Play By Text (via Discord) D&D campaign that’s been running over 2 years at this point; we’re level 6, our party has stopped the end of the world (for now), and my character (a cleric) has been suffering a crisis of faith for the vast majority of it. I still have some aspirations to write and run my own campaign, but I have the utmost respect for all of the DMs I’ve had in my life; the effort that is required to run a good campaign is astounding, and I’m constantly in awe of the world building the games I’ve been a part of have had in them. (Who knows, maybe I’ll just join another game and punch things…)

I also sat down and devoured a book on Tuesday 2, which is something I haven’t done in years. I’ve checked out a couple of physical books from the library over the past few months, but they have all just sat unopened until I’ve needed to return them. This time was different; I felt called to just sit and read, and the next thing I knew, it was 11:30pm and I was done with the book. Felt really good, and now I gotta find the next book to read.

Losing weight (again)

A friend and I have been motivating each other and providing accountability to get healthy and lose some weight this summer/fall. My family has had a handful of health scares over the past couple of years, and with my daughter growing like a weed, I know that I’m gonna need to be in the best shape possible in order to keep up. So far, everything has focused on just eating the right foods as much as possible; it hasn’t been perfect, but I’m already seeing results, feeling a lot better, and I know that I have exercise and more strict food consumption in my back pocket when I hit my plateau.

Parenting

V is an amazing human being, full of joy and curiosity. Current favs: slowly rotating the recliner while one of the cats sits on it and saying “wheeeeee!” (everything is “wheeeee!” right now, but that one is extra cute), making mama and I “play drums” on a fan before bed, having every person that’s dropped by our home stop and shoot hoops with her, and chasing both cats all around the house. It took 18 months for me to really feel like we have everything under control, which inevitably means something drastic is about to change.

Sports

My wife and I have both been enjoying sports a lot more over the past few years, and we’re really leaning into it this fall. Iowa football is back, my wife has felt compelled to root for the Chicago Bears, baseball season is winding down and the Red Sox are gonna miss the postseason, the NBA season is just around the corner and the Celtics have high hopes, F1 has been a delight (as long as we don’t pay attention to who wins the races), and we’ve even started to pay attention to the Premier League, adopting Liverpool as our team of choice (subject to change). I’m not gonna force a love for any sport or team on my daughter, but I really hope she takes to it at least a little bit; it’d be a lot of fun to be able to share my love of sports with her as she grows up.


I’m always aiming to write more, and I do have a handful of things banked that I’ll probably jot down in the coming days. Otherwise, check out my Now page for updates on what I’m currently doing.

  1. I’ve had my eyes on the general footnote styling that I’ve wanted to use on Marco Arment’s blog since I was in college, and it’s literally taken me this long to finally do something about it. 

  2. “Redshirts” by John Scalzi. 3.5 stars; a fun, campy book, but one of his earlier works. Just a tad rough around the edges, compared to his most recent book “The Kaiju Preservation Society”, which I thought was fantastic. 

Raising Money for St. Jude

28 August 2023 • Personal

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If you would like to skip the blog post, here’s a link to my fundraising campaign, and a link directly to the donation page.

My daughter turned 18 months old today. It feels like just yesterday, she was a tiny blob that I had to burp multiple times a day. Now, she’s devouring chicken, speaking in her own fun language (“no” means no, but an emphatic “NO!” means yes, which is gonna get me into trouble when we’re in public), and generally being the coolest kid ever.

She is perfect and wonderful and healthy. But what if she wasn’t? What if we took her in for a checkup and the doctor told us “hey, so, V has cancer”?

(VERY IMPORTANT POINT OF EMPHASIS - SHE IS FINE, PERFECTLY HEALTHY, DOES NOT HAVE CANCER, ETC. - THE PURE HAPPENSTANCE OF HER HALF-BIRTHDAY FALLING ON THE DAY OF THE CAMPAIGN LAUNCH IS JUST A COINCIDENCE)

That’s why I’m partnering with the Relay FM podcast community during September (which just so happens to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month) to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Here is a link to my campaign where you can donate.

UPDATE: I had set a very modest goal of raising $250, and promised to match it. I figured I’d need to post 30 times to get anywhere close to that, but y’all crushed this goal within 5 hours. That rules.

If you aren’t aware, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the world leader in understanding, treating, and defeating childhood cancer & other life-threatening diseases. The majority of their funding comes from generous donors, and it allows them to not only lead the way on life-saving research, but also provide treatment at little to no cost for the patient & families. As a parent, I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to find out that she had cancer, and not being able to get the help we needed.

Relay FM has been raising money for St. Jude every September since 2019. Together, their community has raised over $2.2m, and their goal this year is to eclipse the $2.5m threshold. They’re a wonderful group of humans using their platform to raise money for a good cause, and I’ve loved taking part in helping them do that.

One more time, for the people who have scrolled this far - here’s a link to my fundraising campaign, and a link directly to the donation page. Any amount is welcome. Any amount is amazing. Any amount will make a difference in the life of a child, both today and in the years to come.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (for Notifications)

17 August 2023 • Personal

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As my daughter grows up, I’m realizing how much she values the attention my wife and I can give her, and how frustrated she becomes when she realizes that our attention is split. My wife just got a new Kindle yesterday, and we were sitting downstairs trying to get it set up before I left for the evening; my daughter climbed up the couch and attempted to snatch the Kindle away, trying to put herself between it and us.

This is just a small story, but one that really drives home how attached I have become to my devices over the years, and how our daughter is making me a better person for recognizing that and trying to break the habits. But they’re really hard habits to break! So, I’ve been attempting to use some of the iPhone’s built in features, along with a couple modifications to my data consumption, in order to put more of an air gap between myself and my phone.

To wrangle my time and attention back, I implemented a handful of things:

1: Set App Limits for Time-Sucking Apps

This is what I think is the bare minimum that anyone can do to help reclaim their time on their phone. It’s so easy for us to pick it up and mindlessly scroll through a series of apps (mostly social media) - restricting your time you’re allowed to spend on them can certainly help.

A screenshot of the app limits settings screen

Where to enable: Settings > Screen Time > App Limits

Something to note: for my particular limits, Twitter (I refuse to call it X) means both the base Twitter app, but also Twitter’s website (at least, if you’re using it through Safari - can’t speak to how it behaves if you have a 3rd party browser), which is great because that means you don’t have as many workarounds.

I know that there are a few studies out there that say that using App Limits actually causes you to use the apps more; anecdotally, I don’t have that issue, but your mileage may vary.

2: Deleted (most) Social Media Off my Phone

I’m not going to pretend that I’m holier than thou or anything here; everyone has their own reasons for using social media, and you don’t need me preaching at you any more than I already have. That said, the only app that I have left on my phone is Instagram, mostly because a few friends and I use it to send various funny clips to one another. I barely post there anymore. Facebook, Twitter (RIP Tweetbot), Reddit (RIP Apollo), Mastodon, Bluesky, Threads - they’re all long gone. It’s freeing. You should try it. As mentioned above, App Limits will still keep you from logging in on the web and mindlessly scrolling, so these two together have been great.

3: Reconfigure My News Sources

I kept Twitter and Reddit around for ages because I utilized them for getting news about various things, so if I was going to disconnect, I needed to find better sources. (Do we NEED to follow along & live-tweet when Trump gets indicted for the 17th time? Seriously - shit’s unhealthy, y’all, and we need to stop.) I did this in two ways:

  • Set up an Apple News widget stack for sports stuff. Red Sox, Celtics, Vikings, F1, and general sports all have their own widgets in the stack, and I can just flip through those to keep up w/ articles.
  • Sign up for the Apple News morning email digest (in the app), along with a couple email digests like The Morning News (btw if anyone has any other recommendations I’m all ears)
  • Use an RSS feed reader like NetNewsWire or Reeder to keep up with various websites & blogs. RSS readers are great, and I’m glad to have found a reason to bring one back into my life.
  • Signing up for more Substacks (or related services). For me, email remains something that I feel in relative control over; I don’t clamor for inbox zero or anything like that (I do stay tidy - there’s only 14 items in my inbox as I write this, and I actually just triaged 9 of them, so we’re down to 5), so receiving long-form messages actually feels nice. If I’m not interested? Delete! All gone!

Ultimately, I’m replacing a live refreshing feed that is constantly in need of my attention to stay current, with something that just shows up and lets me tackle at my own pace, on my own time. Much more optimal.

4: Set Up a Scheduled Focus Mode

These next two are what I started doing a couple of weeks ago, and I must say, I’m VERY happy with how they’ve turned out.

A screenshot of my focus mode setup

Focus modes are one of those things that I think people know exist, but don’t really grok all that well. I’ve got one that I’ve used for reading; whenever I’m in the Kindle app for longer than a minute, it switches me over to a focus mode that’s a full Do Not Disturb, and gives me a new home screen that only has the Kindle app & my various music apps on it, to keep me from just hopping into some other app and not reading.

What I did for this experiment was to set up a Personal focus mode on a schedule, from the time I’m up until the time Violet goes to bed, with small gaps to catch up & a bigger gap during her nap time. I’ve only allowed notifications from a select group of people (wife, family, really good friends, and my boss at the brewery) and apps (anything related to work, money, or our smart home, plus a few others - note that if you have a Mac, you’ll want to go in and whitelist your Mac apps that should peek through as well). I’ve found that this really helps keep me focused, while simultaneously reminding me to take little breaks in the morning and afternoon when the notifications come in, so this is working nice as a dual-purpose solution.

Where to enable: Settings > Focus

5: Set Up Notification Scheduled Summaries

A screenshot of my notification summary setup

The final thing I did was to set up a scheduled summary of notifications. I’m still trying to play around with whether or not having both this and a Focus mode enabled are really necessary, but this setup seems to be working ok for me, so I’m going to stick with it for right now and see how it goes.

A screenshot of my lock screen showing the results of my notification summary

Basically, I’m telling all of the notifications that aren’t getting whitelisted in my Focus mode to get sucked up into a big summary every 60-90 minutes. Instead of being blasted with a ton of notifications every time I come up for air, it’s all rolled up together in one nice-looking summary, with the best feature being that I can dismiss all of them all at once.

ESPN is one of those apps that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love staying up with all of the sports news that happens throughout the day; however, I’ve come to realize that I just do not need to have this all right in front of my face at all times. So the Focus mode keeps it all contained throughout the day, and then my scheduled summary rolls it all up together so I can speed through all of them at a pace more suited to what I want. Think like when Stranger Things drops - they give you all the episodes so you can binge them, instead of having to go one at a time, week by week.

Where to enable: Settings > Notifications > Scheduled Summary


Ultimately, how you want to set these sorts of things up is totally up to you. I’ve found a couple things that have been working out ok for me, and thoughts I’d share to see if they might be able to help you as well. Do you have any suggestions for what I could do better, or differently? Get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

MLB Daily Schedule Shortcut

19 July 2023 • ProjectShortcuts

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I work from home every day, and have a TV hooked up in my office. I also love watching baseball. On days with day games, this tends to be great for me… unless I don’t realize that there are any day games being played (like today).

Enter: Apple Shortcuts.

I was attempting to figure out how I could pull down the schedule every day in a way that a) gave me the info automatically, instead of having to seek it out, 2) didn’t clutter up my calendar, and III) wasn’t costly to implement. Now that Heroku’s free hosting has gone out the window, I wasn’t exactly sure what the best method would be. And then, someone suggested Shortcuts.

I fully admit that I’ve never been a user of Shortcuts. I have 2 (one to automatically pull up directions to home, and one to generate a QR code for my guest WiFi network) that I have never used. But I thought, how hard could this be? (Answer: a lot more of a pain in the ass than I anticipated.)

If you are interested in installing the shortcut for yourself, here is a link for you to download and install it. You will be prompted to put in your email address, and then you can run it to generate the games for the day. I then went ahead and set up a daily automation to generate the schedule at 7am and email it to myself.

Give it a try, and let me know if you run into any problems, or if you have any suggestions on how to improve it. I already have plans for a version 2 that’ll include the up-to-date standings as well.

Thank you Elon, Zuck, and Spez

19 July 2023 • Personal

Delete your social media

Shout out to the three biggest twatwaffles in tech these days, as they have actually conspired to make my life better!

As someone who spent decades being “chronically online”, the last month or so has been really weird for me. And it’s all thanks to the brilliant (lol) decisions made by the heads of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.

I should back up a bit.

My online experience started with AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. Everyone seemed to have it back in my junior high, and I remember racing home from school to hop online and chat with my friends that I’d spent all day being around. We all had the cryptic away messages, about info, and all that. I can’t remember most of my screennames over the years, but I do remember my last one: ihatelockers. (I got in a very minor scuffle the final week of 9th grade, and my punishment was that I had to come back for 4 hours the day summer started and help clean out lockers. The other guy showed up an hour late, and had to stay all day + come back the next day. Sucker.)

Me at a UNI basketball game

I lived through the LiveJournal, MySpace, Xanga, and Tumblr eras. I was a leader of the grassroots effort to keep Facebook from opening itself up to people without .edu email addresses back in 2006. I was on ESPN multiple times because I interacted with the various show hosts on Twitter (or because I stuck my face in front of a camera at my school’s token appearance).

I’ve made friends, gotten jobs, joined WoW guilds, first interacted with my now-wife, and more all because of social media. There are so many amazing experiences that I know people have had purely because of the networking abilities these various apps have provided to people.

But now? Now, the landscape has been fractured, and I’m Very Tired™. I can’t keep up with everything that’s going on nowadays. Everyone was on Twitter, and now it’s all split up, because Elon Musk is a giant manbaby. Mastodon has the tech conversation. Bluesky has the ultra-liberal gamers that are (apparently) trying to tell Dril how to post. Facebook has the family. And Twitter still has all the sports stuff (and, let’s face it, pretty much everyone else from Bluesky too, because we’re in that phase where nobody wants to pull the plug). Plus, there’s Discord, which is full of a handful of communities and friend groups that I interact with more than anything else. And finally, Reddit recently made changes to their API, effectively killing the best 3rd party apps, and resulting in a lot of subreddits I followed going dark indefinitely.

I had a folder on my iPhone home screen for ages that was full of all the various apps. I caught myself just flipping between 5 or 6 of them nearly non-stop a few weeks ago, and got really mad at myself. None of this was serving me. None of this was even fun anymore. It was a chore to try and interact with any of the people I wanted to interact with.

So, I went… what’s just under nuclear? Whatever that is, I did it. I still have all my accounts across the various services, but a lot of them (Ivory for Mastodon, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter) got deleted, and a few others (Instagram, Bluesky) got relegated to the App Library - accessible if I need them for something, but out of sight/mind the rest of the time.

I can’t believe that the thing that finally broke the social media chokehold on me was the various owners being complete garbage humans… and yet, here we are. I have no idea if any of these services will ever return to my life in the capacity they were before. I sure hope not. I do miss a lot of the people I would interact with, and I’m trying to be proactive about connecting with those that I really appreciated (if this is you, hello, come talk to me), but I’m doing best to not let the allure of what once was suck me back in to a space I know is not good for me.

Friendly reminder: if you’re not paying for it, YOU are the product.