Upgrading Technology: Making the Leap

I had several conversations this week about technology in various forms. I found myself bemoaning how slowly “some people” can be to adapt to a chance, and how reluctant they are to commit to doing anything new, even if it is ultimately an improvement.

Funnily enough, I then found myself trying to use unfamiliar websites as I searched for hotels, and I fell into the same trap I’d criticized the general public for falling into.

I’m used to using Hotels.com. I’m familiar with the tool, and it made sense. My sister mentioned how she liked to use Booking.com. I took a look at it for a few minutes, but I moved on, since it was harder to use than Hotels.com. “It’s pretty much the same thing,” I said to myself to excuse the speed with which I dismissed it. But what it really was was different and unfamiliar. I had asked for recommendations on new tools, and then I had dismissed those recommendations when they didn’t like up with my pre-existing experience.

Except as I tried to keep searching, I was still struggling. Hotels.com wasn’t giving me the results I wanted, and so I eventually went back to Booking.com and forced myself to give it another shot. To learn how it works and how to get good results with it. And after I’d put in the proper amount of time, I discovered that yes, it was very useful. The irony was not lost on me.

In a separate conversation, I discussed how websites are constantly changing and evolving. Each time they do, the user base often complains. It’s different. It’s harder to find things anymore. But it’s not really the fact that it’s harder. It’s that it was improved, and sometimes (often) improvement means shaking things up. Taking a new perspective on things. And if you go back and look at how websites used to look in the 90s or early 2000s, (or even 2010), it’s easy to see how far web design has come, and how grateful we should all be.

So that’s my thought for you today. It’s important to keep an open mind to new experiences, especially where technology is involved. Because it all changes fast enough that it’s important we learn from past mistakes and open the door to new capabilities.


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On Passing Arbitrary Benchmarks

In theory, I know that passing a certain line in the sand doesn’t necessarily carry any special meaning. The line could have been anywhere else just as easily. When you have a birthday, you’re just a day older than you were the day before, but passing that mark still seems to mean something. It comes with a sense of accomplishment (or dread, I suppose.)

I’ve been losing weight for a while now. It’s had ups and downs. The heaviest I’ve been was 240, around 15 years ago. (Give or take a few years.) And each time I lose a bit of weight, it’s just another tiny chunk in the grand scheme of things, no more or less important than any other.

All of that said, when I got on the scale this morning and saw the number (179.6), I couldn’t help but do a happy dance inside, because seeing that second digit turn into a 7 for the first time (in . . . 25 years? Something like that) really felt like an accomplishment. Like a sign that what I was doing was working.

Dieting isn’t fun, but the last time I was overweight for any real length of time was April 2016. We’re coming up on two years of being at a “normal” body weight. And this latest round has gotten me almost to where I think I really want to end up. (175)

I know that I’m feeling much better because of the better way I’m treating my body. Regular sleep, better food, regular exercise, cutting down on sugar, and having a daily multivitamin make a huge difference. I know that, because just last month I didn’t exercise as much, and I ate way too much, and I gorged myself on sugar. I didn’t feel good. So I’m glad to have made these changes, and I’m really thankful to the people who help me stick with it.

Anyway. That’s all I’ve got for you today. Just wanted to share.


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Ask the Internet: Best Place to Search for Lodging in Europe

Okay folks. My European plans are progressing. I’ve actually gotten tickets now. Flying in and out of Budapest this time, since we have yet to see that one. It’s through Zurich, but we won’t be doing a stopover, choosing to spend our time seeing Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Krakow, and Košice, instead. (In addition to Slovakia, of course.) It should be a blast.

But it looks like our travel dates are overlapping with European holidays, so a lot of hotel rooms are already booked. As I’ve been doing searches, I wondered what sites other people use to find lodging, particularly in Europe. Here are some of the sites I’m already aware of:

  • Hotels.com is a favorite. They have a wide variety of hotels, their prices are decent, and I like their interface. I also appreciate how well integrated they are with tripadvisor, as I rely on reviews heavily when I’m selecting a place to stay. I need to make sure it will be decent for my family. That said, sometimes they omit places, and I’m not sure how exhaustive their results are. I can’t help wondering if I couldn’t get a better deal somewhere else. (That’s where you all come in.)
  • VRBO is one I’ve used for North American trips, but it seems less robust in Europe. Particularly in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. (Sorry. I just can’t bring myself to call it Czechia.) Also, I sometimes worry about how reliable the places will be. Our stay in Paris was lovely, but it’s an added concern not typically there when I’m just going to check into a chain hotel. (Though the accommodations are so much nicer.)
  • Airbnb is another site, and it seems more popular in the places I’m specifically checking so far. (Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague) Same issues as VRBO, but definitely easy to use and worth looking into.
  • Bookings.com is one that was new to me, and I haven’t really liked it yet. I used it a bit, but the prices seem inflated from what I can find on other sites. I wonder if I’m using it wrong, or if I don’t understand the results properly.
  • Individual hotel sites are also always worth a shot. Marriott sometimes has the best deals directly from their site, for example.

And that’s the extent of what I’ve used. Anyone out there use anything else they’re really fond of? Please share. I’m all about learning new things.



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The 100 Pushup Challenge

Late last year, a friend of mine shared a video with me of what turns out to be a pretty common health fitness kick: The 100 pushup challenge. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Do 100 pushups every day. Not necessarily all at once, but over all, from the time you get up to when you go to bed, complete 100 pushups. He was giving it a shot, and he encouraged me to do the same.

I’ve been doing some strength exercises each day (after I do my 30 minutes of jogging in place, which continues to be my go-to exercise of choice), and I thought I might give this one a whirl. The research I did into it said it was a decent goal for people who can do 15 pushups at a time, and that was the outside range of what I could accomplish, so it seemed like a good fit. (Though they go on to say that for people who can manage 30 pushups at a go, they’ll need to switch things up some to keep it being a challenge, either by increasing the reps or changing the pushup style.)

The biggest hangup for me has been that my left wrist hasn’t been up to the “pushing” motion. I injured it a while ago, and it’s had trouble healing. So instead of doing a regular pushup (where you use open palms on both hands to push against the ground), I’ve switched to doing ones on my fists, basically punching against the ground. I can’t do as many pushups this way, but it doesn’t hurt my wrist, so . . .

I’ve started with 50 pushups each day. It’s all I could really manage for the first week. Now that I have a week under my belt, I’m trying to branch out, doing as many pushups as I can each set, and then doing more after that by switching to knee pushups. I hope I can get to 100 a day with that approach.

So far, I like it. It’s easy for me to do, it lets me keep exercise in mind all day, every day, and I think it will help me get in better shape. Nothing earth shattering, but as usual, big changes can only happen if you overcome inertia and start doing something.

What exercise goals are you setting for yourself this year?


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Trump wasn’t Talking about Countries. He was Talking about People.

I didn’t really want to write another Trump post. There have been so many of them, and when he decided to refer to African countries as “shitholes,” I was anything but surprised. He continues to do and say the same things he’s always done and said. Expressing shock or disappointment at this point seems pretty redundant. And this post isn’t really going to be about Trump, believe it or not.

It’s about the rest of us. It’s about how we respond to Trump, and what that says about us.

Because in the days after his shithole comment, there have been a variety of responses. Outrage and disappointment were expected, but what was not expected were the ones where people tried to continue to defend the man. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by that, but I am. And I have seen two main arguments used to try to excuse his remarks. Both leave much to be desired.

First, Trump and some of the Republicans in the meeting are saying he didn’t actually say “shithole.” Instead, this is what each are claiming:

  • Trump: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
  • Senators Cotton and Perdue: “We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically”
  • Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen: “I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase.”

And in each case, the defender then tries to deflect the conversation back to what’s “really important,” which is immigration and how impassioned Trump is about it, and how we have to blah blah blah. And there are other Republicans who just aren’t saying anything, and some who are ignoring the comment altogether, skipping straight to focusing on what’s “really important.”

I go to a lot of meetings. Day in, day out. Meetings. And if I were ever in a meeting where the person running it used the word “shithole” in the middle of the meeting, I would remember. It would be blazed across my mind, because the people I go to meetings with just don’t use that kind of language in formal settings. So to have even the defenders hemming and hawing about it, spouting out about strong language and exact phrases? Even if I believed them, all it adds up to is Trump used some comment other than shithole. Not only that, but he uses such foul language in meetings on a regular basis that “shithole” doesn’t really make a lasting impression on people. I wonder what would.

So this defense pretty much agrees with the fact that he used terrible language to describe some countries. So much of it that “shithole” as a single adjective kind of blended in with the rest, perhaps.

“Tough” language indeed.

But let’s move on to the second defense. I’ve seen multiple people (some of them friends of mine) try to excuse Trump’s remarks by saying he was just crudely stating what many people believe anyway. To them, “shithole” is shorthand for “economically challenged, corrupt, unstable nation with severe infrastructure problems.” And as I look at that definition, it seems to fit “America” more and more with every passing day.

Except what people try to make this mean is that there are some countries we’d rather visit or live than others. That anyone who’d rather go to Norway on vacation is just as “racist” as Trump. Except that’s not how this works. There’s a huge difference between preference and labeling, especially when you’re the leader of a major geopolitical power.

I have traveled a fair bit in my life. I have seen places where people are living in abject poverty. Where they don’t have enough money to provide heat and food for their families. But even in those dire circumstances, the people I’ve met and talked to have always impressed me. They’ve been outgoing, passionate, and generous. Even in the worst of circumstances, I’ve found places to admire and wonder at. History that amazes me. Adventures all over the globe. And the more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve seen that people are people, no matter where you go. There are great people, and terrible people. Motivated people, and lazy people. I don’t care what country you’re from. Your life is what you make it. Your culture might be different, but that just means we’ll have a bit more trouble understanding where we’re both coming from, not that my culture is better than yours.

But even after we take all of that into account, we’re missing the point. Because Trump wasn’t having a conversation about where he wants to go on vacation this year. He was talking about immigration, and who is coming to our country. We must not forget for one moment that Trump wasn’t just referring to the countries when he said “shithole.” He was asking why we want more people from these shithole countries.

It wasn’t about the countries. It was about the people who live in them.

And that’s where the charges of racism stick and no amount of wiping will clear them away. All of Trump’s defenders have been so focused on that one shithole word that they didn’t realize words themselves are fleeting things. It’s what we use those words to say which is far more important. According to reports, Trump wondered why we couldn’t get more people from “good” countries like Norway, as opposed to all these “shithole” countries like African nations. He wasn’t talking about places he’d like to live, or where he’d love to go on vacation. He was saying people from Norway are better than people from Africa. More desirable to have in our country.

If that’s not racist, I don’t know what is.

And yet people continue to defend the man. People I know. And instead of talking about what we should do about Trump–how we might mitigate the damage he’s doing to our country–we end up discussing the words he uses. He continues to do and say terrible things while we waste time being outraged. And we get tired. And we don’t want to talk about it anymore. I know I don’t. I’m so sick of hearing what he’s up to that I just want the next three years to be over and done with. Except ignoring it doesn’t help. It just lets him have an easier time of it.

So don’t be fooled. Don’t let them switch the conversation, or change the meaning of what he said. Remember that it wasn’t about the word (though the word was bad enough as it was). And it wasn’t about the countries (though that too, would have been awful). It was about the dismissive thoughts he had about the *people* in those countries. When  you can dismiss entire countries of people with such ease, how are you anything but a racist? And you’re one step closer to treating people like commodities, not individuals, something which I think Trump already does. The more we focus on the word and not the meaning, the more we allow ourselves to be inundated with his ideology. We begin to normalize it, and it becomes that much easier for racist groups to thrive in  our nation.

Words have consequences. They lead to actions. We need to keep our leaders accountable not just for what they do, but what they say.


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