A New Attitude Toward Exhaustion.

I had another chance yesterday to reconsider my mindset about being disabled. I spent a tough two hours making a relatively minor repair on our van. Most of the effort actually went into getting the front of the van safely and stably elevated so I could crawl under it to do the work. Thanks to our lumpy and uneven driveway,  I ended up trying three times on each side before I got a combination of supports stable enough that I felt secure about working under the van. That was a lot of work, and making the repair was almost anticlimactic.

What was interesting about the whole circus was the level of exhaustion I incurred and, far more importantly,  my reaction to that exhaustion.

On one hand, I had to rest several times throughout the process. I hit several points where I was too winded or too unsteady on my feet to work safely, so there’s no doubt that I still am not nearly as strong as I used to be.

On the other hand, I was able to keep going and get the work done, and it felt good. I used to do a lot of work on our vehicles and doing this one piece of repair work left me feeling like I had reclaimed a lost part of my life. I also recovered more quickly and completely than I have in the recent past, and ended up feeling just ordinarily tired at the end of the day.

This is significant. Back when I was first diagnosed with the stroke, I was sent off to physical therapy for gait and balance training. This was before anyone realized I had fibromyalgia. I nearly passed out during the evaluation and the therapist sent me back to my doctor with a note saying that I was unable to work hard enough for PT to do any good. That’s how feeble I was at the time, and I didn’t regain much of my strength and stamina for several years.

I am now aware that my condition has improved over the last year or so. I was so stuck in the role of ‘disabled person’ that I didn’t realize that I was doing better. I still have limits that I cannot ignore, but I’m doing better, and it was my reaction to yesterday’s hard work that helped me realize that. I’ve passed passed some threshold and can now look upon exertion and honest fatigue as a good thing.

It’s hard to express how important this discovery is. It’s probably going to be a major focus in my daily meditations until I completely absorb it.

-= G =-

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The Job Search, version 3.1415926589793

I’m starting the get really frustrated by the effort required to get a job. In spite of the excellent help I have received from several agencies, I have nothing to report. I really feel like the “voice crying in the wilderness.”

What is going on here? I read about employers complaining that they can’t get qualified help. But I’m out there offering my services to companies that appear to need what I have to offer, and I am getting nothing in reply.  Why is there this terrible disconnect? I wish I knew.

So, for what it’s worth, let’s repeat the litany – I am looking for a job that engages my varied and extensive experience and skills. I have solid value in admin / finance, as well as technical areas. Surely someone must need a genial wizard who can keep the books balanced and the network working, and all for one low price.

-= G =-

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An Unexpected Transition

I turned 66 on April 3rd. For the most part, it was no big deal. I’ve never done much on my birthday and it’s mostly just another day because, really, nothing much has changed.

But this birthday marked a transition that has had unexpected effects on the way I see myself.

Age 66 for me is what the government calls ‘full retirement age.’ This is the earliest age at which you can retire on Social Security and get your full benefit. Now in my case, I have been getting that full benefit since 2009 because I was disabled. That’s all Social Security Disability is – retiring on full benefit early for medical reasons.

At one level, it’s just semantics. I get the same dollar benefit with a different name. At another level, it’s a big shift in reality. You see, although my medical status hasn’t changed, my legal status has. I am no longer bound by the restrictions imposed by the rules of SSDI. Instead, I am now bound by the more liberal rules of Social Security Retirement.

This has had an interesting and unexpected effect on the way I see myself. Being on SSDI sharply limits what you can do to earn money. When I first retired on SSDI, the limits didn’t bother me because I couldn’t work at a job if I wanted to. But I have come back quite a bit from that low point, partly because my doctors have been able to alleviate the impact of my medical conditions, and partly because I have learned to overcome some of the limits and work around the others.

I hadn’t stopped to think about it before, but I was starting to rankle at the limits of what I could do for work. I didn’t realize it, but I was starting to resent having to act disabled because my retirement benefit demanded it. Now that the benefit has changed to ordinary retirement, I am free to do what I can, not just what the SSDI rules allowed. In short, I don’t have to let those rules define me any more.

Now I know that I still have limits I must respect. I’m not kidding myself there. My medical issues have cost me a lot of the strength and stamina I once had. But I suddenly somehow feel less disabled, and I think that is going to make a big difference as I move forward.

= G =-

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More Browser Heresy

As an engineer, I try to be thorough when I investigate something. I therefore felt the need to try Edge, the replacement for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer has been so awful for so long that I really couldn’t believe that the new browser could be any good, even though it was written from scratch.

Well, I’ve tried it and it it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. I was able to import my bookmarks from Chrome and dive right into my daily browsing.

The first thing I noticed was how quickly pages loaded. I haven’t done real timing tests, but there was a definite sense that pages loaded even faster than they did under Chrome.
I also noted that Edge supports “Reading Mode,” which Firefox does but Chrome does not. I discovered Reading Mode a couple of months ago and I love it because it reformats web content into a book-like layout that is much easier to read. Chrome’s failure to support Reading Mode is a big misfeature.

All is not perfect. Edge’s interface is not to my taste in a number of ways. Also, the way settings are organized doesn’t always make sense. Setting the home page, for example, is buried in Advanced Settings and is clumsy to do.

Bookmark formatting is also poor, mostly because line spacing between bookmarks in a bookmark dropdown menu is excessive. It’s nearly double-spaced, so you see fewer bookmarks before you run out of screen.

So I’m not switching to Edge any time soon. Despite being written from scratch, it still has traditional Microsoft attitudes showing in many places. But if for some reason I couldn’t use Chrome, I would have to consider using Edge over switching back to Firefox. Edge put in a good showing at Pwn2Own, and I have to choose security over convenience these days.

So Edge beats out Firefox on the essentials. Never thought I’d catch myself saying that.

-= G =-

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Bill’s Current Resume (short)

Here is the short version of my current resume, which I have done in PDF format. That’s a bit experimental, and not something I have tried before. I’ll be very interested to see how well it works.

-= G =-

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I hope this isn’t the end of an era

Mozilla Firefox has been my preferred browser for a long time now, and I have stuck with it despite its increasingly serious issues with security and stability. But we have passed a new threshold and I have been forced to change browsers.

The Pwn2Own hacker conference is a good benchmark of how secure an OS or a browser is, and this year’s conference produced a very troubling result: Firefox didn’t even show up. Even worse, Microsoft Edge, the written-from-scratch replacement for Internet Explorer, put in a good showing. I’m quite certain that if Firefox had entered, it would have been beaten out all the others.

So I was faced with the reality that Firefox is now the only major browser left clinging to an obsolete and insecure architecture, with no prospects of being rewritten any time soon. That left me no choice. I had to move on.

I’m still fooling around with Microsoft Edge because it is completely new, but for daily work I now use the 64-bit Google Chrome. I don’t like some of its misfeatures, and I trust Google even less than I trust the NSA, but Chrome is fast, secure, and stable.

I really hope that Mozilla gets its act together and writes a whole new version of Firefox and I hope they do it soon. Mozilla is a major leader in the fight to keep the Web open and free, and the mere presence of Firefox has forced the other players to do likewise. It would be a tragedy to lose that. The Internet would not be the same without Mozilla. But I am worried. As I said in the tile of this post, I hope this isn’t the end of an era.

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Back to an Old Theme For Now

I switched to the Catch Evolution theme a while back. I’ve gone back to Twenty Ten for now due to what I consider an intolerable misfeature in Catch Evolution. Continue reading

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The End of an Age (and the Beginning of Another)

I have been using computers of one sort or another since 1979 and I started playing with Linux around 1999. Since then, I have held the hope that some day Linux would be able to replace Windows on at least some of my computers. That day has arrived, and just in time. Continue reading

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A Simple Exercise

By way of warning, I will point out that by ‘simple’ I mean ‘uncomplicated.’ I do not mean ‘easy’

Gurdjieff was generally quite firm in his position that until we make serious progress in our inner work, we can’t really ‘do’ anything because we are unconscious and performing as machines running a program. He did relent a little, and agreed that there were a few simple exercises that a student could actually do in the way he defined the term.

The one I work on now is this: For the next 24 hours, do not let yourself express any negative emotion whatsoever.

Sounds simple, right? Try it and see how well you do. See if you can go an entire day without once thinking “Idiot!” in response to someone’s bad driving, or posting something to Facebook to tell everyone how stupid it is, or making a suitably snarky reply to such a post, or feeling irritated when a family member asks you to do something, and so on. You get the picture.

I’ve been working on a daily practice for quite a few years and I find this exercise almost impossible. It’s a harsh reminder just how much we think and live on autopilot. It’s also a great way to discover just how much of our thinking is negative without our realizing it. Doing an exercise like this forces us to face the reality that we constantly judge and criticize others without asking whether our viewpoint is justified by the facts. If we were really thinking and really seeing, we would realize that all our snap judgements are just ego sounding off.

And if your first response to my suggestion is instantly negative, well, you can try again tomorrow.

-= G =-

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Here’s Looking at You

We all know that our web browsing is closely watched by people who gather data about our browsing habits and choices. We accept this as part of internet reality. But do we know who is watching? How many snoops study us as we go about our business? As a rule, we don’t know. But I have recently found a tool that answers those questions. It’s a browser extension called Ghostery.

Once you have Ghostery installed, you see a popup window appear each time you navigate to a new page. The window shows a list of every tracker that is watching you on that page. The window closes after a few seconds, but an icon remains in the upper right corner of your browser window showing the number of trackers. Clicking the icon opens the window again. From this window, you can block any tracker by clicking a button next to the name. You can also pause blocking, or whitelist a site.

The most astonishing fact I’ve learned by using Ghostery is how many trackers are watching me and how much this varies from site to site. There are two tracking my blog page here: Gravatar and WordPress stats. On the other hand, every time I visit Tom’s Hardware, 25 trackers watch me. Weather.com is almost as bad with 19 trackers.

At the moment, Ghostery claims to have over 1,900 trackers in their database and I imagine that number will grow.

I haven’t blocked any trackers yet, but I probably will after reviewing the list and finding our more about each tracker. Even if I don’t end up blocking any trackers, I feel that I’ve gained a lot of ground just knowing exactly who is following me around.

-= G =-

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