• Out of Office – A Neat Little Trick to Reduce Work From Home Friction

    Out of Office – A Neat Little Trick to Reduce Work From Home Friction

    Knowing when someone can be bothered when working from home is hard, so I created an automated way to clearly show those lovely housemates of yours that it’s fine to interrupt, or to please wait for a little while.

    I understand the problem. Show me the setup!

    Remember the video of the guy getting interviewed on BBC that had his family come barging in the office while he tried to explain the political climate of Korea?

    Of course you remember it. It’s etched into your brain because it could so easily be you. It could be any of us. In fact, virtual meeting “fails” are all the rage now that more and more people are working from home.

    And since the moment you were forced to start working from home three months ago, you’ve lived with a quiet, or maybe not-so-quiet fear about your kid bursting into the background during your important client call and asking you to do the finish cleanup work on their latest toilet production.

    I have good news for you and the good news is that 1) there’s no need to sweat the uninvited home office guest anymore because it does happen to everyone, and 2) if you have children or roommates or significant others who aren’t complete monsters and who have some respect for social norms, I have a pretty cool way to prevent the accidental Zoom bombing.

    There’s a space between the unintended drop-in and business as usual

    I’m lucky because I have a dedicated workspace in my home that’s away from the foot traffic of day-to-day life. I’ve also worked from, or in an office with fewer than 5 people, for close to a decade now. Point is I can be easily forgotten by the rest of my family when I’m “at work”.

    That was until the pandemic hit and every one of my kids were at home every hour and minute and second of every day. Did I mention they never leave home ever?

    Because of our new-found always-togetherness, I felt more of an impulse or a need to be more present for my family. Also, the number of times that Jackie or the boys had a question or needed help with something had a bit of an uptick.

    The thing is though, we had already established that “dad’s working”, so they didn’t want to interrupt. And because they didn’t want to interrupt I’d always get these faint taps on the door or a set of eyes peering in just a crack. Both of which are creepy as hell.

    We needed a signal! We needed some kind of way for me to indicate that I’m interrupt-able or bother-able, or that I’m neither.

    I got to work and with a smart bulb and some basic automation, created a mostly full-proof and automated way to show “I’m in a meeting” or “Please, come in!”

    I’m going to show you how you can setup the same thing at home too.

    Building An Automated Do Not Disturb system

    My beautiful in-ceiling Hue light

    Stuff You’ll Need

    Getting Started with Automated Do Not Disturb

    I ended up choosing the Hue family of products because they seemed to have the most integrations with other systems, with the smallest amount of fuss.

    I’m the first to admit they’re a little on the pricey side, which is why I went with the bulbs instead of one of their super fancy sconces or decorative light fixtures. Those things get stupid expensive, and simply weren’t worth it for what I was making.

    What I set out to build is essentially an automated on/off switch that turned the Hue light on when a meeting was about to start, and turned it back off once the meeting was over.

    I’ve been using this setup for a few months now and I’m super happy with how reliable it’s been, although it does have one point of failure that I’ll get into more later.

    Step 1: Pick Your Light Location

    I spent more time than I’d like to admit figuring out where the best place to put my smart bulb would be. We have recessed (can) lighting outside of my office, so I ended up taking out one of our standard ceiling bulbs and replacing it with the smart bulb.

    Putting the bulb in an existing socket kept me from needing to do any kind of home remodeling or fixture hanging, and honestly, it’s the most conspicuous place I could put it. It’s almost impossible to miss if you come by my office.

    Find the place where your smart light is going to be noticed by as many housemates as possible, and screw it in.

    Step 2: Set Up Your Home Bridge and Connect Your Smart Bulb

    I’m not going to get into the specifics of setting up the Hue system, but I mention it here because it’s a necessary step.

    Follow along with their setup documentation and instructions within the Hue apps and you’ll be up and running quickly. It took me about 20 minutes to set everything up.

    NOTE: The Hue Bridge does need to be plugged in with an ethernet cable to work, so if your home router doesn’t have physical ports, you might need to add a small network switch so the Hub can be plugged in. It doesn’t work wirelessly.

    Note 2: You’ll need to create an account on meethue.com for the automation piece. It’s also needed to control any of your smart home devices from a remote location, so a bit of a no-brainer.

    Step 3: Connect Hue and Google Calendar to Zapier

    The next thing you’ll need to do is create “Triggers” in Zapier between Hue and Google Calendar. Since you’ll probably be adding these apps for the first time, you’ll need to go through a short authorization process to grant access to Zapier so it can see your data in Hue and Calendar.

    You’ll create one trigger to turn the light on when your calendar event starts, and another one to turn it off when the event is over. Simple enough, right?

    Create a Google Calendar Start Event Trigger

    Choose the Calendar You Want to Use
    I have my work calendar setup for this one

    Customize the Event
    After some trial and error, I set the start time at 15 minutes before my my event starts. What I found is that the Zapier automations aren’t super precise, so there were occasional times that the light would come on after the event had already started. A 15 minute buffer mostly resolves that issue.

    Create a Set Scene Zapier Trigger
    Now that you’ve connected Google Calendar and setup that piece of it, you’ll want to create the automation that actually turns the light on.

    You want the “Set Scene” event from Philips

    Choose the account you created when setting up your Home Bridge

    Customize the Scene
    I’ve chosen “Savanna Sunset” because it was easily the most grabbing of all the pre-configured scenes. If you get really nerdy you can create your own custom scenes and really fine tune that color palette. I’m lazy, so I haven’t done that yet.

    NOTE: There’s some very important, yet understated text in that last screenshot, which is the point of failure I mentioned earlier in this article”


    Trust me, I know.

    In order to save you some setup time you can use the Zaps I created and just put in your own account information.

    And that’s it! You’re ready to go. Now whenever your Google Calendar events start and stop, a giant glowing red (or green or blue or yellow) orb will illuminate and signal to your family and loved ones that you’re either in a meeting, or created a fake event to give yourself an extra 30 minutes alone to scream into a pillow.

    Whatever you need it for, this automation will be there to help.

    P.S. I found an iOS App that solves a similar problem. It isn’t automated, but it lets people share whether or not they can be disturbed with the people they live with. It’s called Oh Bother and looks pretty cool. Check it out.

    P.P.S. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and feedback about my last post. I know it was a little bit heavy, but I felt like it needed to be. It created more private conversations than probably anything I’ve written before. I’m glad we can all learn together!

    P.P.P.S (or is it P.P.S.S.?) If you run into any issues with your Do Not Disturb setup, feel free to give me a shout and I’ll do my best to help out.

  • My Fellow Amer-Karens

    My Fellow Amer-Karens

    Thirty years ago I was hurling rocks with the zeal of a young Ken Griffey Jr. over the edge of a ravine. I’d pick up a rock, a flat one if I could find it, curl my index finger over the top of it, and then fling it as hard as I could into the abyss. I couldn’t see where the rocks landed. I just hurled and then listened. Over and over again.

    When you’re eight years old that’s fun for a while, but eventually the rhythmic reverb from the bottom of the ravine gets boring. Everything started to look and sound the same – the rock would sky toward the clouds disappearing over the horizon and then we’d hear a distant thud.

    We needed a new fix.

    My cousin was my partner-in-crime at the time. He was older than I was by a few years, smarter and wiser too. He had more time in the streets than I did and was a mature eleven year old. He easily presented as twelve in most crowds.

    So from where we stood, we knew that if we turned all the way around and faced the opposite direction, we’d be hurling stones toward the cabin. That wasn’t a good idea. If we chucked them down the road to our left, we might hit cars as they came around the bend. Foiled again. It didn’t occur to us to simply not throw rocks around people and property. So we turned up the hill to the right and started chucking the rocks again.

    We weren’t exactly sure what was over there, but we figured it’d probably make a new sound that we hadn’t heard before.

    We were right.

    The new sound was breaking glass.

    I’m not sure whose rock blew out the rear window of my Grandma’s Dodge 600 sedan that day. I’m really not. In my memory of the event we both released our tiny pieces of earth at the exact same moment.

    One fell gracefully to the ground, and the other created a hell of a mess – not just from the glass – our lives were in imminent danger too.

    And as quickly as oh shit passed through my brain, my Grandma and a few Aunts were out the screen door in pursuit that only a Bounty Hunter can truly appreciate.

    There wasn’t an opportunity for an escape plan. No one else was outside. The Golden Girls knew we were guilty. And even my barely-developed brain had enough logical connections to understand that running into the wilderness and being on the lam with no rations for the rest of my childhood, as tempting as it seemed in the moment, wasn’t going to work out.

    So I did the only thing I knew how to do.

    I lied through my teeth.

    I wasn’t going to snitch and try and rat out my older cousin. I knew the rules. But that didn’t stop me from trying to create an elaborate stream of bullshit consisting of something about the quickly changing evening temperatures and “maybe a colony of bats didn’t see the glass and flew into the rear window?! Seriously! Maybe?”

    Fun aside: “colony” is how you refer to a group of bats.

    But apparently my cousin didn’t live by the same set of rules because the second we were put on the spot he started to squeal.

    The tire tracks from the bus he threw me under are still present 30 years later.

    “I was an innocent bystander!” he said.

    I had no idea what the word bystander meant but had enough contextual clues to understand I was in deep shit.

    But before I could open my mouth to plead my case (I had seen several episodes of Matlock by now and knew the court was required to hear my side), my cousin was on the receiving end of a what I’d like to call a learning hurricane.

    A learning hurricane is an opportunity to pick up a life lesson in a way that you probably wouldn’t choose, but could serve you for a lifetime assuming you lived to see the other side. It was ugly, and I can still feel some of the wind burns on my face to this day, but on that cool fall day I learned what it means to be complicit.

    I don’t remember exactly what was said by Grandma Dart. But in the same way you’d never forget watching the roof get ripped off your neighbor’s house, I’ll never forget how clearly it was communicated that being complicit is no different than throwing the rock from one’s own hand.

    We can’t be complicit any longer

    I haven’t seen the video of George Floyd’s murder all the way through. 30 seconds was enough for my heart to break in two. I knew how it ended before I pushed play, and let me tell ya, worst. trailer. ever. A man took the life from George Floyd, and three other individuals who should have held their brother in blue accountable, looked the other way.

    They were complicit. Four men had their knees on George’s neck that day.

    And as I’ve watched and listened and felt the pain over the past several days, with riots and violence and rage and people truly doing anything they can to get attention and to be heard, I’ve felt an urge to amplify, to serve, to lift, and be a more meaningful contributor in some way.

    I don’t want this to be an isolated moment in time where I feel extra bad for a week from the pain I see, and then go back to life as usual, detached from the world around me when the spotlight inevitably fades away.

    And I want the place where my children grow up to be more tolerable and loving than the chaos we live in today.

    Hi, I’m Karen

    Karen (n): champions the HOA bylaw about shrubbery length and then enforces it while visiting neighbors to collect PTA dues.

    So as I sit with the sense of wanting to do more, and not allowing George Floyd’s death or the Black Lives Matter protests to become a flash-in-the-pan moment, I ask myself, what can I possibly due to make a difference?

    And in that moment of introspection, a YouTube clip of my life starts to play on loop. I’m the star of the clip, but I’m also the viewer. I’m standing outside of it and watching the replay in a very A Christmas Carol way.

    The man in the video looks down at his phone and sees a headline: Black Man murdered by local police during routine traffic stop. The man in the video clutches his pearls, briefly acknowledges how awful it is, and how “he can’t believe anyone would do such a thing! Especially a cop who should be a trusted community servant!”. And in the next breath he sets his Whole Foods groceries on the kitchen island, and quietly listens to a mix of smooth Jazz and NPR while tending his risotto with a glass of cab.

    And as I watch the video of my life scrub forward, I’m yelling at the jerk in the video. AREN’T YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING ELSE? ANYTHING ELSE?!

    In that moment I sit with the uneasiness that I’m Karen. Or at least I share a lot of common DNA with Karen. I’m white, of course. That’s how I was born. But I also live in the suburbs with a nice home and 2.5 children, a minivan, and a dog. I’m a living breathing American Dream in most ways.

    And as much as I want to say “No, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not racist. I love everyone. Truly.” I resist the defensive urge and acknowledge where I’m at in life. I recognize that in order to truly start looking for opportunities in the world to help, I have to be keenly aware of the privileges and blessings of my own life. That’s the true first step.

    To ignore my privilege would be complicit. I’d be a bystander, and not an innocent one.

    So today I’m starting with the acknowledgement that Karen and I are more alike than I’d like to admit. It makes me uncomfortable, but I can handle the discomfort if that’s my “price to pay”. I’ll deal.

    Here are some great places to start as you recognize, and then push out your inner Karen:

    Black Lives Matter.

  • How to Keep News from Monopolizing Your Life

    How to Keep News from Monopolizing Your Life

    I haven’t read the news regularly in a year or so and I never watch the news on TV.

    At a time when I was really struggling with distraction and anxiety I found that the constant feed of noise and depressing garbage didn’t help. Weird, right?

    So one day I deleted all of my news apps from my phone and turned off all my email news alerts as an experiment, just to see how hard it would be to live without the news in my life.

    How long would it take before I became an uninformed leech on society?

    Would I even be able to survive not knowing if Donald Trump said something awful in the past 24 hours? (Turns out he did and I didn’t need a news alert to inform me).

    Would the New York Times continue to exist without my annual $96 contribution?

    So yeah, I turned it all off and canceled some subscriptions, and I figured like with most things, I’d be back again before long. Or I’d slowly let the news trickle back in, but this time I’d be more organized or disciplined about my consumption.

    I was wrong on both accounts.

    I never turned any of it back on again.

    And I don’t miss it at all.

    I went from chasing a dragon to slaying that same dragon in an afternoon, and the interesting thing is that it bothered me how easy it was to quit, which is a totally normal thing to be bothered by. Right? Why couldn’t I just be happy about the fact that news no longer dominated my life?

    How to Stay Informed Without Being Owned By the News Rat Race

    I couldn’t figure out how I was suddenly ok without the constant stream of dopamine and adrenaline into my brain. Shouldn’t I have been missing the news more than I was?

    I also couldn’t figure out why it didn’t bother me more that I was becoming an uninformed slug. Where was my sense of civic responsibility?

    But after several months of self-observation I started to realize that I wasn’t uninformed at all. In fact, short of living in a shanty in the Yukon Territories in a polar bear commune there’s literally no way to “hide” from the news in 2019. Hell, even in remote Canada Verizon can probably “hear you now”.

    Important stories and updates will always bubble up in one way or another. A friend will send a text, news will crop up in a social feed, or someone will mention the latest happenings in a casual conversation.

    Things that matter will eventually get our attention. They just will. And they will without us seeking them out in any way. Or that’s been my experience anyway.

    Here are a couple hot tips I’ve employed that add to my news consumption experience, as limited as it may be. These measures help me to be aware of the world around me without allowing the news to consume my life.

    1. I don’t engage (or even follow) news social accounts – The only official news channel I follow on Twitter (as far as I know) is @ap_oddities because it shares headline gems like “Police in Sweden say a wanted man was found asleep in a bed in a furniture store.” I find that I prefer to get the news from individuals that I either know personally or have followed for a long time and with who I’ve built some level of trust. Most official news accounts have a slant of some kind, and the news is simply more interesting when it’s presented by “real people” anyway. I get a better feel for the real human impact when stories are shared by people instead of “outlets”.
    2. I do follow Beautiful NewsBeautiful News is a new website that I love so much. It acknowledges that so much of the news today sucks, and it shares one amazing beautiful news fact each day. Did you know that U.S. Cancer Survival Rates are Rising? Well I just learned about it from @beautiful_news! It’s a young website but I love everything they’ve done so far. It’s great that they’re making a concerted effort to share nice things, and the visuals are so well done. I’d go as far as to say they’re beautiful.
    3. I spend an hour browsing AllSides once per weekAllSides presents all the biggest news stories with a brief synopsis and then links to more in-depth related articles from the Left, Right, and Center. By reading the news this way I don’t end up in too much of an echo chamber when it comes to the type of information that I’m consuming. And to be clear, I don’t subscribe to the site in any way. I simply visit the website once a week when I have some downtime.
    4. I read my local newspaper – I read the Daily Herald because I like to know about the new FroYo place that’s coming to town. It’s also fun to read stories about the obscure county employee who got caught stealing petty cash. You know, the hard-hitting journalism. Jokes aside the local news is important to me because it feels like a place where I could effect some type of change in this vast world, so I like to stay up on what’s happening close to me.

    Could you dial back your news consumption?

    Hey, I never want this blog to be overly prescriptive because I’m an actual mess who is still working out so many things, but that won’t stop me from posing the question. How would your life look differently if you consumed less news or consumed it differently? Have you changed your news habits in the past? What’s worked (or is working) for you? What do you struggle with when it comes to the news? Hit up the comments!

  • Give the Gift of 11 Herbs and Spices This Year

    Give the Gift of 11 Herbs and Spices This Year

    Fun fact: the First Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened in Utah in 1952.

    Not-so-fun fact: Colonel Sanders’ first name is apparently Harland which is the 2nd most Southern name.

    The first most Southern name is Bocephus.

    The most Southern name hierarchy as we know it is officially:

    1. Bocephus
    2. Harland
    3. Hank

    The most popular name for girls living East of the Mason-Dixon in 2019 is Dolly but it’s not even in the top 10 most Southern names.

    None of this is important.

    What is important is that Harland, excuse me, the Colonel, has created something for the holiday season that’s sure to bring the spirit of giving into your home assuming you have two things:

    1. A fire place
    2. A hankerin’ for some franchise chicken aromas
    Animation of the KFC Fire Log in front of a fireplace

    The KFC Firelog available exclusively at Wal-Mart (which seems like a gag but is 1000% true) promises to bring the savory scents of those 11 herbs and spices directly to your face holes. Light up that log and you’re instantly transported to flavor town.

    And I know that some of you are asking, how is this real? Is this real?

    It’s real.

    And honestly, it’s brilliant. No one knows their target market better than the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation.

    I’ve done some independent market research that shows that the KFC Firelog is the perfect gift for literally every single person in your life that owns a fireplace.

    Exhibit A:

    Venn diagram with a circle inside of another circle

    I was somewhat surprised myself, but it turns out every single person who owns a fireplace loves them some world-famous fried chicken smells too. There are zero exceptions.

    At $18.99 for up to 3 hours of burn time, you’re probably gonna want to gift a six-pack to the people you care about most. I frankly can’t believe that these are only sold individually. Definitely a miss from the KFC team.

    And KFC, if you’re looking for more ways to introduce chicken fumes into the atmosphere, let me pitch you a few quick ideas:

    • KFC Air Freshener – Two spritzes in every room and your dog will never run away again.
    • KFC Scented Candles – Please be careful with this one. You could decimate the entire candle industry with one creation. Some obvious monopolistic risks here.
    • KFC Fabric Refresher – Tired of your clothes smelling like summer rain? Bring a new SEASONing to your wardrobe.
    • KFC Perfume and/or Cologne – does poultry excite your partner? Buy Eau de Kentuck.

    What are you waiting for? The holiday season is upon us and the time to order is now. Give the perfect gift to the cousin who went muddin’ that one time and blew a head gasket so ended up huntin’ squirrel to kill the time until Pa could show up with his wench but then accidentally shot an armadilla which everyone knows is bad luck which hell we didn’t need anymore of that on account we were already buried in mud n’ shit but then not too much later Ma showed up with a bucket of the Colonel’s goodie goods and ya know it all ended up alright.

    Author note: I wrote this at 3 am because my kids either hate sleep or hate me, or both.

  • The Local Citrus Scandal

    The Local Citrus Scandal

    I have a vice. Well, I have several but we’re going to focus on one today.

    I love soda.

    And right now in Utah there’s a fancy soda craze sweeping the region.

    These little soda shops are cropping up like black mold in a Louisiana swamp and the idea is that you take perfectly good soda, add a bunch of random trash to it, and then pay $4 for roughly 38 cents worth of product. AND YOU SMILE while doing it. It’s a complete racket and I personally refuse to participate but there’s one part of it that makes a lot of sense to me.

    The citrus squeeze.

    Whether you’re drinking water, soda, an iced tea, or literally any other beverage that’s intended to refresh, a little squeeze of lemon and/or lime can really brighten it up and bring everything together.

    I don’t want to get too political here but it’s important you know I’m a citrus squeeze advocate.

    Well, this fancy soda craze has trickled down into the everyman gas station here. The convenience store where I’m most frequently a patron has added a full soda syrup bar and sliced lemons and limes so that one can self-serve this flavor-punch accouterment. And for the most part, it’s a very nice addition.

    I see them clean the syrup pumps on a very regular schedule and at least weekly the entire syrup rack is removed for a deeper clean. Whoever is running sanitation over there should be applauded. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t run a black light through there, but by gas station standards they’re setting a high bar and I appreciate it.

    But there’s a dark side too. I have photographic proof that Big Citrus has been price-fixing the lemons and limes in a way that Bernie Madoff would find appalling.

    First of all, yes, the syrups are all complimentary. I’m glad you asked. It’s an important piece to the puzzle. I’m not sure what kind of socialist regime is at the heart of this operation but as someone who never partakes of the syrups, I still endorse the practice because I’ve seen the joy it puts on the faces of so many other people, including the roommate that I share a bed with.

    Second of all, no, the citrus is not complimentary. There’s an upcharge of 5 cents per slice which is the completely wrong way to price the citrus (we’ll get into that more in a moment). The only explanation I can come up with for why the fruit wedge is an additional fee is that Big Citrus is running an independent operation outside of the rest of the convenience store. Because if the gas station is giving away complimentary syrups, why, pray tell, would they be charging for lemons and limes?

    I understand that Utah is a food desert and we don’t have any local citrus. I understand that stocking it must have some associated cost, perhaps even a high one. So let’s assume for just a moment that charging more for for this little squeeze of sunshine is a fair practice. It’s in direct contradiction with the economic model of the syrup bar, but we’ll soldier forward.

    Even if I’m able to forgive the fruit fee, and I’m still not sure I am (in my heart, where it counts), the only possible explanation of the “per slice” pricing model is corruption.

    The pricing model is disgusting and I wouldn’t be surprised for a second to learn that it has organized crime ties.

    I present you with exhibit A:

    Varying lime wedge lengths from presumably the same lime.

    We don’t even need to get out calipers to show how wildly inconsistent the sizing is here. It’s like if Coach charging the same price for a Snakeskin Harmony Hobo and a Pop-Up Messenger Crossbody! CAN YOU IMAGINE??? (I had to google expensive purse companies and browse their catalogs to complete this paragraph).

    Even more, there have been many mornings when I’ve squeezed (squoze? squozen? squeezeth?) the limes and instead of their delicious and refreshing juices flowing into my cup, it’s been dust, moth balls, and sadness. If you remember that scene in Christmas Vacation when Kathleen cuts into the turkey you know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Charging the same fee for such a wildly variable product is, in fact, criminal. And it can’t stand any longer. The good news is, I know how to fix it.

    A scale is the answer here. I’d be totally comfortable weighing each wedge prior to adding it to my beverage and paying accordingly. Of course, all of the citrus would be handled with tongs and a small wax insert would be replaced on the scale between each citrus-weighing. And yes, the weight of the wax paper would be factored in and removed at the time of pricing. We live in a society, mostly. We would keep the prices consistent and fair with current market rates. Even further, all lemon and lime rinds would be removed by the staff prior to weighing, so that skin thickness isn’t unfairly skewing the juice to price ratios. Yes, labor costs for rind removal may increase the total fee slightly, but allowing guests to skin their own citrus could easily result in tampering, and that won’t stand.

    Have you seen similar little injustices where you live? Does my solution have any weaknesses? Where do you stand on the soda shop craze? I’d love to hear from you!

    Editor Note: This publication shares this solution freely and without licensing fees. All service stations are welcome to use this perfect plan without payment. We do ask for attribution in the form of placement of a small statue (84-96”) of Ryan at each store location. You’re free to use whatever materials you’d like to construct the statue after receiving written approval from the publication.

  • The Little Curiosities

    The Little Curiosities

    It took me 38 years to recognize all the little things that I realize.

    Put another way, it wasn’t until very recently that I realized how differently I see the world than almost everyone else.

    Like the time I could see the slow-motion internal dilemma of a fellow middle-aged man reaching for a copy of The Avengers and wondering if he could pull it off as a Mother’s Day gift.

    Or the time I was pitched a live stream trucking startup by a stranger and thought it sounded like a pretty great idea.

    Or the time I noticed the bakery by my house only made 4 crullers every morning when they should have been making way more.

    You get the idea.

    Most of the people I know in real life who read this blog will tell me how “funny” it is when they read it. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely dramatize and go out of my way to make folks laugh when the mood strikes. It’s a service I like to provide for one low monthly fee.

    Narrator: Ryan is under the impression he’s been charging $187 per month to read his blog for years and is still bewildered that he’s unable to account for the funds.

    But for me, that “funny” is the gift and/or curse that I live with every single day. It’s the noticing that’s truly different about who I am and the way I operate, not so much the ability to make jokes and tell funny stories from nothing.

    Life in High Definition

    Do you remember the time your family got a new flat screen TV that had high definition? Before makeup artists knew how to make adjustments for an HD camera?

    It was an incredible feat of technology and horrifying all at once. Like, the person talking to us through the panel on the wall looked like they could step through the frame at any time and join us in our living room. But there was also this harsh realization of wondering if the stunning and unblemished Matt Lauer had always looked like Skeletor with a receding hairline. And if he had, and this new technology brought it to the forefront, what would mere mortals like us look like on HDTV?!

    That’s the closest comparison I can make to what it’s like to live inside my brain and see the world through my eyes. I see the peculiar in the mundane.

    I was trying to explain this whole idea to a friend recently and told them about how I saw someone returning a fruitcake at a Costco and asked them how bad a fruitcake would have to be to wait in a line on a Saturday to return it.

    Their answer: “Huh, I’m not sure. That hadn’t ever occurred to me.”

    Well, dear reader, “It hadn’t occurred to me” has literally never occurred to me.


    I see everything in the sharpest and most vivid detail and apparently through a very special lens that was crafted for a small few. And I want to find more people who see the world like I do. Or at the very least who can appreciate the weird in the same way that I do.

    There’s a darker side to seeing the world this way that I’ll talk about some more another day, but today we’re all good vibes.

    Information Overload

    In the same way that it takes a lot of very large hard drives to store high-definition video, storing the constant stream of memes, news articles, and everyday life that’s flowing into my brain takes a lot of mental energy, and frankly, I don’t have many places to off board the stuff that I don’t need anymore. I have Twitter, my journal, and I have this blog. And a small number of friends who get my bizarre texts.

    I’d like to publicly apologize to them here.

    But everything else remains neatly tucked away under the luscious mane atop my slightly misshapen head (my great hair is one of the last things I’ve got so I’m gonna celebrate it, ok?). And my brain just works on this information, not ever knowing exactly what to do with it. It just processes endlessly until I work myself into a tizzy or write 10,000 words on how Robin Williams is the most special actor of a generation and then never publish it.

    Because of this bottleneck, I have an idea that I’m going to try that goes against common convention. Every blogging expert will tell you he right thing to do to “skyrocket your traffic” or “hack your search rankings” is to create a “niche” blog. Write about something incredibly specific in every possible way.

    • The ultimate guide to unlocking hotel thermostats
    • Are hotel thermostats really spy cameras for government agencies?
    • How to discipline your hotel thermostat when it’s stopped listening to you
    • Do you have enough hotel thermostats for retirement?

    Excuse me while I add Content Strategist and SEO Expert to my LinkedIn Profile. adjusts monocle

    The Little Curiosities

    Now as compelling as my hotel thermostat blog sounds (there’s a whole section called “hot takes”, get it?), I’ll be honest, it bores me.

    I’m a dynamic person with dynamic interests that range anywhere from 80s Pop Music to “After centuries of trading eggs and lumber I wonder who figured out they could just polish a rock really well, call it currency, and then have unlimited funds at their disposal overnight. And what’s the 2019 version of that look like?” (Short answer is that it’s Bitcoin but I’m stealing future topics from myself so I’ll stop here).

    You know, normal stuff.

    All this to say I’m shedding the pressure of writing about family, or comedy, or productivity, or tech, or cooking, or WordPress, or literally any other specific topic. I’ll probably write about all of those things in one way or another, but hopefully with a unique spin or at least in a way that highlights the high-definition life view that I carry.

    On a much more frequent basis I’ll be publishing here on what I’m calling Little Curiosities. Weird questions I ask myself, bizarre things I see, little things that make my life better, or creations that impress me that might fall outside the mainstream. They also might be very mainstream, but I’ll find a way to put a unique twist on them.

    And sometimes I’ll just let my brain run rampant and burn through compute cycles because I literally need it to keep this mind of mine healthy as I zoom toward 40.

    And as I put out more things like this, I do hope that a little community of weirdos grows here. I’d love to have a healthy comment section full of unique takes and points of view, and more importantly the people attached to those ideas. And I know that sounds very web circa 2008, but I’d love to see it make a roaring comeback in 2020 and beyond. Those were the “good old days” of the internet, and they don’t need to go away.

    Curious that we let the nerdiest guy at a University full of the biggest nerds in the world convince us Facebook was “cool”, right? Right.

    If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll follow along by subscribing to my email newsletter (there’s a box in the sidebar), or subscribing via RSS. You can follow me on Twitter too, but please consult with your physician prior to taking that extreme step.

    Thank you to any of you who read the things I put out into the world. I feel immensely grateful for that. And for the special members paying $187 per month, I’ll be updating my special private latest episode of the Little Curiosities podcast in just a bit.

    Narrator: Ryan has been uploading episodes of himself talking about shoe horns to a stranger’s SoundCloud account for four years now and no one has the heart to tell him.

    Photo by unsplash-logoDaniel Cheung on UnSplash

  • Have you ever been roasted by a 7-year-old​?

    Have you ever been roasted by a 7-year-old​?

    We all know what a Roast is, right?

    They started back in the mid-century 1900s with Dean Martin, I believe, and the idea is that someone brings together a group of people they really like and trust and the collective then proceeds to take personal shots until the guest of honor is either crying because they’re laughing so hard or because the jabs have become so deeply personal that their first step out the door is into a taxi cab on their way to a special hospital with padded rooms called “Woodlawn” or “Aspen Reserve” or something like that.

    Comedy Central’s had their flavor of roasts for quite a while now and they’re not really my speed because anymore it seems like the participants barely know each other and are only there because 1) they’re getting a paycheck and 2) they fill a really nice demographic that can be used for pitching advertisers.

    The CC roasts are also entirely about shock and awe which I find to be a particularly boring flavor of comedy.

    At any rate, as far as I know, no one in the last 60 years has had the intestinal fortitude to bring one of their own children on stage to speak real truth.

    And I know why. It’s because the guests of honor are genuinely terrified of what their children might say. Kids are ruthless and will say all the things that even make the Howard Sterns of the world squirm in their chairs a little bit. Kids have seen the behind-the-scenes that no one else has. And they have zero built-in filters to know when it may or may not be appropriate to share from their memory banks.

    Let me show you a quick example:

    (​Disclaimer​: I’m intentionally not identifying which of my children said these things to protect their privacy. I’ll use the name “Patrickus” as a proxy name)

    Working Out

    In an attempt to take better care of my body I’ve been exercising more. Still not a lot, but it’s enough of a shift that my kids have started to notice the habit. So I’m in our basement sweating away to Jock Jams or whatever and Patrickus enters the room.


    Me: I need … to… gasp I need to exercise buddy.

    Patrickus: Nah, you can stop.

    Me: Haha. I can come watch with you in a little bit but I need to finish this workout first. Just a few more minutes.

    (​Quick aside: Like I needed any extra motivation to quit that workout on the spot. I was dying to watch some Peppa Pig if it meant I didn’t have to do the next set of lunges, but I soldiered on​)


    Me: No really, bud. I’m too fat so I need to exercise more.

    Patrickus: ok

    Now let me paint a picture really quickly. Patrickus once spent an entire month, 30 seconds at a time, trying to convince me that his birthday was in August when it’s actually in February. And you know when they nagging stopped? When I threw him an impromptu “half birthday” because he clearly has a stronger will than I do.

    So for him to concede this quickly with my “I’m too fat” take means that he bought it immediately which is so incredibly hurtful but I also respect the honesty so much.

    Never in my entire life have I been owned by two syllables in the English language, or any language for that matter, the way I was that day. O followed by a K in the most understanding tone.


    And also HILARIOUS.

    So Patrick, err, I mean Patrickus… as of today you are formally uninvited from any future roasts. OK?

    What’s the most honest and honestly brutal thing that a child has ever said to you? Let’s feel the pain together (and celebrate how funny our can be).

  • Welcome to Mooseport

    Welcome to Mooseport

    We were already married when I found out you had been paying 10 cents for every single text that we sent back and forth the entire time we were dating.

    I started to do the mental math and my brain overheated because I knew how many late nights we spent furiously finger-typing until 2 am.

    All along I figured you must have had unlimited texting like I did, but it turns out only the coolest of the cool had such a luxury 😎

    But that’s how we’ve always done everything.

    You see, I never had any reason to assume that you had unlimited texting. A very basic question from me would have saved you full paychecks of digital bits that have since evaporated into the ether.

    But asking that question would have been “awkward”, and even though I’m sure you went into a cold sweat every time the T-Mobile bill arrived, on the surface you were always beyond cool.

    In your mind you were making an investment. In my mind, I probably would have encouraged you to change your plan, or honestly, the text messages would have slowed down a whole lot.

    And deep down I think you knew that. But you didn’t want the texts to stop.

    You knew how hard it was to get inside my brain, and more importantly inside my heart. And so now that you had found your way inside my thick outer shell, you weren’t going to risk letting that door close again, even if it meant picking up more shifts or starting another part-time job.

    Welcome to Mooseport

    Does anyone outside of our closest friends know that Ray Romano and Gene Hackman are who brought us together?

    That the feature film with a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 19 and a critic score of 13 was the catalyst for starting our family?

    And no, I don’t mean that in the literal sense. Jeez, perverts. Why’d you go and ruin a perfectly romantic post about how Jackie and I started dating?

    It’s not like Ray Romano was our Barry White. We wouldn’t put on Everybody Loves Raymond re-runs and listen to the smooth sounds of Ray yelling “MAAAAA WHY’D YA TELL DAD ABOUTIT?!” in order to get in the mood.

    No, that wasn’t it at all. BUT, sometimes a really awful movie is great reason to ignore the movie completely and get lost in each other. The movie is a decoy because there’s no cool way to invite a person to your shared dorm living room to talk about how much you care about them.

    I remember how nervous we both were. The idea of telling each other how much fun it had been to spend time together was terrifying to both of us.

    And for the longest time I gave myself credit for brining us together. Because technically I sent the text and rented the DVD, so that night that set the trajectory for the next fifteen years was all my doing.

    high fives self

    It took me longer than I’d ever like to admit that your efforts are the reason we’re together all these years later.

    I mean, technically, I did send the text and did spend the $4.18 at Hollywood Video, but I never would have had a chance if you weren’t there to begin with.

    You were always there, and not in a stalker-type way. As far as I know you’ve always had a clean criminal record.

    But it was like you knew we’d be together way before it was something I had even considered. Before it was a fleeting thought for me, it was a foregone conclusion for you.

    And if you hadn’t known that fifteen years later we’d still be together, we probably wouldn’t be together. Because I would have told you to save your money and stop texting. And Ray Romano would still be stuck in that demolished Hollywood Video.

    Happy Birthday Jac. Thank you for always seeing what matters most (and for showing me I’m worth the 10 cents per message).