Addicted To Our Devices

This began as a story about being addicted to smartphones but ended up being about notifications in iOS 5 instead. A recent article from CNN claims that we are addicted to our smartphones and launches a list of reasons and symptoms to support his claim, and finally gives a solution – lock your devices up in another room when you go to bed.

Seriously, if you are losing out on sleep because of a temptation to “check your devices,” I suppose you really do have addiction issues and probably should remove that temptation. Not being someone who is addicted probably makes me more cynical and critical of those who are.

I value my sleep and refuse to let any of my devices interfere with my slumber time. My devices are there to serve me, I’m not a slave to them. Both my iPad and iPhone are on my nightstand all night. The iPad ends up resting there because I read before going to bed. A simple flip of my mute switch ensures the device won’t be interrupting my rest. The iPhone stays next to me for two reasons. First, I listen to the pzizz sleep app to put me into my deep sleep. Second, my iPhone is my alarm.

The only complaint I have about the new iOS 5 is the way notification settings are implemented. In the previous iteration of notifications, I was able to turn off all notifications with one simple swipe in the settings. In fact, I could even specify a period of time that notifications were not to bother me at all. I had all notifications disabled between the hours of 10PM and 7:30AM. This worked for all seven days of the week for me. All I had to do to keep the iPhone quiet through the night was to disable the cellular radio. Notifications made sure I wasn’t bothered by any apps, and Airplane Mode guaranteed I wouldn’t be bothered by any drunk calling or texting to the wrong number, which inevitably would always seem to lead directly to my number.

In iOS 5, however, the notifications have to be enabled/disabled individually for each application, making my job silencing the iPhone for the night a bit more complicated. Yes, I could simply put the iPhone into Airplane Mode, but that would defeat my iCloud backup that now occurs when wifi is enabled, plugged into power, and asleep – during the same time that I’m asleep. But this is exactly what I do throughout the work week because it’s the most simple solution – put it in Airplane Mode and I’m never bothered. On Saturday I’ll risk being awakened in order for my backup to go through. After all, I can sleep all day if I wanted to that day.

But I digress. This was supposed to be about moving these devices out of our rooms at night so that we wouldn’t be bothered by them. As the final couple sentences of this article implies, get rid of these distractions. “You sleep better.”

New iPhones

Everyone seems to be weighing in with their thoughts on the iPhone event next week. There’s going to be an iPhone 5. There will be a new iPhone 4. OMG! A dirt cheap iPhone 4, called the iPhone 4s!

This should come as no real surprise to us. Yes, there will probably be an all new and improved iPhone dubbed the iPhone 5. I think too much time has passed for there to be simply an incremental update like there was between the iPhone 3G and 3Gs. I could very well be wrong, but that’s what I think. New features? The obvious are faster processors, better cameras, and possibly a slightly different form factor. Other improvements/features have already been revealed to us in the iOS 5 announcement, and I’m sure there will be a few surprises about iOS 5 that we haven’t heard of yet.

The news that motivated me to pen this post is the shock and awe that seems to stem from a cheaper iPhone 4. Duh. Of course there will be a dirt cheap iPhone 4. Every year when Apple announces the new iPhone, guess what inevitably follows? That’s right, last year’s new model then becomes this year’s cheap model. There should be no real surprise there.

That brings me to the supposed iPhone 4s. The iPhone 4 has been out for well over a year now. There is even a newer version of the iPhone 4 for Verizon. That version of the iPhone has some improvements worked into it, such as an improved antenna layout. It would make sense for Apple to redesign the iPhone 4 in order to streamline and economize production for sales to multiple carries. Not to mention the fact that because this iPhone has been out for so long, I’m sure Apple has determined other cost or performance improvements that could be worked into the current iPhone 4 design. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple titled this phone the iPhone 4s, the normal progression of the less expensive model iPhone.

That leaves me with the final shock of more memory configuration. Again, no big deal there. The iPad and iPod touch is available in up to 3 different RAM configurations that the market seems to support. Would it be a surprise if Apple tried the same thing with the iPhone? Not to me.

By next Tuesday afternoon all questions will be answered, and my next iPhone will be chosen.

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday




This is a tongue-in-cheek post, but still portrays my thoughts. I did my yearly Ash Wednesday duty and received the ashes. But as always, I leave feeling just a little bit dirty. Not because of having ashes on my forehead, although that should qualify, but because it appears we are doing the exact opposite of the point that our Gospel reading was trying to get across.

Yesterday’s reading is brought to us by the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6. Of particular interest is the part on fasting.

“16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ”

What do we do immediately following this reading? Put ashes on our faces, get told to fast for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and not to eat of beast or fowl on Fridays during Lent. Now didn’t Jesus just finish telling us to wash our faces before we go out so that people don’t know we are fasting and praying? Seems kind of ironic to me.

I understand the meaning of the ashes. They remind us that we are all sinners and will eventually die, but isn’t there a better way to remind ourselves that we are of dust, and to dust we shall return? Like maybe put it someplace on us where WE WILL SEE IT? Putting ashes on my forehead does nothing to remind me. I don’t even see it. But everyone else can. And maybe that’s the point, I don’t know. Maybe we are assuming that there will be so many people that will carry this mark that I will be reminded of it, and I am also part of the collective that is reminding others. Either way, it still seems to contradict the point of Gospel reading.

It seems that some parishes get this too, because someone else I know says their priest puts the ashes on top of their head, where it’s not really visible at all.

Oh, look at me. I’m wearing ashes. I’m fasting and praying because it’s Ash Wednesday.

Guess I already have my reward.

Why I’m not getting an iPad 2

I won’t be jumping to the new iPad 2. That’s not an indication to a lack of features, but a testament to the perfection Apple achieved in the release of their original iPad. I pre-ordered the 64GB 3G model when it was first released and that workhorse is still chugging away perfectly. So perfect in fact, that I am not compelled in the least bit to order the iPad 2.

When Apple released the iPhone 3G I so wanted to get one because it gained features that I desperately wanted. But I was held back because of the 2 year contract I incurred with AT&T. Because of that 2 year contract I am forced to leapfrog generations of iPhones. That is not the case with the iPad. Nothing is keeping me from buying the next generation except how well the first generation is performing.

The iPad 2 gains dual cameras, lighter weight, thinner form and a faster processor. I have no need to use a camera, although admittedly I’m sure I would use it occasionally for video conferencing if I were to find myself with that capability, but i also know that when I buy my new iphone this year, ill gain that option anyway. The lighter weight and form factor and faster processor aren’t enough to sway me to throw down another $900+. The memory sizes have not changed and I still find myself at the high end version of memory.

So I’ll just wait until the 3rd iteration of the iPad comes around and see if that adds any features that might sway me. Again, that just testifies to the perfection of the original iPad. If someone hasn’t bought the original version yet then this proves to be an even greater value.

Reflections of 2010

Wow. Another year has come and gone, and boy have we accomplished quite a bit over the year. Rather impressive as I look back on it all and see it all at once. Clicking on any of the images wills how the full size version or the video, whichever applies.

The first Sunday in January there is the Starving Artist sale at the Embassy Suites Hotel. We picked up an oil painting and had it framed. It looks really nice in our living room. That was the first time we went to one of those. We went again this year and picked up a couple more, but now I’m getting into next year’s review.

Oil Painting from the Starving Artist sale
Oil Painting from the Starving Artist sale

We wanted to start painting the house. Something different than the one tone color that permeated the interior of our house. But this also entailed putting up crown molding in the rooms that we were painting. Might as well, right? Otherwise we’d end up having to paint again once we did install the molding. I bought a miter box and saw and cut out all the molding for the kitchen, living room, hallway, and bathrooms -- all the rooms we planned on painting right now.

The kitchen walls were painted a sunbeam yellow and the ceiling a bright white. We painted the living room a rusty leather-ish orange. My bathroom was painted a mint green on the walls and that bright white for its ceiling. The same bright white was used for all the molding. This is how we spent most of our weekends  during January and February.

Painting the kitchen Sunbeam Yellow
Painting the kitchen Sunbeam Yellow

Painted the living room burnt orange leather
Painted the living room burnt orange leather

At the end of February was our 5th Annual Tombstone Run. We had over 80 bikes participate in that run. We split up into about 5 groups and comfortably made our way through New Mexico, along the top of Mexico, into Arizona where we headed south into Douglas, up through Bisbee, and finally into Sierra Vista where we stay at the same Motel 6 every year.

Me standing behind my Heritage Softail Classic, heading to Tombstone, AZ.
Me standing behind my Heritage Softail Classic, heading to Tombstone, AZ.

My bike, loaded down, ready to head to Tombstone, AZ.

My bike, loaded down, ready to head to Tombstone, AZ.


Video of our first group departing El Paso

Coming back home meant getting on to the next (and possibly my favorite) project of the year: taking care of the back yard. Remember, that back yard here is all desert sand. We want a beautiful green back yard, but there is quite a bit of logistics involved in getting it done right. To start it off, we need to dig up the back yard for the underground sprinkler system. March through April’s spare time was spent digging the foot and a half deep trenches for the water pipes we would need to lay. When I left the Army, I thought I had used my last pick-axe. I was wrong.

Valve box for Sprinkler system

Valve box for Sprinkler system

Water lines running in front of patio

Water lines running in front of patio

Water lines running along the side and back of yard

Water lines running along the side and back of yard


Video of sprinkler system finished, yard leveled back out, and sprinklers running

The sprinkler system will eventually consist of 4 separate zones. 3 zones for the back yard grass and 1 zone for the shrubbery that will be placed along the perimeter of the back yard as well as water the tree in the front yard. The control unit/timer is mounted in the garage. There are a total of 6 long stream (20 foot) oscillating heads and 4 shorter stream heads (6-10 foot streams). After laying the pipes, installing the valves and heads, covering the trenches back up, it is now time to bring in 130 cubic feet of topsoil. Cubic foot bag by cubic foot bag. That itself took several trips using both cars. After the soil is laid out across the back yard, we put some fertilizer down and waited until the right time to plant the grass seed. The right time to plant arrived in May, when the daily high temperature always exceeds 65 degrees, giving the seed the chance to germinate. Once planted, the automatic sprinklers take over and do all the work. By mid-summer, we had achieved a perfect green lawn.

130 cubic feet of topsoil added

130 cubic feet of topsoil added

Grass begins to grow!

Grass begins to grow!

Grass getting thicker

Grass getting thicker

Looking real good now!

Looking real good now!

Perfect grass!

Perfect grass!

In the meantime, summer vacation! In July we drove to Virginia to see Carol’s family. We stopped at my folks along the way, as well as picked up Jonathan so he could spend the vacation with us. With the sprinkler taking care of the grass for those 3 weeks we were gone, there was a jungle in our back yard by the time we returned. From that point on, I had to mow the lawn twice a week.

Carol and I on vacation in Virginia

Carol and I on vacation in Virginia

Jonathan and I on vacation in Virginia

Jonathan and I on vacation in Virginia

Late spring brings me my iPad! Love it! It actually replaces most things I do on my iMac and PowerBook. Carol bought her new MacBook Pro while we were on vacation. This vacation was the first time I left home without a laptop. For my needs, the iPad totally replaced my laptop.

End of July through August was spent on a couple projects for the kitchen. First, we wanted to replace the original light fixture that came with the house with a large fluorescent fixture. That was small fries compared to the next job: the kitchen island. From scratch. We wanted a very large island that also had a large overhang on one side so that the bar stools would fit under it. We also wanted to make sure that the top of the island was ceramic tiles that matched the ceramic tile of our floors and the other countertops. I think we did a great job.

Replaced standard light with long fluorescent lighting

Replaced standard light with long fluorescent lighting

Finished kitchen island

Finished kitchen island

Another view of the island

Another view of the island

September was a relaxing month housework-wise. I only converted our two backward gates into wooden gates. They were simple iron gates, but Dolly could escape the back yard through the bars. The temporary fix was placing chicken wire on the gates. The permanent fix was to build a wooden gate around the iron one.


video of wooden gates

We bought our new AppleTV in October. This replaced the original one we picked up in 2007. It’s pretty small compared to the old one.

October is when it begins dropping in temperature at night, and that’s a good time to plant shrubs. Anywhere from late fall into late winter here. The master plan is to have shrubs along the entire perimeter of the back yard. I decided on Nellie Stevens Hollie. I chose them because you can plant them close together and they will eventually form a living wall of privacy. To make this happen, I’ll plant them every 4 feet. I’ll let them grow to about 6 feet tall or so and cut them off there, forcing them to grow into each other. Another good thing about these trees is that they are evergreens. They’ll remain green year round. I ordered 15 of them in October and we planted them along the sides of the yard. Pretty soon we’ll order another 12 and those will complete our perimeter. When the perimeter is complete is when I’ll add that 4th zone to the watering system.

Nellie Stevens Hollie planted

Nellie Stevens Hollie planted

I rode out to Aguirre Spring in October as well. My first time there. Beautiful mountain scenery. We also made our yearly trip to the corn maze in the Mesilla Valley.

Ride to Aguirre Springs State Park

Ride to Aguirre Springs State Park

Carol and I at the corn maze

Carol and I at the corn maze

October also marks the time I quite running my 2 miles in the morning. From Halloween through New Years. There’s just too much eating going on to make a difference. I picked up a Magic Bullet, this thing makes perfect margaritas. That’s pretty much all I use it for.

The Magic Bullet makes a mean margarita. And hey... doesn't that kitchen island tile look awesome?

The Magic Bullet makes a mean margarita. And hey... doesn't that kitchen island tile look awesome?

November is the usual Thanksgiving celebration. We bought a new living room set too. The set consists of a 3 piece sectional with built in recliners, cocktail table, sofa table (that I converted into an entertainment center), 2 tall ladder shelves, and a matching smaller shelving unit.

New living room set

New living room set

New living room set

New living room set

New living room set

New living room set

Finally, December marked the completion of my bathroom when Carol gave me a white wall-mounting cabinet for Christmas and I sealed the skylight at ceiling level with another window.

My bathroom wall cabinet, mounted.

My bathroom wall cabinet, mounted.

So as you can see, we were pretty busy this year making our home, well, our home. We managed to complete the kitchen, living room, hallway, and my bathroom.

This year will bring many more improvements, I’m sure. Here’s looking to a great 2011!

We won't talk about this night. Ever.

We won't talk about this night. Ever.