Categories
General

Working From Home

With the current COVID-19 pandemic (which you can read more about from the CDC for folks in the US and from the WHO for folks worldwide), more and more folks are working from home to avoid both contracting and spreading the disease. There are some great recommendations for folks working from home for the first time, like these from Matt Mullenweg, these from Beau Lebens, and these from Artur Piszek. And, since I’ve worked from home for Automattic for almost 10 years, I figured I’d share just some very quick recommendations from my experience.

  • Make yourself comfortable with a real desk. Yes, you can work with your laptop on the couch, but you’ll be doing this for a while. Get a comfortable desk setup with your screen at the appropriate hight, an external keyboard, and an external mouse. Your body will thank you.
  • Ditch the headphones if you can. You may no longer need to keep your music to yourself by trapping your head in a sound prison. Get some external speakers, or try out your computer’s internal speakers. Either way, it’s better for your hearing in the long term.
  • Set boundaries. Folks always say don’t bring your work home with you, and that’s still true. Set solid hours, let your family know what those are, close the office door if you have to, but don’t let work dominate the entire day and don’t let your home life dominate work hours.
  • Separate your work and personal environments. You may no longer have a dedicated office computer, but to avoid distractions, it’s still good to find some separation. For me, that’s separate browsers. I use Firefox for work and Safari for personal things.
  • To avoid more distractions, consider what priorities your social networks have. See my On Social Networks post for some thoughts on that.
  • If you find yourself stressed overall by work, try using a simple pomodoro timer, like Pomy.
  • Let in some natural light. I don’t have a window behind my desk, I find that distracting, but there are ample windows just off to the side.
  • Cut back on coffee. Coffee was a favorite distraction of mine in offices, but that type of distraction is no longer necessary at home. Not only is it better for your health, you may find you no longer need as much, and it will save you some money. Try just one cup a day in the morning.
  • Stand up, walk around, take a break. Is something loading? Stand up. Is a process stalled? Take a short walk. At least drink a few glasses of water throughout the day. That will force you to stand up and walk, and it will also force you to use the restroom more frequently.
  • Communicate. Talk frequently with your co-workers in their Slack-like app of choice, but also keep the water cooler going. Set up a backchannel with close work friends, Telegram is great for that. Basically, do whatever you can to keep work communication close to what it was before.

As for my desk in the above photo, besides the MacBook Pro, I’m using a Roost stand, a Das Keyboard Model S Professional (with Cherry MX blue switches), a Logitech MX Vertical mouse, an iPad Pro with a Zugu Muse case serving as a second monitor, a set of Edifier e10 speakers (that I rarely use anymore since the MacBook Pro speakers are now almost as good), a set of Sennheiser Momentum 2 headphones (for meetings and days I need to keep my music to myself), a Logitech Powered phone stand, a set of Baoding balls, an ErgoDox EZ Satellite, and the Desk Army (which is a bit smaller now).

That’s how I’ve kept myself sane for almost 10 years of working from home, and I hope it works for you too. Most of all, remember that getting into the flow will take time, you will likely start with lower productivity than you want and that’s ok. Take it easy, take every recommendation into consideration, but adapt it to what works for you, and don’t forget to share your new routine with your co-workers.

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 during the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a stark tone-shift for the Star Trek franchise, focussing on character development and story arcs that spanned its entire 7 seasons, while also primarily taking place on a diverse space station with little space exploration. The fanbase has always been polarized as to how that went. I loved it.

The series initially focussed on whatever random situation the crew of Deep Space 9 encountered, and eventually spent much of the first 4 seasons brokering peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. For its last 3 seasons, the space station became the front line of the epic Dominion War between the Federation Alliance and Breen-Dominion Alliance. These last seasons had some of the most emotional and character-focused war stories I have ever seen on television, not to mention some of the best ship battle sequences on Star Trek television.

The main cast was extensive, featuring Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys, René Auberjonois as security chief Odo, Armin Shimerman as bartender Quark, Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir, Terry Farrell as science officer Jadzia Dax, Nicole de Boer as science officer Ezri Dax (taking on the Dax symbiotic in later seasons), Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf, Colm Meany as chief engineer Miles O’Brien, and Cirroc Lofton as Sisko’s son Jake Sisko. Villains appeared often, but Marc Alaimo as Dukat was the primary antagonist throughout the series. Finally, a personal favorite of mine from the recurring cast, Andrew Robinson as spy-turned-tailor Elim Garak.

Following Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was no easy task, but Brooks as Sisko pulled it off from day one. He brought a gravity and humanity to the role that is difficult to describe. Sisko felt always in charge, yet often vulnerable. There was no occasion he didn’t rise to, no matter how unsure of himself he was at the time. He did his job, and carried the weight of that job, because it was his job. There are many great characters with their own great actors throughout the series, but Brooks as Sisko is uniquely captivating. And, since Brooks himself is so incredibly cool too, here’s a clip of both:

The series is packed full of stories that explore the personal impact of war, politics, and religion, far too much to cover here. There never has been a better time to re-watch it, or watch it for the first time. You can stream Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, or buy the complete series on Apple TV for $204.93 (so maybe just watch it on Amazon). Also, you can stream What We Left Behind for free on Shout! Factory TV, it’s a 2019 documentary about the series.

Categories
Technology

WordPress Does Not Have Phone Support

Please excuse this interruption to our regular programming (do we have regular programming?), but there’s a scam going around, and we all need to do our part to stop it. First, as the title states, WordPress.org and WordPress.com do not have phone support, and they never did. Anything claiming to be “official WordPress phone support” is a scam. They will take your money, and they will do very bad things to your site.

WordPress.org is free site-building software. It is developed and supported entirely by volunteers, and backed by the non-profit WordPress Foundation. You can get support via either the WordPress.org Support Forums or the #wordpress IRC Support Channel.

WordPress.com is a commercial site-building product from Automattic. When you contact WordPress.com Support, a clever form will get you in touch with the right people. If you’re on the free plan, your request will be posted to the WordPress.com Support Forums, where your request will be answered either by volunteers or staff. If you’re on one of WordPress.com’s paid plans, your request will be sent directly to staff either via email or live chat (depending on your plan level).

Again, neither WordPress.org nor WordPress.com offer phone support, and they never have. Anyone claiming otherwise is a scammer.

Please feel free to spread the word by either sharing this post or writing your own.

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Terra Nova

When folks speak of unjustly canceled shows, they often speak of Firefly, but I’ll always speak of Terra Nova. Premiering in 2011, the show takes place in the year 2149, when the Earth is so ravaged by pollution that mankind has no choice but to roll the dice on time paradoxes and begin evacuations to the Cretaceous period. That’s right, future humans and dinosaurs! What’s not to love?

The series is packed full of folks you may recognize from their later work. The Terra Nova colony is lead by benevolent military dictator Commander Nathaniel Taylor, played by Stephen Lang. While Lang may not be a household name, he’s practically a household face. Lang is a great actor, and by this point in his career, you’ve seen him in something. Our lead protagonist is Jim Shannon, a police detective who stows away with his family to Terra Nova. It would seem that the colony would have no need for a detective, but circumstances quickly launch him into a leadership role. Shannon is played by Jason O’Mara, whose voice you may recognize as the voice of Batman from DC’s latest animated films. You may also recognize Shannon’s son (played by Landon Liboiron) as Peter from Hemlock Grove, and Shannon’s daughter (played by Naomi Scott) as Jasmine from the Aladdin remake.

The series follows our characters as they learn to survive in a past rich with new adventures and dangers, ranging from dinosaurs to a corrupt future corporation that wants to “control the past to control the future” and their agents in the past (lead by Mira, who’s played by Christine Adams, whom you may recognize as Dr. Lynn Pierce from Black Lightning). This is basically Jurassic Park, but humans are the ones in the wildlife preserve, and they’re from the future. With Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer, and bringing over some unused sets from the Jurassic Park franchise, the show will feel incredibly familiar to any fan. The cinematography is gorgeous, the overall story is great, and the actors and characters are outstanding. My only complaint is that some of the side-plots can be a bit cliché, but what do you expect from the first season of a network show? Oh yeah, and there was only one season.

Terra Nova didn’t end on a standard cliffhanger, it ended on the worst cliffhanger of all, the world-building cliffhanger. Not only was the new enemy still out there, the world and situation were far grander than we ever knew. And we won’t know any more than that, because the series was too expensive for pre-Disney Fox to continue. It’s a shame, really, the show had a lot going for it. While I have seen many canceled shows in my life that I’ll never recommend because of that, this is one of the few that I do recommend regardless of the cancelation.

Despite the cancelation, Terra Nova was a great show and it deserves to be seen. Maybe one day we could even crowdfund a continuation of some kind, or at least share our own ideas of how it would have continued. Terra Nova is not available on any streaming platform, but you can purchase the entire series from Apple TV or from Amazon for just $9.99.

Categories
Photo

Hawaii in January

Last time, Sarah and I went to the big island of Hawaii during the late December holiday season. We wanted to avoid touristy things this time around, so we opted for mid-January. It turns out, that’s still peak tourism season, but there were less cruise ship arrivals this time, and we were avoiding tourist things anyway, so it all worked out.

Overall, it was great to see Mom and her friends again, and to hang around the Kona district again. Here are some of my favorite photos: