Focus Mode for iPhone

Like many, I’ve been trying to reduce my screen time use on my phone so I can be more present with family and friends. I’ve been very judicious about what notifications I allow to interrupt me (only my wife’s, kids’ and a few close friends’ messages immediately ping me — everyone else can wait until I have a moment to look at my messages). I’ve been using focus modes and scheduling to hide certain pages of apps from me so I don’t mindlessly scroll my work chat or email when I’m not working.

And when I wake up first thing, my phone is in black and white mode automatically. My phone is perfectly usable, and I still often scroll Instagram for a few minutes, but the black and white filter helps remind me I don’t want to spend my whole morning on the ‘Gram.

So I really enjoyed reading the Brooks Review post incorporating all of the above into a focus mode he activates on-demand when he wants to be present. I particularly like that he activates his black and white filter on demand — I’ll have to think about having a similar focus mode!

Back to (hobby) coding

I’ve been coding more side projects lately. I have an idea for my own Indieweb server to one day replace how I manage this website. My goal is to make it easier to post images and galleries. Eventually I kind of want my own personal Instagram on this site.

I’ve long wanted some blogging engine based on serverless tech so it could be something that I’d host as close to free as possible.

Since nothing quite like what I want exists, I’m building it myself. I’d say I have about 90% of the proof of concept done, now I’m just adding all the boring stuff (like auth and tests) before it’s in a state that I can start using it to publish this site.

But, damn, that last 10% always takes longer than the first 90% put together!


On a bit of a whim 2 weeks ago I purchased a new Kindle Paperwhite. I don’t have Prime, but apparently because it’s an Amazon device (I assume), they gave me free “Prime Now” delivery and had it delivered later that afternoon for no extra cost. Honestly — that was pretty cool! And I would definitely impulse purchase more things I don’t need if I had regular access to Prime, so it confirms my decision not to subscribe to Prime. (I unsubscribed years ago when I realized I was impulse shopping a lot on Amazon just because I “might” need something but truly, I rarely did)

Anyway. I like that this Kindle is splash-proof so I have been taking it to read in the hot tub at my rec center. I also do really like the subtle backlighting that makes it a tiny bit easier to read in bed with the lights down low. And finally, on my quest for USB-C to rule it all, I appreciate that I already have several places I can charge it. (though with the e-ink display, I rarely need to)

But the biggest win has been the library integration. I love my local library but their collection is pretty small, but online they have a huge selection of books. What’s more — in Colorado — you can have library cards from several library districts through a reciprocity program. So now I have three library cards, and each one has a very different selection of books. I added these cards to Libby and now I have a really wide selection of free e-books I can read any time.

Finally, I decided to purchase the Kindle version of the NLT Study Bible. I wasn’t sure at first, but they make very effective use of hyperlinks. It’s super easy on the touch screen to click a note, hop over to the study section, read the study notes for a bit, then click the “back to location XYZ” to go right back to the text. Honestly, it works WAY better than I expected, and because it’s right there next to my other books, I have been back to reading scripture more consistently then ever in recent times.

I would say the main thing I don’t like about the Kindle are the hidden elements on the touch screen. I have slowly been learning what gestures and sections of the screen to click to do what I want but this Apple-ification of everything where you don’t know exactly where to touch to do what you want is really grating. It’s feels worse on the e-ink display because there’s an inherent delay before whatever gesture you’ve done responds.

Other than that though — really, really love this device. It’s great to have a device that feels like paper to my eyes, still has instant access to a mountain of books for free through the library, and does not tempt me to go look at the web or Instagram. I’ve already read four books on it and I’ve only had it two weeks. No doubt the novelty will wear off and I won’t keep reading at this pace — but I am sure this will help me stay in book reading mode more than my iPad, phone or Mac ever have.

1.5 Years of Electric Driving

I’ve been meaning to write about the electric car we purchased a little over a year and a half ago but honestly — what is there to say? It’s a car. It gets me from point A to point B, and it does so really well.

There was a time when driving a car powered by electricity was novel and there were a million things you needed to know but — I think those days are largely over. It’s a car. It does car things. I just have a ‘gas station’ at home so the lie “I’ll get gas in the morning” is no longer necessary.

We got the 2023 Electric Kona limited. It’s honestly been the best car we’ve ever owned, but probably that’s mostly because it’s the newest car we’ve ever owned. Many of the things we like about it have nothing to do with it being electric:

  • Smart/adaptive cruise control is great on the highways. You set the upper speed limit but the car has a radar in the front that slows it down if the cars ahead of you slow down.
  • Lots of safety features none of our other cars have. It’ll auto-brake for you if someone slams on their breaks ahead of you and you don’t react fast enough. The slightly more interesting option for me though is that it will detect cars in your blind spot that you might be pulling in front of and stop you. (I had this happen to me when I was pulling out of on-street parking in my neighborhood when an Amazon Prime truck turned down my street going about 2x the speed limit. I didn’t notice it because he was going so fast entirely in my blind spot, but the car did and prevented me from getting in front of it.) Also — love having a backup camera.
  • CarPlay is great.
  • I had heated seats in a previous car, but this car has cooling seats as well and that’s just really awesome in the summer.

It did cost a bit more than we hoped to pay for a new car, but the significantly lower operating costs have already been helpful. We were paying close to $450/mo on gas. In the winter when our solar panels don’t generate enough to offset our electric use, we were paying anywhere from $50-$125/mo in electric costs. (not entirely from the electric car, but figure this is a good SWAG of how much we pay)

We kept a gas car that is our “adventure car” — the car we take camping, the car with AWD for mountain driving, and the car that’s old enough if it gets a little banged up, no big deal — but we use the electric car as our “default” so we only gas up the adventure car about every 6 weeks or so. (Unless we are adventuring, obviously)

I’ve seen memes about how electric cars are so bad for the environment, yada yada yada. But I think that overlooks how bad cars (and all the related infrastructure — how much land is devoted to parking cars, highways, gas stations, storing cars in garages, etc) are compared to nearly any other form of transportation. Electric cars are an (in my view, minor) improvement over gas cars environmentally but still nearly any other transportation option is better — walking, biking, electric biking, electric scootering, any available transit (bus or train) — in roughly that order.

All that said, we live in suburbia and can’t get away from using a car, and of all our options, the electric car we have has been a wonderful addition to the family. If you are in a situation where you can regularly charge your car at home — I think it’s nearly a no-brainer if you want to buy a new car. They are a bit more expensive than the other new options, but the reduced operating costs and simpler mechanics mean you will be able to own and run most electric cars much longer (and more affordably) than most gas cars.

If you’re not someone to buy a new car — probably for the best — still get the most efficient used car. That, in my view, remains the best option environmentally and fiscally.

Finally — the best electric vehicle I own is not the car, but my e-bike. It is SO fun to ride. Being a bike I can get more distance than the e-scooter I also own, and I can get a small bit of a workout in too. If you were to get anything, get an e-bike! They’re the best electric vehicle you can get right now and even a super fancy one will cost way less than even the least expensive car.

Cleaning my Macbook Air Speakers

I got my M1 Macbook Air right at release in 2020, and over the past year or two I’ve noticed that the sound quality on it has gotten progressively worse and worse.

I long suspected it was because of dust/dirt/debris in the tiny little speaker holes, but I long dreaded taking the machine apart to try to clean them out.

Finally fed up with hardly any sound coming out of the right side, and deteriorating sound quality/loudness from the left side, I Googled and found many people suggested using a new toothbrush to clean out debris.

I spent about 10 minutes and used the light from my phone to see which holes looked blocked. After getting as much dirt out as I can, I booted it back up and started playing some music and — WOW.

I had no idea the speakers could get this loud or be this undistorted. Should have done this ages ago. Will hold on to this cleaning toothbrush for future cleanings.

A couple things I like

Bing Beverage. By big vice is probably drinking too much soda. In the past 10 years or so I’ve cut it down significantly but I still like a little sweet drink most days, and I really enjoy Bing. We discovered them at a local showing of the Banff Film Festival (which also inspired us to go to Banff the next year!) when someone was handing them out to promote them. They’re kinda hard to find, but my local grocery store consistently sells them chilled.

Brianna’s Poppy Dressing. We’ve been eating a lot more salad lately, which is a great thing, and I discovered my now favorite dressing through Target. I always laugh at this label, I call it the peach dressing because they have a big picture of a peach. Not because this has any peach in it (it doesn’t) but because the poppy dressing is supposed to be really good on peaches. I like my Colorado peaches as-is, so I’ll just have to take their word for it.

What are some things you really enjoy?

Macbook Air M1

So now Walmart is selling the Macbook Air M1 at $699. These aren’t leftovers but apparently Apple will still be producing these so they are brand new even though this machine is now approaching 4 years old.

I’m typing this post on an Air M1 which I got at launch. It’s been by far the best computer I’ve ever had. It has nearly obsoleted my iPad. My only real complaint with it is that the speakers have become quite awful. Only my left speaker fully works, and it doesn’t sound great. I’m guessing it’s because debris have become lodged inside the tiny speaker holes over the years but not sure.

Other than that just a fantastic computer I expect to hold on to for years to come.

End of Social Media Free February

Happy Leap Day! Today ends my social media exile. A few thoughts:

  1. I have not been perfectly social media-free because while I deleted the apps from my phone, I left the apps installed on my iPad and laptop so occasionally I would peek at them.
  2. Honestly, I’m not sure what it is, but I found using them on my laptop in particular to be extremely un-compelling compared to my phone. I would scroll for a few minutes and get bored and do something else. On my phone I could easily scroll and scroll and scroll…
  3. Part of it may be that I kept myself from posting anything during this month. I occasionally liked or hearted things if they were especially momentous (such as seeing some friends who welcomed their new baby into the world) but otherwise I passively scrolled until I was bored, which came pretty quickly.
  4. Because of that, I accomplished my main goal which is to re-claim my time from the black hole of social media use. More on that in a moment.
  5. I think going forward I will continue to occasionally use Threads, Facebook, Nextdoor, Linkedin from my laptop/iPad only. I will re-install the Instagram app on my phone for a couple of reasons. One, it is the app that the majority of my friends use. (hello millennial friends!) and two, mostly we use and share stories which I still enjoy posting to keep in touch and you really can’t (certainly can’t easily) post these anywhere except through the mobile app.

Instagram is still my “refrigerator” app — the app I open most often when I am bored and have nothing else to do, like checking the refrigerator not because I’m hungry. So there’s still a bit of concern that I will spend too much time on Instagram, but this little mini-vacation is enough to convince me to keep it on a tight leash.

One of the best ways to break a habit is to replace it with a better habit, so what are some things I am doing instead?

  1. My 15 year old decided he didn’t want his Switch OLED anymore which he only got a few months ago. I bought it off of him, and have been using it to play some quick matches with my oldest son on Fortnite.
  2. Many evenings, I have been re-watching some episodes of the Americans while playing Minecraft with my 15yo. Quality bonding time —if you fast forward through the sex scenes. 🙈
  3. I’m back on the scripture reading and praying wagon. I have often done the 5 day reading plan but have been struggling lately. So I switched gears this years and am just reading a single Psalm a day. It has been — wonderful.
  4. More walks as the sun has come out and we’ve had some of the most beautiful weather for February ever.

You might be like — you replaced one bad habit (social media) with two different bad habits (video games and tv) and I think that’s fair. However — with a pretty full schedule, my TV/video game consumption has been near zero for probably close to 10 years. Not actually zero — I’m not against either, obviously — but small enough that occasionally I would fit a show in here and there amongst many other things.

With a slightly freer schedule, I am catching up on some TV shows I have really wanted to see. And I’m rewatching some series (The Americans in particular) that I’ve really enjoyed, and doing so while playing video games with my kids.

And for me, video games have been almost entirely relational. A good way to find common ground with my kids. I like Minecraft but I only play it as much as I do to connect with my kiddo. Same with Fortnite with my other kid.

A few things I like about my community

Some of these are hyper-specific to my neighborhood or town, others are more general to my state (Colorado) and country (USA).

  • That we know many of our neighbors, right next door and across the street
  • Our neighborhood is full of people from every life stage — from retirees to young professionals to families with young kids
  • We live in a remarkably walkable area. The library is an 8 minute walk, the rec center is 10, a grocery store only about 15 minutes. Within just a few blocks are numerous parks and open spaces.
  • Our neighborhood is full of houses with lots of large windows and hardwood floors.
  • Our town has a goal of something like 40% open space.
  • Colorado has stepped up to really help people. From free school lunches for all, to free college for foster kids. I am proud to be a Coloradan.
  • I love all the state parks, mountains and hiking options less than one hour from my house. An embarrassment of riches, truly.
  • I live in an older neighborhood full of so many huge trees of all kinds of different varieties.
  • Denver International is one of the biggest airports in the country — I can get almost anywhere in North America with a direct flight.
  • We have a wonderful culture of being active and being outside. 300 days of sunshine a year!