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Off the Bike

Failure to Launch

Since the 100 days of blogging challenge ended I have not been posting here daily. I have been writing daily and have 22 Drafts started but not published.

Why am I not publishing them?

Some of them are longer posts that involve me finishing tasks, like painting the bathroom of our cabin. Others are more work/business related and I am worried about saying something dumb or incorrect.

Its strange cause during the challenge I was just focused on publishing and less on quality. Now I am trying to get the quality to be better but at the expense of publishing anything. The internal battle is strong.

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Off the Bike

Linux Laptop

The ‘r’ key on my MacBook Pro is beginning to die. It isn’t quite to the point where the laptop is unusable but it is getting there. I have been considering getting a Linux laptop for a couple of years. My thinking is that 99% of my work is done in a Browser anymore so do I need all the bells and whistles of a Mac? I also don’t play games on my computer and I have stopped doing video editing.

Is it time to get a linux machine? I have been looking around and the System 76 people seem cool. The problem is that I know of no one who has one. I also like the sound of the security focused Purism folks (though I am less excited about their name).

I am also a little concerned about using one with an iPhone. I use AirDrop a lot to send photos to my laptop since the Photos sync is slow. Is there something comparable? I see Snapdrop but will it be around in 5 years? Is it secure?

Do you have a linux laptop? What did you have before? PC or Mac? Have you tried a System 76 machine or their Linux distro PopOS? How about Purism? I would love to not buy a Dell or Lenovo as I may as well stick with Apple if I am going with a conglomerate.

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Daily Ride Off the Bike

Getting Organized

Building a house involves a lot of steps. There is financing a construction loan, getting the design we want, and finding the various contractors we need to build the thing. If we are going to be our own General Contractor then we need to get organized and stay organized.

Since we both work in technology it makes sense that we use software to manage this project. We have been talking about what to use for about a week when it dawned on us that we should use Jira. Kate uses Jira on a daily basis at her work and, while I don’t currently use it at mine, it is used and I should learn it.

The cool thing is that Jira has a free version which allows for up to 10 users. Considering none of the contractors we are considering even have a website we are pretty sure Kate and I will be the only users. So last night we started up personal accounts and got to work.

I should say that Kate got to work as she actually knows how to use Jira. If you are not familiar with Jira it is project management software used by a lot of software developers. While we aren’t developing software, and won’t be using the Agile features, we will have a number of tasks that we need to keep track of. Jira is probably overkill for what we need but its free and as I mentioned we both already have various levels of exposure to it at each of our work places.

Currently the Design project is the main focus but as we progress we are going to have a builder handling the foundation, walls, and roof. There is going to be an excavator handling the basement dig and the trenching for the Primary and Secondary electrical wiring. There will be a plumber, electrician, insulation, roofer, dry wall, painter, finishing, and landscaping to name a few. Each of those are going to have their own bids, schedules, materials, change orders, etc.

During the entire project we are going to be in contact with the bank issuing funds for each stage. We will need to keep track of expenses and make sure everything matches up. Basically we are going to be running a small business for 6 to 8 months, on top of our regular jobs. The good news is that we work from home and will be living on the job site. Its going to be work and staying organized with Jira is going to help a lot.

Workout Detail

We went for a nice ride this morning before it got hot. We did a nice easy 23 mile loop to town and around on some dirt farm roads. We stopped at our local coffee shop just over halfway for some iced coffee and peach tarts. It was a lovely day and we talked about the house project almost non stop.

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Off the Bike

Take it easy

For the last week I have been taking it a little easier than normal. I have not ridden my bike at all. I have skipped a lot of days of the August Burpee challenge. This is because I had a sore throat and generally that leads to getting sick. With a pandemic going on I am not interested in getting sick and having to visit a hospital.

So I listened to my pal Al and have taken it easy. At least with physical activity. We are still pushing ahead with the home building project. We have been reading various books on construction, finding a designer, talking with our excavator, reaching out to builders, and getting the construction wrapped up on our cabin.

The good news is that I am feeling much better and we are planning to go for a bike ride tomorrow. My throat feels pretty much back to 100% but I don’t want to rush anything. Somtimes you just gotta take it easy.

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Off the Bike

How to buy stuff

The internet is great, you can find information about anything. The internet is terrible, you can find information about anything. On one hand having access to all this information is great it can also be overwhelming and filling with bad information. What is someone to do when looking for accurate and helpful information about what to buy?

Personally I enjoy using the Wirecutter to figure out what I should buy. This year alone I have used them to find my lawnmower, string trimmer (that’s a weed eater for those of you from the Mitten state), and other various tech or home items. They are a different type of review site than most because they start the review with what they would buy.

Most review sites will make you read through an article only to find that they recommend a lot of various products. This may be because they are advertiser driven and they don’t want to alienate a product that is paying their rent. Other sites want to promote everything to get as much affiliate revenue as they can.

While the Wirecutter does have affiliate links they decided early on that they would tell you what they would buy. They usually have a few other options like a cheaper one or more expensive one in case you have certain needs. The model has been very successful for them leading to the New York Times purchase of them in 2016.

The site is also well done and easy to navigate on desktop and mobile. If you are looking to purchase something I recommend starting there. They don’t always have a review for what I need, and sometimes they don’t select the best item. However most of the time I am able to at least learn more about a certain product to help inform my decision process.

Hey it’s definitely better than going by Amazon’s choice or reviews.

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Off the Bike

If not WordPress then what?

I have been using WordPress since 2003 when it first became WordPress. I don’t say this to brag in anyway. My usage of WordPress as a blogging tool has been terrible but I am working on being better. One of the main reasons I use WordPress is because I can get it to work, and it keeps working.

I am bringing this topic up because Dave Winer was bashing on WP yesterday. Dave is a developer and has been involved with making some impressive stuff like RSS. He doesn’t like WP because it doesn’t match with his style of blogging.

Dave posts to his blog in a stream of conscious manner and he does it well. I read his site almost everyday because he has good content that I find useful.

However from reading about how his blog is setup I am pretty sure it would take me a long time to get the same thing working. I would learn a lot of new things about technology that might be helpful, but I would not be blogging until I got it figured out and working.

People ask me all the time to help them get a website setup. The first thing I ask them is what they want to put on the website. They want to talk about the tech but the content is way more important. You can have the most technically up to date site but if the content sucks no one will care.

With WordPress I can setup a site in minutes and show anyone how to start posting within 10 more minutes. It isn’t perfect but it works and allows people to publish their own thoughts online for anyone to read. That is the focus I think we should all have in online publishing.

If there is another tool that is easier to setup and teach someone to use then I am all for it. Till then I am gonna keep on keepin on with WP.

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Off the Bike

Pause

I mentioned yesterday feeling a little under the weather. I woke up a few days ago with a sore throat and knew something was not right. Naturally I went to the CDC website for Covid-19 to do a self check, and it told me to stay home and get rest. So there is some comfort that I probably do not have the ‘rona, but its still in the back of my head.

So I am chillin with Kate, the dogs, and Netflix. I mentioned the show Dark yesterday and am gonna binge watch it. I already got the plants watered and walked the dogs, to their dog run.

Sometimes you just gotta hit pause and get better.

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Off the Bike

Fiction : 100/100

Every so often I remind myself why fiction is so important for living. I think part of the reason I forget is because I have become numb to the sheer amount of fiction available. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Audible I could easily fill my day living in stories.

In the last few months I have not been as into fiction. The pandemic certainly has a part to play. Right now truth is much stranger than any fiction anyone could imagine. First I went for biographies, then history, and lately its been philosophical journalism. Oh and news, lots of news. Too much news.

My sister has been talking about the Netflix show Dark for a few weeks if not months. I had tried it a little while ago but it was the English dubbed version and I cannot handle dubbed shows. The lips not matching makes it look like they mis-synched the audio to the video and I cannot stop seeing that. Anyway I started watching the show yesterday evening and its really friggin good.

Dark is a Netflix series that initially came out in 2017 and is a German production. Hence the dubbed version. The good news is you can change it to subtitles, or if you know German just watch the show I guess. The show deals with families and time travel and its awesome.

So far the show reminds me a little of The Americans and Stranger Things. It has the American’s feel for me due to the different culture setting(USSR/Gemany), and all the lies! It feels like Stranger Things cause a lot of the story involves teenage children and its sci-fi/scary. The combo is really great and while I just compared it to 2 other shows it is totally original and stands on its own.

All 3 shows blend a little bit into real history, mainly the Cold War in the 80’s. While the first 2 shows are set in 1980’s USA, the historical focus in Dark deals the aftermath of Chernobyl. So far I am only 6 episodes in but there have been a number of references to Chernobyl, and in the fictional town of Winden the Nuclear Power Plant plays a major role.

Overall the show is a bit darker than Stranger Things with suicide making an early appearance. The tone is also much more adult and serious than ST.

One of the reasons I have also been watching the show is because I have been a little under the weather. Some combination of exercise, yard work, and planning a house have put me on my butt the last couple of days. So I have been Netflix and chill. Also the world is a crazy place right now and watching some crazy fiction has helped distract me.

100 days done!

Well that completes the 100 days of blogging challenge for me. It has been a lot of fun and I am going to try to keep the daily blogging going. The helpful part that I remind myself is that this is a hobby activity and is more for me than anyone else. Thanks for playing along and I am looking forward to some more challenges!

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Off the Bike

What for? : 99/100

Holy moly! 99 blog posts consecutively let alone within a year. The question many have asked me is why write on a blog at all, let alone 100 days in a row. Over the last week or so I have been thinking about this more and more.

On one hand I have a romantic notion that the Internet and World Wide Web have this amazing potential for bringing people together. For many that seems strange that technology which allows us to sit behind a keyboard and screen could somehow bring us together. The reality is that for the vast majority of people, including myself, most of our activity online is not bringing us closer together. Most of the time we are viewing the Web. Blogging changes that and allows us to broadcast onto the web.

The current pandemic gives us the opportunity to safely communicate with each other while avoiding transmitting the virus. The problem is that we have to take a leap and put our imperfect selves out there. My colleague Jon wrote a great post today about this. With a blog the biggest cost for publishing is our time and our pride. Take an hour out of your day and get over your ego and pride and share something about yourself.

A blog is as independent as it gets. You have full control over the software used, and you can choose whom you want to host it. You can write whatever you want, post photos and images, design the layout, and share it via email, text, or even social media. No one is selling your data. It is yours to do with as you please.

In 2003 I bought my first domain and setup a WordPress blog with all of these notions. The problem is that I could not get over my pride and ego. I couldn’t find a reason to just write and publish something. Jon does a great job of breaking down why this time he was able to write consistently. He mentions that having a group to commit to helped make him stick with it and I agree. The other point was about perfection and how making this more relaxed made it easier to keep going. I agree with that big time as well.

For me this challenge has been about sticking with something but also fulfilling the idea about how blogs can bring people closer. I started working at Kinsta in February of this year. The pandemic had not been declared yet, and we were all supposed to have met up in Budapest for the annual company meetup. Then the pandemic hit and traveling anywhere let alone internationally became a bad idea. The prospect of meeting my teammates in person and bonding went out the window. How could we overcome this barrier and learn more about each other?

So a 100 day blogging challenge was born and here we are 99 days later. Even if someone didn’t post everyday of the challenge I still learned something about them outside of work, and that was the purpose. By using a blog I didn’t have to go into Slack to see what they were up to.

This post is a total rambler which probably represents most of what I have written here. The good news is that I am fine with it. I hope someone has learned something new about me besides being self centered enough to write 99 consecutive blog posts about myself. I have learned that I can write consistently. There have been days when it has been a chore to come up with something to write about. Generally those are the posts about my workout for the day.

My plan is to keep writing here daily and to keep having fun. At the very least it helps me reflect on my day. My answer for why is that we can and should use this tool to better connect with each other. My hope is to inspire anyone to setup a blog and start writing.

Here are the sites that participated in this challenge:

jonpenland.com
grant.codes
fauxzen.com
brianli.com
kuelt.csabavarga.me
balaki.me

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Daily Ride Off the Bike

Second Nature : 97/100

For the last few weeks I have been gaining more interest in gardening. We planted 2 apple trees, then got a rose bush and a stargazer lillie. So far all of them are still alive. We also have some bushes that we planted last year that I have helped back to life with watering, mulch, and some fertilizer.

I have picked up some tips online and a lot of information from the gardeners at the local nurseries. My desire to learn more about gardening lead me to 2 books by Michael Pollan: Botany of Desire and Second Nature. BoD is a fun book about 4 plants and how people have cultivated them and how they have cultivated us. SN is still a Pollan book with lofty ideas, but there is a lot of practical advice as well.

Lately I have been listening to SN while I have been watering and weeding the land. The chapter on Weeds was particularly interesting and insightful.

There are 2 opposing schools of though when it comes to Weeds in a garden: 1) Kill em all with chemicals, and 2) Let nature be. Personally I have always disliked the idea that we need to spray toxic chemicals in order to have a nice yard or garden. On the other hand there are Weeds that can invade and take over a garden if not kept in check.

Pesticide and Herbicide usage is going up worldwide. In the meantime we are just starting to fully understand how terrible these chemicals are for the land, water, and people. Homeowners use these chemicals just to show they are better than their neighbors. I definitely don’t want to be a part of that.

On the other end is the thought that weeds are good and part of nature. Except that when we go into nature we don’t see weeds. Weeds are found in one place: where humans have altered the landscape. From gardens to roads to parking lots weeds will be found. To say that weeds are part of nature is disingenuous and naive.

Weeds thrive in part because they have adapted to the clean environment that we create. While the plants we want to grow are selected for their looks and taste, weeds have self selected by growing quickly and tenaciously. Weeds exist in part because of us. So it is our duty to manage them.

The rest of the book has been great and I am looking forward to listening to more of it tomorrow; when I am weeding.

Workout detail

Did 3 sets of 10 burpess after some easy yoga this morning. My elbow is feeling better but I want to take it easy and let everything heal up. I went for a super easy 30 minute ride around the land after work. That was very nice.