Sinus surgery

At 2pm last Monday I was knocked out. It was done gently with an anaesthetic but once that wore off it certainly felt like someone very large has smacked me hard on the nose.

For a long time I’ve suffered from almost continuous head colds, one would resolve only to be promptly replaced by another. Eventually a referral to the otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) department at Dunedin hospital resulted in a CT scan and decision to give me a nose job and clear out my sinus cavities to get the air circulating around inside my head more freely.

According to the surgeon the procedure went well and overall I think the recovery has been OK. For the first four days afterwards I really did feel like I’d been hit very hard on the nose. That has now subsided and mostly I’d describe what remains as blood and bogies. The sinus cavities were packed with dissolvable packing which obviously has to come back out eventually. I’m still quite blocked up, just like a really bad cold or sinus infection!

Time will tell how effective all this is at easing my head cold problem, hopefully it turns out to be worth the discomfort.

Deleting Facebook

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and deleted my Facebook account. I’ve been working towards this for the last few months by transferring stuff I want to keep over here to my blog. I had downloaded a copy of my Facebook content but it was easier to work directly from my timeline on the site than fishing through a bunch of files and folders to find things. I was only part way through the process but read one too many articles reporting how unethical Facebook is to put up with them any longer.

Over the last couple of years anything I’ve gained from using Facebook has been increasingly outweighed by the negatives of giving my information to a business who are primarily wanting to sell that information on to advertisers, marketers and whoever else is prepared to pay for it. As a company, Facebook shows little or no regard for the real people who use their platform, preferring to put profits and influence first.

Over the course of 2017 I kept noticing articles and news reports pointing to a cavalier attitude from Mark Zuckerberg and a persistent refusal to accept responsibility for the mass manipulation of people and compromise of their privacy. Then the Cambridge Analytica fiasco emerged bringing serious calls to re-evaluate our use of Facebook and what could potentially develop into a mass move away from the platform.

Most people are unlikely to be able to bring themselves to follow through and abandon Facebook. The early abandoners are likely to already have other channels of social networking and be driven by strong principles prompting them to take action against Zuckerberg’s beast.

My hope is that enough people will abandon Facebook within a short enough timeframe to cause some pain to the company. It would be great if it became a snowball effect, but that could be too optimistic. I believe that the prevalent social media model has multiple flaws stemming mostly from the advertising-driven revenue stream they rely upon. I’d love to see some constructive alternatives emerge from the backlash against Facebook, spurring a general awareness amongst internet users that it is time for a move away from platforms operated by mega corporations like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

We have already endured internet 1.0 and 2.0, it is time for new ideas to create version 3.0 in which real people are respected and their data remains under their own control. Just speculating, but this would seem to be where blockchain technology could become truly useful in decentralising control back into the hands of users. However, this would require educated internet users, most people are not there yet.

Will deleting my Facebook account make any impact? Realistically, no. One out of 2.2 billion obviously makes no difference. Yet if one in every thousand people decided to kill their account then Facebook would lose 2.2 million users – perhaps that might be enough to be noticed and prompt some changes.

I also want to be clear that I’m not deleting my account as a Luddite move against social media per se. All of the big tech giants have serious faults yet I continue to use most of them. But this particular company has pushed things too far and their ‘free’ service has more negatives about it than positives.

Long live the blog! 

What if all I want is a mediocre life?

I posted a link to this blog post by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui some time ago on Facebook but want to link to it here because I think it expresses well how I often feel myself about the idea of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘success’. Read the whole post, it’s worth it.

What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?

What if all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between? Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?

What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted? Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

Pet tragedy

Last Saturday we had a distressing accident with one of our baby rabbits. A plank of wood which held down the rain cover over one of our rabbit hutches fell down into the hutch and hit a little rabbit named ‘Oreo’ on the head. It was a severe impact, breaking her front teeth and causing concussion and some sort of injury to her nasal passages making it hard for her to breathe.

We took her to the vet and they gave her oxygen, pain relief, and kept her as comfortable as possible. Then it became a case of waiting to see if she improved or deteriorated. She remained in the vet clinic overnight and we were pleased she survived the night. Unfortunately the blow to her head must have caused major brain trauma and severe injury to her nose because she was still struggling to breathe, was partially paralysed on her right side and seemed to still be in a lot of pain.

Our vet considered her long term chances of survival to be low and the poor little rabbit was distressed so we made the hard but hopefully humane decision to euthanise her to avoid further suffering.

I find the decision to end the life of a pet to be difficult and haunting, the internal debate of whether it was the right choice remains with me for a long time. I’ve had to make that call for two dogs in the last five years and despite it being the rationally obvious decision in both cases I still feel terrible for making that choice for both of them.

I’m well aware that in nature survival is a constant struggle for all animals and their normal state of existence is probably what I would call suffering for a pet, but as  Christian I consider this a result of the Fall rather than the original plan for creation (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

Oreo
Oreo

My iPhone use

Over the last four months I have been consistently using the Moment app every day to track my phone use and what apps I have been using. The idea is to use this information as leverage to cut down on how much we use our phones, but I have simply been recording the data and not paying much attention to it until now.

The app has to be constantly running in the background in order to record every time the screen is unlocked, recording each unlock as a pickup and every second the screen is active. This is the most automatic aspect of the app. Because of Apple’s sandboxing in iOS the app cannot eavesdrop on how long you use apps directly. Instead it asks you to take a battery use screenshot every week (or daily if you want more accuracy), which is then sent to Moment’s server an parsed to determine how long each app was active. The app designer (Kevin Holesh) acknowledges that this is an imperfect solution, but it is the best currently available on iPhones.

A hiccup I encountered is that sometimes the app records all the time I have been asleep as me using the phone. The FAQ explains that this is caused by using Sleep Cycle which can keep the phone unlocked while asleep. Usually I turn the screen off once I activate Sleep Cycle but obviously forget sometimes. This causes inaccuracies in the total screen time so I exported the data and the anomalies were easy to spot and correct (how often do you use your phone for 550 minutes in one sitting?).

My Screen Time

Average screen time: 1 hr 38 min per day (max 202 minutes; min 7 minutes)

Average pickups: 20 per day (max 49; min 5)

App Use

These are average values for my most frequently used apps.

Safari 19 min per day
Toy blast 13 min per day
Micro.blog 10 min per day
Facebook 10 min per day
Mail 6 min per day
Home & lock screen 3 min per day
App store 2 min per day
WordPress 2 min per day
Settings 1 min per day
Waterlogged 1 min per day
Last Pass 1 min per day
Sleep cycle 1 min per day
iMood Journal 1 min per day
Weather 1 min per day

Conclusions

Overall I would like to reduce my phone use to less than an hour per day, which is probably an attainable goal if I refrain from using my phone as a ‘boredom buster’. I have deleted the offending game (Toy Blast) and also the Facebook app. I’m mildly surprised that Facebook got as much screen time as it did because most days I only use it for 2 or 3 minutes. However there were some days when I sat watching stupid videos with the kids and that clocked up over an hour a day then. It remains to be seen whether Micro.blog continues to enjoy as much of my attention as it has recently, the novelty may wear off.

Another interesting consideration is whether I’m even justified in having an iPhone. There are apps that I always use every day but these are generally for logging details of my life which I’ve decided to keep track of for various reasons. This sort of thing could just as easily go in the notebook which is always in my back pocket. I could buy a lot of notebooks for the $20 a month I currently pay for my phone plan. My counter argument for this is that I often use my phone to check my blog and email due to computers being a scarce resource in our home. I would prefer to use a laptop to read blog articles or reply to comments or email but often the kids are using our only functional laptop.

Morning ritual cheat sheet

Today’s PDF is a Cheat Sheet for the Power of a Morning Ritual episode of the Accidental Creative podcast which is hosted by Todd Henry.

Rather than restate what is already a brief document (1 page), I will use it as a spark to give my thoughts on ‘morning routines’.

Get up at the same time each day

I generally manage this on work days and am thankful that this is now the case. Having done shift work in the past it is a blessing to be able to get up at the same time each morning.

Having said this, the wake up time completely goes out the window on weekends. Saturday is my sleep-in day and Sunday is church, so a shorter sleep in. I’ve read that ideally we should get up at the same time on weekends as on week days but I’m always knackered by Friday so the sleep-in is essential catch-up for me. Theoretically I should be going to bed early enough to not need a catch-up, but I live in the real world not ideal-land.

Read (30 minutes)

Oh to have this luxury! I do read, but it is for about 10 minutes (if that) while I eat my breakfast. I’d like to have time to read my bible in the mornings but this habit died out for me 16 years ago when our first child was born. My morning reading generally consists of a couple of poems (if I remembered to toss my current poetry book on the dining table before heading to bed the night before) and scanning the news on my phone to check if Trump and Kim have hurled nukes at each other overnight (I do genuinely fear this).

Space

Spend 15 minutes allowing your mind to wander.

This happens in the shower as I’m in a semi-conscious stupor attempting to wake up while wasting copious amounts of hot water.

Write (10 minutes)

My ‘brain dump’ at best consists of jotting down stuff I need to do in my notebook and I also keep a record of what poems I read for breakfast.

Reflect

This occurs at the bus stop if I get there in time. I wonder how to cope with a micro-managing boss, rummage through my bag looking for my bus card, and try to remember if I have enough credit on it.

As you may guess, I don’t have much time for fancy morning rituals, though I am not mocking Todd Henry – I have great respect for him. I just think we are quite different people and I am not really his target audience.

I do have a routine because I’m not awake enough in the mornings to actually think about anything, it needs to happen on autopilot. I’m flummoxed if the muesli has run out and I have to eat something different to usual, how could I manage creative thinking and strategic planning until after my third coffee? (You think I’m joking, don’t you?)