Tag Archives: Technology

Unplugging Slightly

I got a new bike basket and bag (more about that later), which I love, but even though I pre-measured, it turns out that the bag isn’t quite big enough for my work laptop.

I suppose I could have returned the bag and basket and gone with the rear rack and pannier, but I decided to try something different: leaving my laptop at work. After all, we have a perfectly good family laptop, plus I have my iPad mini, which can easily go back and forth.

So far, it hasn’t been any real hardship. I do have to share the family laptop with other people, which means occasionally I have to ask to use it, but that’s OK!

Am I really using my electronics less because of this decision? Maybe not. I’m still in the habit of using my phone and iPad to obsessively check social media and play solitaire. And I hadn’t been using the laptop that much at home anyway.  But it is something different for me!


Living in the Future: Mobile Gift Cards

A while ago, I posted links to my SwagBucks and MyPoints accounts because I was trying to earn enough points to get gift cards to use for our family vacation. I didn’t make my goals in time for that, but I did recently get enough points to order some gift cards to use for school supplies and household items. So I’ll be getting a regular plastic gift card in the mail for Staples, but for Target the only option was an e-gift card.

Now, I’ve gotten e-gift cards for Amazon before, and of course you have to use them online. You can do that with Target as well. But Target also lets you use e-gift cards in-store, via mobile phone!

What you need: a smartphone, the Target app for your smartphone, and the card number and access number for the gift card.

The Target app will ask you to enter the card number and access number to load the card on your phone. When you get to the checkout counter, open the app, go to My Gift Cards, tap the button for that card, and have the cashier scan the bar code. That’s it! Well, I suppose you could have the same problem I did – my phone completely lost its wireless connection somewhere in the store, and I had to get it to reconnect first.

This will work for both e-gift cards (sent to you via email) and for physical cards. Just add the numbers from your physical cards to your phone, and you’ll always have them with you.  You can even send and receive gift cards by phone.

I’ve been using bar codes on my phone for airline tickets, bus tickets, event tickets, and now gift cards. This is hugely convenient, and I look forward to using this method more often.


No, Target didn’t pay me or give me anything for this post. Just a happy customer.

Healthy Habits

So, I’ve been working healthy habits for a while now, and one of the tools I use is Health Month. Health Month is a website where you can track your progress on various goals every day. It’s set up sort of like a game; you earn points, and you can lose life points if you don’t meet your goals each week, and you can assign yourself rewards and consequences for the end of the month.

So, for instance, for September my goals were:

  1. Write for at least 10 minutes 2 times per week.
  2. Walk at least 5 miles per week.
  3. Ride my bike at least 30 miles per week.
  4. Do yoga at least 1 day per week.

And I made a contract with myself that if I survived the month with at least one life point left, I would buy myself a new top. And if I didn’t have at least one life point left, I would donate $5 to charity (it occurs to me that I ought to make the two things more equal).

I didn’t meet all my goals every single time. But the system is flexible, and if you start losing life points you can heal yourself with fruit, or ask other people to heal you with their fruit.

And next month I’m adjusting my goals — I added meditation and weight training, and I cut back my biking and walking goals a bit.

I also started a team, because I have not tried that part of the game yet. It’s a team for Portlanders — if you want to join, it’s at http://healthmonth.com/teams/show/923. You can try Health Month for free, as long as you do three or fewer rules. I did this for a couple of months before I decided to commit a little more — and it’s only $5 for the month to play more than three rules, AND you can easily request a sponsorship if you can’t afford that.

I like Health Month because it helps me with both fitness goals and mental health goals (by the way, I started my new medication, and have been feeling amazing for the most part). And it’s easy to track – just check a few boxes and/or fill in a few numbers every day. If I miss a day or several, it’s easy to go back and fill in the blanks.

And now I’ve got ten minutes of writing to check off for today!

Unplugging Details

About last night: no, I’m not unplugging completely and/or forever. I still plan on using the internet and even playing some games. So you’ll see me here and on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else I decide to be.

But I am going to limit my internet time. So, starting today I’m trying 30 minutes after work and 30 minutes in the evening (plus whatever time I scrounge in the morning and on breaks). I have the timer set RIGHT NOW. And I’m going to do this for a week and see how it goes. I suspect I’ll survive. And I’ll be ADDING all that good stuff like reading, exercise and meditation. I have plenty to read. I’m certain I won’t be bored.


Photo by Quinn Dombrowski from Flickr, used via CC BY-SA 2.0

Unplugging, for my brain’s sake

I think I might finally be figuring out how to deal with this anxiety and depression. It’s been a bad couple of days, in which I’ve wanted to hide under the desk, eat, sleep, etc. Today I was thinking that managing depression is almost a full time job itself. When I took those two weeks off and focused on getting myself better, I did get better, and it lasted for a while. But I can’t just take time off all the time, either.

I do, however, have time to spare. All of the time I spend messing around on the computer or (less frequently now) watching tv.

I can unplug and spend time with the family, read, meditate, exercise, do yoga – all the things that help me to feel better.

It’s not easy. I’ve gotten used to filling that time with games and witty internet banter and making excuses for doing it. But tonight, unplugging sounds good and feels good. I’ve been reading a book (yes, on the phone, but still), and I just came upstairs to bed early. The quiet feels good and is encouraging me to do more with it.

New Web Stuff: Google+ and Empire Avenue

Google+ is all the rage today — it’s a new social networking service launched by Google, currently available by invitation only. Basically, you put all of your Google contacts into circles like Friends, Family, Business, etc., and then you can follow things people choose to share. Sound familiar? Like, Facebook? Yeah. Anyway, people can post directly on Google+, and they can also +1 things they like around the web, which will then appear in your Google+ stream. This is done either with a +1 button (see the bottom of this post for an example) or  by using a +1 browser extension. It’s just like a Facebook Like. Except it’s not Facebook, it’s Google. [OK, coming back to this again, it looks like the +1 things don’t appear in the main Stream, although they do appear on one’s profile. You can post links to the Stream, though, by copying and pasting the URL. Correct me if I’m wrong…]

Google+ seems to work smoothly and do what it’s advertised to do. I just don’t see any compelling reason for people to use it, given that most are already on Facebook. After all, there’s no FARMVILLE on Google+! Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Oh, I did see one cool thing: If you delete a circle, the circle actually ROLLS OFF THE PAGE. Seriously.

If you’d like a Google+ invitation, I just saw a note on Google+ that they are shutting down invites for the night! But you can leave me a comment below, using your Gmail address as the email address, and I’ll send you an invite when they open up again. Don’t worry, no one will be able to see your email address besides me.

Empire Avenue has been around a little longer. I noticed it because a Twitter friend joined up and was auto-tweeting messages about it one day. It’s a social media stock market game/networking website. You can buy and sell stock in other people (or companies with social media accounts). You can try to increase your own share price by being active in social media (it tracks your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube activity) and by getting other people to buy more shares in you. You can also try to increase your net wealth by buying and selling the right stocks. It’s all free; you’re just dealing in virtual money (unless you want to put real money into it).

I’m not really sure what the point is (although there are explanations out there). But I’m having a little fun with it anyway, and it does keep me posting on Facebook and Twitter (and here, I get credit for posting here!).

If you’re interested in joining Empire Avenue, you can use my referral link if you would like to, which awards me 2,000 eaves (virtual currency). And if you’d like to buy shares in me, I’m KMCDADE.

Technology: Learning By Doing

I learn a lot by reading. I’d say it’s my preferred method for learning most things. I don’t like watching information-packed videos; I can read faster and absorb it better. I fall asleep during lectures. My attention wanders when listening to something being read aloud.

But most of what I’ve learned about using technology, I’ve actually learned by doing. Something doesn’t look right on my computer? I open up the settings and start playing around with them.  And I mess up all the time, but that’s part of the learning experience. I learn what doesn’t work along with what does.

Right now, I’m learning about the Postalicious plugin. What’s a plugin? It’s a piece of code that helps WordPress do something specific that you want it to do. It’s one of the great things about WordPress — if there’s something you wish WordPress could do, you can write and/or install a plugin to make it do that.

I don’t write plugins. I just use them. Postalicious is a plugin that takes your bookmarks from other sites (like Delicious) and automatically pulls them into blog posts. I installed it the other day, and made sure I added some bookmarks to be posted, but then nothing happened! I quickly realized I had the Feed URL wrong, and fixed that. And then later I realized that I had never updated my blog to Daylight Savings Time, which meant Postalicious was using the wrong time, too, so I fixed that.

And then the automatic post finally happened! But it was kind of ugly. The title included both the date and from/to times, which I really don’t need. And the format, once I got to see it, clearly leaves space for a description of each link, which I hadn’t bothered to enter, so the entries looked weird.

But never fear, I’ve tweaked that now, too! I edited the Post Title settings to say what I want to say, and tweaked the Post Template while I was at it. And I’ve started adding descriptions when I add links to Delicious, so those should show up in the next post as well.

Many people recommend trying out things like this in a test environment, rather than on a live site. I don’t mind learning in public, though. I think it’s good to share these experiences — and hopefully you can learn from them, too!