Things we do in the dark

My dog and I are meandering down our usual path for his evening rituals when we run across a first for both of us. It isn’t the creepy Halloween scene our neighbor set up more than a month ahead of time across the street. It is the dilapidated house at the end of the dead-end road with a white windowless van; a van that looks prime to be full of candy and posters of missing puppies. We usually end up here to take a look at the overflowing mailbox and the unkempt yard. I often wonder if the owners left and just never came back, but there are always three vehicles in the driveway, albeit only one without flat tires. Sniffing the air for the acridity of death, my thoughts often wander to places I’d rather them not.

But tonight, as we head in that direction, I hear an odd sound that I can’t place since it is 9:30 at night. Does someone have a generator running? Everyone’s lights are on, so that doesn’t seem likely. It sounds like a lawnmower, but that doesn’t make sense. As we get closer, there is a man pushing a mower, wearing jeans, a long sleeve flannel shirt, a covid mask, a ball cap, and sunglasses. I wanted to just stand there watching him mow his lawn by the light of his outdoor floodlight. Fear keeps me moving. I envision him suddenly whipping his head in my direction, catching me in my voyeuristic ways. My mind travels through the different outcomes, while I tug my dog to head back home in hopes that he wouldn’t catch sight of the late-night yard man and start howling his displeasure. As we scamper home down the unlit neighborhood street, at least I could now put my unanswered question to rest.

Best Extension for Google Chrome

Some people are really good at keeping their online documents organized. Some are experts at keeping their email inboxes empty. I’ve even heard that there are people who only have a few tabs open in their browser at a time. So few in fact, that they can even read the titles of the websites on the tabs themselves. That’s just plain crazy. I’m lucky if I can even distinguish one tab from another.

But then I discovered a little gem of an extension called Workona Tab Manager.

School. Church. Tennis. Board games. Tech. Random websites. These are all the different types of tabs that I have open at a given time. A middle school boy’s locker rivals the mess at the top of my browser window. But once you load Workona, you are able to categorize all of your tabs and keep them organized. On the left side of the screen, you’ll notice a section that houses all of your workspaces. This is where you choose which topics you want to organize. Make as many workspaces as you’d like to keep yourself on task and organized.

The workspace that I have selected shows all the tabs I like to have open about tennis. When I close this workspace by clicking the x (red arrow), all the tabs go away. When I click on the tennis workspace on a different day, all the tabs magically show back up. It’s a beautiful sight. No longer do I have a long list of bookmarks that I can’t easily organize. If there is a picture I took or a resource that I want to keep organized, I can upload it to Workona’s resource area (blue arrow). Want a quick place to jot notes? The notes section (orange arrow) allows you to do that. Perhaps you even want to start a to-do list based on tennis… again, it’s doable with the tasks section (green arrow). If you collaborate with other Workona users (I have a few colleagues who also use it), we can have the same tabs/notes/resources available if we choose to share a workspace (yellow arrow). Instead of telling a colleague to search Google Drive for the document from 3 months ago, I can just have it as a shared tab and it will show up for them when they select that workspace.

You can easily move tabs from one workspace to another so that you can keep your tabs organized throughout the day. I find that when I have my MS Work tab open, I am able to stay a bit more focused on the task at hand without losing the info I had pulled up about my next tennis match. I’m also able to find the specific tab I need faster since I’m able to see the label on the tab instead of just the icon.

Another feature I really like is the Find Anything feature at the top of the Workona sidebar. If you hit option-f from any part of your browser, the Workona find feature will appear and it will search all of your recent tabs for whatever word you enter (as well as your Google Drive if you have that connected). It is an amazing way to quickly find what you are looking for.

This is one of the best extensions I use and would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little organization in their life.

Possible fix to Gmail acting slowly in Google Chrome

A few colleagues and I have noticed a delay in the autofill feature of Gmail in the past few days and it is getting more and more annoying by the hour. We also noticed it on our learning management system (which is integrated with Gmail) making most parts of our days take even longer than they’ve been taking recently. The symptom: when we tried to type a name into the to: field, it would type just fine, but as soon as the autofill completed and I hit return, it would take 3-4 seconds for the address to actually be entered. Having to do this for a handful of virtual students during class made this a huge waste of time. Imagine needing to email five students an assignment while keeping the seven students in my right classroom and the seven students in my left classroom on task, while watching precious seconds pass by without being able to do anything productive. Did I mention I stand in a doorway to teach my class?

I did all the regular things I tell all my colleagues to try when the internet is acting weird (you should try these too if you are having issues).

  1. Make sure you limit the number of tabs you have open concurrently.
  2. Check to see if Chrome is up to date and restart the browser.
  3. Restart your computer (I don’t truly know the ins and outs of why this work, but it has solved so many of the unexplainable issues I’ve run into).
  4. Grab a hammer…

Obviously step four is only the last resort, so I thought about what else could be the problem, and then I remembered… extensions. Extensions are so great and help in many ways, but they are created by lots of random developers. And once you get more than one person working on a project, you can run into some issues. So I disabled all of my extensions. Interestingly enough, you can’t disable all the extensions with a single button. Unless of course, you install another extension that can do that for you. So, I installed the aptly named Disable Extensions Temporarily to quickly check if the extensions were indeed the culprit. Refresh Gmail and magically the issue went away. I enabled the extensions again, and boom, the problem was back. So three by three, I disabled each row of extensions to narrow down my search. And I eventually ran into my bad extension… Rakuten. When I disabled it, the issue disappeared. After uninstalling it and restarting my browser, Gmail was back to its usual self. So if Chrome feels slow and bogged down, take a look and see if Rakuten is the issue for you. If not, try to disable all the extensions and then narrow down which one is causing your headache so that you can go back to a hassle-free experience.

Getting unfat. Again. 2021 edition.

2020 was a bad year for innumerable reasons, the least of which led to expansion. My expansion. I got fat. Again. I’m pretty sure this is something I’ll have to pay attention to for the rest of my life. 7 years ago I got up to my biggest at 235 lbs and spent half a year getting it under control and getting down to 175. This time I had snuck up to 218 when I’d had enough.

Lose It! app

The two red flags that usually push me over the edge from “not caring” to “holy crap, how did I end up here?!?!” is when my pants break up with me and when tying my shoes isn’t just one of many steps to get out of the house but instead the main event. Back in December, both occurred.

So on January 3, I weighed in at 218.7 and decided to start getting healthier. I’m a decent tennis player (a high 4.0 rank) and get around the court pretty easily. My days of soccer made quickness one of my boons.  But instead of exchanging “racket-fives” and lackluster congratulations at the end of a match, my opponents would ponder aloud; “how does a guy your size get to those shots?” And while I do appreciate a backhanded compliment as much as the next guy, I picked up what they were putting down.

I’ve had success keeping track of calories, and being a math guy with a love of logic, the idea makes a lot of sense.  If you eat fewer calories than your body needs to run, you will end up losing weight.  So I use a free app called Lose It! that makes tracking the calories I eat and the calories I burn easy (especially in conjunction with my Apple Watch).  I’d like to be at my target weight (175 lbs) by the end of the school year, so if I lose around 2 lbs a week, I should be there in time.  Enter all my vital information to the app, and it recommends eating 1600 calories a day (more if you exercise).  So I’ve been eating small snack bars (often Luna bars or granola bars – 200 calories each) for breakfast, lunch, and snack, and then eat a good size dinner.  I’m usually feeling pretty good by the end of the day.

St. Patrick’s Day temptation

But when you work in a school, there are days that you have to choose to avoid the faculty lounge.  And who knew that St. Patrick’s Day was one of those days.  Three large trays of cupcakes, two large boxes of even better-looking cupcakes, and a box of Krispy Kreme donuts to complete the trifecta of temptation can be tough to resist.  But I did my best Odysseus impression and resisted the call of the sugary sirens.  Sure, I could have eaten one, and it would have been fine, but I prefer to stick to my decision to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle right now. 

Quest for El Dorado

This is one of the new games I’ve picked up recently that I’ve really enjoyed.  It is a great 2 player game with a decent amount of strategy built into a deck builder game and a race mechanic.  With 3 or 4 players you lose a bit of strategy, but it is still fun.  

I just found a pdf with 40 custom maps that look like they could be fun.  You can find the original link from BoardGameGeek, but I also stored it in my GDrive in case it ever goes missing.  Looking forward to trying it soon…  I particularly like the dual paths in a few of them!

Rainbow is her favorite color

If you know anything about my girl, she loves unicorns, slime, and rainbows.  She has declared rainbow her favorite color  .  Her brother, being the loving brother that he is, got her a rainbow craft for Christmas.  He was determined to get her a box of crayons and a canvas so that they could make a piece of art together.  We all finished it together last night and it came out great!  Good job, Paco! 

It was really fun to see how excited both the kids were to find gifts for others and how much joy it brought them to give those presents to others.  I felt like this was truly the first year they both got the importance of thinking of others not always being interested in receiving, but instead giving!

Gaming Profile

As you probably know, I enjoy board games.  I own an unhealthy amount of games (more than I can play), but whenever someone wants to play a board game, I’m interested.  So when I came across this survey, my brain’s synapses fired.   Board games plus data?  Yes, please.  I didn’t necessarily find out a lot about myself that I didn’t know, but it was interesting to see it graphed.

My Gaming Profile

My game profile told me that I like low conflict, grounded, and independent games.  I didn’t think I prefer as much social manipulation as the chart showed, but I’m usually a non-confrontational sort of person so the low conflict made sense to me.  The really interesting thing was after answering the questionnaire and then entering the last 3 games I enjoyed playing, it recommended 10 games for me to play.  Out of the 10 chosen, I own 6 (and enjoy them), my brother owns 1 (and it is one of my favorites), I’ve played and enjoyed another one but don’t normally have enough people to play with, and the last 2 I’ve been interested in getting.   Not bad, game recommendation machine!  🙂

Clear Glue? Easy!

bottle of glue with glue dot

When I was a kid, I used to put a drop of Elmer’s glue on my desk and let it slowly spread into a perfect circle to dry.  The translucent rubbery circle was fun to pull and stretch until it wore out, which didn’t take too long.  I’d then put out a bunch more drops, some bigger, some smaller, guessing how long the different sizes would take before they’d be ready for play.

Nowadays, Translucent Glue Dots aren’t the rage they used to be.   We now live in the Slime Era.  Rainbow slime.  Water slime.  Butter slime.  Sparkle slime.  There are more kinds of slimes then colors of crayons.  The key to slime is good ‘ole Elmer’s glue.  Now if you want to make clear slime, you can’t use regular Elmer’s glue.  You have to get clear Elmer’s glue.  Hold on, what?!?!  I had no idea there was such a thing as clear Elmer’s glue!

Since my wife is such a good mom, she happened to buy a gallon of the clear stuff for Bug for Christmas.  To keep Bug from randomly finding it in the house, she kept it in the trunk of our brand new car.   And being the good aunt that she is, she also happened to find a balance bike for her niece and nephew who are learning to ride.  This too was stored in the trunk as we are planning on seeing them soon.  Let’s just skip ahead to the inevitable phone call.

Me: Hello?

Wife: Hi.  So… I bought Bug some glue.  And I bought a balance bike.  And I kept them both in the trunk.  Long story short, I was driving around and when I went to put groceries in the trunk, the glue had somehow popped open and it is all over the trunk.  Good news, it is the clear kind.  Bad news, over half of it poured out.

Me: Wow.

Wife: Any ideas of how to get it out of the trunk?

Me: Nope.

Wife: Alright.  Well, I’m going to be working on that until you get home.

Me: Okay, see you soon!

We spent a lot of time getting the glue out of the trunk that afternoon/night, but by the end it looked brand new.  Just in case you ever run into the same situation yourself, the secret is to scrape up the glue using a credit card and then to wash the trunk out with soapy water.  If you were curious, scraping 3/4 of a gallon of glue, one credit card at a time, takes a while…