Of mice and geeks

My 4 year old mouse (which came with my computer) finally bit the dust, so I’ve been using this opportunity to see if I can finally find a reliable wireless mouse.  I’ve tried the Logitech Anywhere MX, the M510, and will probably check out the M705 as well.  I’ve relegated my Anywhere MX to use on my MacBook because of its awesome ability to work on nearly any surface (even more so than other laser models), a welcome feature given the number of times I’ve had to use a newspaper as a makeshift mousepad every time a hotel I stayed at had a ceramic or glass desk.

But for some reason I never get good results using a Wi-Fi mouse for the desktop PC.  I don’t know if the 24-inch real estate makes the difference more obvious, or if I’ve just gotten too used to working with a plain old wired, optical mouse, but it always feels unnatural.  The M510 I’m trying now is pretty heavy (even when I take out one battery), and no matter how many times I adjust the speed, I’m always misclicking here and there.  Logitech also has this tendency to disable the scroll’s function as a middle button (in favor of using hyper scroll, yawn), so curling my finger to click the middle button has also been a minor aggravation for me.

Do others have trouble making a permanent transition from wired to wireless mouse use?  I’m kind of curious to know.  I’m going to check out Best Buy this weekend for Logitech’s wired M500 mouse (and their wireless M705) and see if maybe Microsoft has still been able to produce a few worthy alternatives.  Remember when the Intellimouse was all that and a bag of gummi bears?  I miss those days.

Update:  I’ve played around with the M510, MX Anywhere, M705 and finally the corded M500 mouse from Logitech (check their current mouse line here).  I find it interesting that the location of the sensor does seem to make a difference.  My clicking accuracy is far better when the sensor is positioned in the center rather than to the extreme side like I’ve seen in a lot of wireless mice lately.  That’s why I had a lot of difficulty with the M705 and M510, since I seem to be one of those geeks who pivot the mouse with their wrists rather than move the entire arm.  This difference doesn’t seem to be obvious when using a smaller screen such as on a laptop, but on jumbo monitors like mine it’s definitely noticeable.  Both had off center sensors so my pointer never seems to be precisely where I want it to be.  I’m sure after enough practice and time my muscle memory can adapt, but I’m not in the mood for change, so I opted to go with either the M500 or MX Anywhere (both of which have centered sensors).

Just to confirm I wasn’t imagining this, I went to Mouse Accuracy to test my click accuracy with all the mice I’ve tried, with interesting results.  When using mice with off center sensors my clicking accuracy was just a notch below 50%.  Using the M500 and MX Anywhere, my accuracy ranged from 80 to 90% instead.

I gotta say, I didn’t think I’d like the MX Anywhere, but it’s definitely growing on me, so much that I’m wondering if I should get a second one for the desktop, even though its smaller size makes it more appropriate as a mobile mouse.  The M500 is ok, but it has the downside of being corded and having a less resistant scroll wheel, which makes its use as a middle button a bit more cumbersome.  It’s a horse race for now, but it does look like the MX Anywhere might just win it by a nose.  Besides, I need to be moving past cords and going wireless wherever I can to reduce the cable jungle I’ve got going on in my home office.

Why I hate Long Island with all my heart and soul

Those people who talk about cities like Detroit being the worst places to live have clearly never been to Long Island.  Having been a lifelong native here, I can say without any shadow of doubt that this fish-shaped extension of sewage material, located due east of Manhattan, is one of the most intolerable, despicable, grimy, disgusting, vile, evil, filthy, overpopulated mounds of fecal matter to ever bedevil the history of man.

Map of Long Island and NYC boroughs
WELCOME TO HELL

After traveling to over 30 states in the past few years, I’ve come to believe that Long Island uniquely exemplifies everything that’s wrong with this country.  The exorbitant costs of living, the utterly corrupt police departments, the pothole riddled streets, a populace with disturbingly schizophrenic leanings, the high taxation, the list goes on and on.  In a way, you could say Long Island is the kind of place that offers all the downsides of New York City, with none of the upside.

Long Island natives have an unusual proclivity for bipolar behavior, a reality that made my time growing up here a less than pleasant one.  Hot one day, cold the next.  Nice one day, a stone of rudeness the next.  There was no consistency to the way people acted.  I thought it was just me, but my mother told me her experience had been the same when she was a child, having been a former NYC native before moving further out east to Suffolk County, and recalling how utterly bewildered she was as well by Long Islanders’ neurotic behavior.

I should mention, while Brooklyn and Queens is technically a part of Long Island, they are actually boroughs of New York City, retaining a distinctive difference in culture that remains separate from the suburban sprawls of Nassau and Suffolk County.  It is these two specific counties that make Long Island what it is, and to which I reserve my unrepentant, vitriolic hatred for.

It wasn’t just my mother and me who noticed the peculiar behavior of the natives.  Anyone I spoke to that was from out of town made the same observations:  “Man, people are crazy here.  Must be something in the water.”  It didn’t matter where they came from either.  I’ve met foreign exchange students, people from Europe, people from out of state, even people from nearby Manhattan, and their reactions were nearly always the same.  They ALL blamed the water too.

One of the things that clued me in to why Long Island natives were such a mentally unstable, psychotic bunch was a little factoid I learned back when I was taking Psychology 101 in college.  My professor had mentioned in passing that Long Island had the largest percentage of mental institutions per square mile than anywhere else in the country.  Literally.

Well, that certainly answered a few questions.

Over time I had to learn not to take the natives’ rude and unstable attitudes personally, but it was one of the reasons my introverted personality became even more introverted as I grew up.  I had very few friends during my childhood, filtering out the typical crazies, and holding on to the rare few whose minds were still sound for as long as I could.  The only thing crazier than Long Islanders are Long Islanders who are teenagers, and indeed, I met some of the strangest and most bizarre people I have ever met in my life during my high school years.  I remember one in particular during my junior year, a friend of my then best friend, who once got funky with his girlfriend’s mom in the backseat of her car… while her father filmed the whole thing from the front seat.

Chris Hansen Peaks In
Why don’t you take a seat right over there…

When I discovered that (from the news no less) I decided then that I had more than enough exposure to the human race, and it was time to close ranks and isolate myself before The Crazy got me too.  Being a recluse was a small price to pay in order to preserve my sanity in an insane place.

This craziness also spills over into the roads too.  The irrational and inconsistent behavior of the motorists has led me to endlessly deal with traffic split up between drivers who like to go 40MPH (usually in the left lane) and those who like to go 80MPH, with nothing in between.  This is why people who drive in front of me are always going too slow while those behind me are always going too fast.  I get sandwiched these two extremes during my daily commute, such that I can never use cruise control even when the traffic is moving.  I’m not even dealing with the worst of it either due to working odd hours, so I’m able to commute without enduring LI’s infamous rush hour traffic.  Rush hour here is a whole ‘nother fresh set of hell that only drivers in Los Angeles could begin to understand.

Tank bulldozing on highway
I wish I could drive to work this way.

The overwhelming population and volume of traffic on Long island is so bad that most locals (including me) plan our outings based on traffic patterns.  Timing is everything, and if you miss your chance, be prepared to spend three times as much time on the roads as you originally planned to, dealing with every crazy with (and without) a driver’s license under heaven.  Only those who venture out at the crack of dawn or at 3AM will be spared the worst of the agony.

It’s even more unbearable in the summer, when school lets out and unleashes a horde of terrifying teenagers flooring mommy and daddy’s car into the red zone, along with a plague of old fogies arriving here from Florida to spend the summer and clog the roads with their Cadillacs, driving just as uber-slow as the teens drive uber-fast.

Until I started traveling to other states, I was always left with the impression that Long Island traffic wasn’t really unique, that it was just a fact of life for any area of the country with a heavy population density.  But now, having driven on roads in over 30 odd states, I can truthfully say traffic on Long Island is in a class of its own.

Drivers can be jerkwads no matter where you go, but what I learned from driving outside of Long Island was how more predictable and consistent motorists were.  Even more intriguing, if they saw you coming, especially in the left lane, they almost always moved out of the way.  On Long Island, I have to laugh at people who flashed their lights at cars ahead of them because it proved they were obviously from out of town.  The net result from flashing your lights is that the guy in front of you either blithely ignores you or slows down even more out of pure spite.  We have no fast lanes here, even when traffic is light, because there are always slow pokes cluttering up the roads and threatening the safety of everyone by literally driving BELOW the minimum speeds on parkways.  It results in a lot of frustrated drivers cutting in and out of lanes just to get around these virtual roadblocks, and it’s also why a pleasant cruise to nowhere in particular is always an impossibility.

Austin Powers in a Tight Spot
No room for cruise control here…

And even if Long Island wasn’t a traffic nightmare, there’s really no place for me to go.  Long Island is just… ugly.  The myriad number of towns here belie the reality that it’s all one big indiscriminate suburban sprawl of cement and congested roads.  There’s very little to distinguish one town/village from the next,  and because of that there’s very little sense of community too.   Instead, we have micro-cliques that either have their roots in childhood or are borne out of living in the same neighborhood for many years.  It’s very unlike the small towns and even cities that I’ve traveled to, many of which tend to have this “Cheers” like atmosphere, where everyone knows your name (and they’re always glad you came).  Social circles outside of Long Island seem less rigid and more open-ended, at least in my experience.  Rather than constantly being treated as an outsider (or where your existence isn’t even acknowledged), it’s relatively easy to seek out and become a part of new social groups, even as a newcomer.  There’s no drive to maintain a caste system in the way that I’ve seen here, and I think that may be partly due to Long Island’s proclivity for being indifferent and even hostile to strangers, no matter who they are, whereas I find there’s a higher sense of civility and overt friendliness nearly everywhere else, even in New York City.  It’s actually stunning to experience the sea change in behavior once you drive or take the train a mere 50 miles or so from the suburbs to downtown Manhattan, where some sense of normalcy and civility is restored.

Some people may disagree that Long island is ugly, citing its beaches, seaports and numerous parks.  The problem is whatever natural beauty it does offer is ruined by swarms of humanity who pollute the scenery everywhere they go.  There is no place in which you can truly feel like you can get away from it all (the traffic, the noise, the populace), except possibly the Hamptons, the seat of the uber-rich and ultra-privileged.  Even then, it’s telling that it requires a roughly 100 mile drive to the near edge of Long Island just to “get away” for the weekend.

And even if you COULD find a quiet place in the woods or a park to camp out, relax or otherwise take in the scenery, there’s still the matter of the ticks.  And more ticks.  And, my Lord in heaven, even MORE ticks.  Long island has in fact one of the highest incidents of lyme disease and tick infestation than anywhere else in the country.

THE TICK!
How YOU doin’?

Long Island’s economic climate is also a veritable cesspool of fail.  It follows the national trajectory of undermining and destroying the middle class (although in many respects it’s far ahead of the game than the rest of the country), making it true to its bipolar roots (either hot or cold, fast or slow) and economically, either rich or poor, with nothing in between.  Despite heavy taxation, the counties remain in massive debt, while the population density have pushed the astounding real estate market prices well beyond the reach of many first time home buyers.  I recently read a statistic that more than 55% of people ages 20-34 on Long Island STILL live with their parents.  There are not enough apartments to go around, and many are actually illegal dwellings due to not being up to code.  The irony is that most illegal apartments are actually habitable, but coding ordinances are designed more to bilk residents out of more money than for valid safety reasons.  As a result, apartments up to code often have exorbitant leasing costs.  A studio near where I work for example is currently going for $2,400 to $2,800 a month.  For a studio.  What it would typically cost to rent a four bedroom home in nearly any state would barely cover the expenses of living in someone’s basement here.  Outside of possibly San Francisco, Long Island has the most expensive real estate market in the country.

DiCaprio Smashes Glass Over Head
My polite response to my landlord’s decision to raise my rent by $400 a month.

Even more infuriating is witnessing the endless line of “Section 8” tenants who are able to live in luxury apartments for a third of the rent, and yet bringing down the quality of living for everyone by engaging in criminal behavior and refusing to clean up after themselves.  It’s one thing to live on the government dole as a result of falling on hard times, but it’s quite another to pick up a tax funded paycheck while running a drug cartel out of your living room.

And yes, I also blame Long Island for dampening my dating life as well.  Having given up on the local prospects, who range from the snooty, to the bizarre, to the outright insane, I tend to look for romantic prospects outside New York, yet the cultural/economic differences have often been difficult or even impossible to overcome.  Those who live in areas with costs of living at normal rates can’t seem to understand why most Long Islanders don’t already own their first homes by say, age 21.  It’s especially grating when so many rely on their parents’ wealth for their quality of living (something I never had the benefit of enjoying, and whose parents had to rely on me for financial support), and hence have no concept of what it’s like to endure true financial hardship.  I can’t relate to people who’s had it too easy or too good, whose concept of suffering is a barista mistakenly pouring soy milk instead of almond milk into her latte.   It creates a divide that makes it difficult for any girl residing outside the Long Island bubble to understand the life I’ve lived.  I might as well be living in a third world country.  Actually, given what a smelly landfill Long Island is, calling it a third world country probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Demon Temptress
A typical Long Island girl.

I would have escaped this rock a long time ago, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so, year after agonizing year.  But… I think a door is finally starting to open.  I have assets and opportunities now that I didn’t have before, and I’ve been making the routine effort to apply for jobs in all the places and states I’d like to move to.  Whereas before finances were a major issue, now it’s just a question of securing a new job out of state, which unfortunately has gotten more difficult considering the economic climate we live in, but I’m hopeful.  I see major changes in the year ahead, and hope it will soon bring the day when I am finally released from the prison that is this hateful island.

UPDATE:  I HAVE BEEN “PAROLED!”  After years of plague and darkness, I have finally left Long Island once and for all!  Please feel free to continue reading my blog for updates as I make the long overdue transition to a NEW life and a NEW home beyond “Wrong” Island!

Millennium Falcon Hyperdrive
I’m outta here…

Valentine’s Day goes to the dogs

The latest from Colorado: for those who don’t know, Bonnie is a breeding dog that first needs to produce a litter before she can begin training as a hearing dog.  Fitting that on Valentine’s Day (of all days) the first major hurdle may have been cleared, meaning puppies in 2 months!

Bonnie and Storm, American Alsatians
Bonnie (the dog I’m waiting for) and Storm, the future sire.

Happy Single Awareness Day!

Absent a nagging wife or a neurotic girlfriend, I feel as if I can freely be myself on Valentine’s:

Dancing in Balloon SuitsOne of the things I’ve noticed over the past year is how at ease with myself I am not when I’m with other people, but when I’m completely alone.  Solitude is quiet, peaceful, stress-free, and kinda awesome.  If it weren’t due to some sense of obligation to friends and family I probably would never talk to anyone, at least not for lengthy periods of time.  In fact, I’m planning as an experiment of sorts to go completely dark and off grid for say, a week, just to see how well it helps me recharge.  Solitude, and I mean REAL solitude, seems to be the only thing that truly helps me rejuvenate and unwind.  It doesn’t matter where I go, it only matters that I’m completely ALONE.

People exhaust me.  They’re rude, uncivil, fickle, weird, strange, incorrigible, LOUD, inane, insufferable and intolerable to deal with.  Whenever I interact with the lot of them it always seems to be too much to expect even a modicum of basic civility and etiquette.  Women especially seem to magnify these traits to an absurd degree by injecting emotion and drama into EVERY.  LITTLE.  THING.  In fact, I had to cut off my last romantic interest because the neurosis was out of control.  I know not EVERYONE is like this, but too many are, and if I had to choose between the whirlwind drama of a flighty romance and peaceful solitude, I’ll choose the later every time.

I wonder if this is a masculine trait in some respects.  Is this why some men have garages to work alone in or a “man cave” they can otherwise call their own, free of any womanly influence and interference?  We’re not hard wired to deal with drama, while women seem to thrive on it, to the point of inventing it where none exists if necessary.  I see this so often that I wonder if it’s even possible to meet a girl who values the quiet as much as I do.  Whenever I think I’ve found someone who isn’t like that, it doesn’t take long before the potential relationship turns into an emotional freak circus, and I’m once again running for the hills.

I don’t get why so many guys opt for the drama instead of the solitude, but then again I’ve always been something of an anomaly.  I’ll never forget one night when I was at sports camp for high school and we were staying in this freezing cold cabin with more holes than a basketball net.  It was night and some of the seniors were out hazing the freshmen by tying them to their beds while they were sleeping.  I was a freshman as well, but I wasn’t worried, and planned to take a walk in the dark by myself later that night so I could watch the stars.  My roomie though was TERRIFIED and BEGGED me to stay.  He didn’t want to be alone and was afraid the seniors would get him.  He was one of the “cool” kids too, and at the time I couldn’t understand why he was so scared.  In the end I stayed, but I was annoyed that I had lost “me” time just so I could keep my roomie from wetting his bed.  The seniors got him anyway, but because I was there he was able to laugh it off.  I understood then, if only dimly, how some people’s need for human company and fear of solitude was so profound that they would even marry badly just to avoid being alone.

I do crave and value human company though, or more specifically female company, but as soon as it goes sideways I tend to exit stage left in a hurry.  I really have no patience for games, psychological warfare or drama, but this seems to be all women ever bring to the table.  Take away the sex appeal, and what’s left?

Spending Valentine’s Day alone used to bother me, but not so much anymore.  Life has always presented me with two choices: be alone, or be in a turbulent, one-sided relationship with endless drama, aggravation, and loss of income.  The later ironically enough is what would truly make one feel lonely, and yet that’s the option most people choose.  It’s a shame so many can’t learn to appreciate the benefits and serenity that comes from being alone, even for short periods of time.

As for me, maybe someday life will prove me wrong and I’ll meet someone I’m meant to be with who won’t drive me nuts, but I’ve come to enjoy the solitude, and crave it even more in the midst of a world that has lost all sense of decorum, sanity and civility.

How living the same day over and over could lead to new things

Groundhog Day was one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was with interest that I read this particular article where the author attempts to calculate how much time Phil (Bill Murray) spent stuck in Groundhog Day, and concludes that it was roughly the equivalent of about 34 years.

Harold Ramis (the director) indicated that it was at least 10 years, so this probably isn’t a stretch.  34 years reliving the same day.  Whew.

And yet, as much as Phil may have seen that as a living hell, I see it really as an act of remarkable grace and fortune.  No matter how much he screwed up, the day was reset and he could start over with a blank slate, yet still remember the lessons he learned from the previous day.  It took years, but over that time he began to gradually morph into a different kind of person, one who looked outward instead of inward, and used the ample time he was given not only to become a better man, but a man who significantly expanded his horizon of knowledge and skills that often takes years to master (such as learning the piano and becoming an ice sculptor).

Those of us in the real world though only have a finite amount of time from which to spend our existence, and some of us do indeed experience our own version of Groundhog Day, living the same lives, doing the same things, day after day after day…

Except in our cases, by the time we wise up and start to realize how precious life is, 30+ years will have gone by that we will never get back again.  Once it’s gone, that’s it.  Unlike Phil, we get no do-over.

When I reflect on my own life, I realize, startlingly, that nothing has really changed for me in over 14 years.  I have the same job, same routine, same habits, same gripes, same complaints, same problems.  I’m a dog zipping around the same well worn tracks in a small backyard.  Is this really healthy?  Are we meant to become creatures of habit and stasis?

I do believe that we have a deep-seated need towards learning, creating, advancing and other things that give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment.  When we’re locked into a holding pattern though, each day the same as the one before, our minds begin to stagnate, becoming fat, lethargic and lazy.

There is something utterly fulfilling about forward motion, and likewise equally as depressing about remaining in stasis.

But what does forward motion mean?  Does it require a drastic life change such as quitting a job and moving to places unknown, or getting married?  Sooner or later the drudgery of life still tends to catch up, and even in new jobs and new families we can still find ourselves in constant stasis.

For Christians, one of the tenets of Scripture that so few can abide by is the persistent admonishment to STAND STILL (and see the salvation of the LORD).  To purposely cease from action and rely on God for dramatic changes of course in one’s life is probably one of the hardest acts of faith to follow through on.  Instead, I find many dismiss these commandments out of hand and move forward on their own, scheming, plotting, manipulating, and presumptuously believing every decision they make is sanctioned by God, without seeking His counsel, without praying, without any willingness to cede to His will.  To remain in one place, one spot, one boring moment in our lives that never seems to end is a thought that terrifies both Christians and non-Christians alike.

But what happens when that moment we live in, or more specifically, that day (as we see in Groundhog Day) is literally frozen in time beyond our control?  Are we forever doomed to stasis and a lack of forward momentum forever?

I believe that’s a question the film answers: ultimately, no, we’re not.  Even reliving the same day and trapped in the same mundane rituals of daily routine, we can still learn new things, forge new bonds, and continuously improve ourselves, our knowledge, and our skills, even if some of them might take years to master.  My mistake had been focusing on the routine, and using that to justify my complacency.  “Oh, my life isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no point in me trying to make the most of the time I have here on earth.”

It’s easy, too easy, for me to sit down and watch Netflix and just let my mind rot away, or endlessly check my emails every 5 minutes to see if the people I’ve emailed finally remember to stop being as rude as sin and get back to me.

I live next to one of the greatest cities in the world, and yet I look for every excuse not to visit.  I don’t take up a new hobby or visit new places.  I wallow in misery and depression because I’ve become so focused on wanting my Groundhog Day to END that I’ve lost interest in everything else.  I’m sick of the same old thing, the same old story, the same old problems, the same old day.  I fight, I rebel, and I look for ways out, often to my own detriment, and in the end I realize I’m fighting something I have no control over.  Only God can end my Groundhog Day, and if He chooses not to, then accepting that He is also a benevolent God, I must learn to understand why.  Is the monotony of life really the catalyst to my demise, or is there a lesson He wants me to learn from this (just as Phil had to learn), that would lead to my salvation instead?  By stressing over the things I have no control over, I am in essence telling God that I do not trust Him, that I do not believe His promises, that I in fact have doubts that He even cares or desires to change the circumstances of life in my favor.  And in all that despair I realized I was missing the forest for the trees.

While I must relive my own Groundhog Day for a season, that is time given to me to improve my life, get healthier, and prepare myself accordingly for when a new day finally arrives.  But above all, it is time needed to learn faith, by learning to let go of the things I cannot change and the doors I cannot open on my own.  If the life of living Groundhog Day should teach me anything, it is that I should learn to live in the moment, rather than worry about what will come tomorrow.  And even if that moment happens to be trapped in a day that endlessly repeats itself, it is still a moment worth living.

BRING ME MY WINGS

BRING ME MY WINGS #ChickenWings #WINNING 

Well, this was timely…

Dating new people is fun and exciting. It’s also likely to cause even the most rational, level-headed people to make really dumb decisions. Don’t worry, though. Your brain is supposed to do that. Sort of. Scientifically speaking, human attraction is still a pretty big mystery. (Source Link)

The article also mentions emotional intelligence as a stopgap against making bad decisions while awash in goo-goo feelings (or panic attacks, depending on what spectrum of the emotional prism you’re dancing around here).

I wonder how our decision making process is affected after the feelings dissipate. What do you do at that moment when the bloom comes off the rose? When Elvis has left the building? When the cheese has slid off the cracker? When the pizza was delivered without the pepperoni? When the Broncos are playing without Peyton?

Do I decide then that the feelings I had were never real to begin with? Or maybe perhaps they WERE real, but they needed a foundation to stand on in order to be reignited again, becoming stronger and more powerful over time? I always likened relationships to a fire, first starting with that initial “spark”, but a spark that can die off quickly if you haven’t added kindle to keep it going, and then finally and slowly, the logs so the fire can grow and sustain itself in a slow burn. After the relatively difficult effort to build a fire after you’ve created that spark, it becomes much easier afterward to keep it alive, as long as you toss in an occasional log or two.

Seems simplistic, but it rings true to me.