I took a five-day social media break over Memorial Day weekend and didn’t know what to be outraged about

I took a break from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr, starting the Thursday before Memorial Day to the evening of the holiday.

There were exceptions to my break. I used Reddit. And I logged in to Facebook and other social media for a couple of hours to do some work for the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic club. But other than that I left social media alone.

So how was the break? Nice. Not life-altering, but it was good to get away.

I’ve thought about doing it in the past but there’s a compulsive aspect to social media. Facebook in particular. A feeling that it’s somehow rude to ignore my online friends. Which is just silly. Everybody should take a few days away from social media now and then. I expect to do it more often.

While I was away, I read books and articles, watched some TV with Julie, and took the dog on two long hikes. One hike was on suburban residential streets around La Mesa, including going up 245 outdoor steps, and then immediately down 184 steps.

The other hike was Cowles Mountain. That was a distance of 4 miles, with a 1,600-foot climb. Cowles is the highest point in San Diego County.

For Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr I just walked away and didn’t post anything and didn’t check comments. I don’t get a lot of interaction on those services when I’m not actively posting.

But I didn’t feel right about just walking away from Facebook. If people were leaving comments on my posts, which they would do, they deserve a prompt response, within a day at most.

So I temporarily disabled my Facebook account. This only took a few minutes to do but it was RIDICULOUSLY complicated. It took six steps and Facebook warns you SEVERAL TIMES that your friends will be unable to contact you. Because apparently Facebook is the only way we communicate now. We don’t talk. We just Facebook.

You can only disable your Facebook account for up to seven days at a time; after that, Facebook will automatically re-enable the account.

However, although the process of disabling your Facebook is complicated and intimidating, it only takes a few minutes to do. And it seems to be the only way to reliably let people know I’m not on Facebook for a bit and not to expect a response.

I wish Facebook had some equivalent of the email out-of-office message.

One other loophole in my social media break: I like to post links to articles, and I was still reading articles, so I used Buffer to queue up the links after my social media return. And now they’re trickling out.

I think I’ll take more one-day and multi-day breaks from social media. It’s nice to get off the machine for a while.

Minnie and I got into a tussle with a stray dog yesterday afternoon

I had taken Minnie out for an extra-long walk in a new neighborhood, and was walking around one of our local parks to cool off when an off-leash dog charged us, barking excitedly. Minnie said “holy crap!” and scrambled to get behind me.

Minnie is a lousy guard dog; we’ve already established this.

The off-leash dog got behind me too to get at Minnie.

I started turning around to avoid being pulled over by the struggling dogs and the leash.

The stray dog was about 60 pounds. Minnie is about 35 pounds. So Minnie is much smaller.

I’m about 170 pounds. I don’t know if that’s relevant. I’m just throwing it in.

And so we spun around and around in circles with the dogs barking and growling and and bumping up against me, and me shouting swear words and yelling at the stray dog to get away.

Many F-bombs were dropped that day, I can tell you!

I was not too far from a public restroom, and I started moving in that direction, thinking to go inside and barricade Minnie and me in there somehow.

A young man came running over and I thought that was his dog and I yelled at him to get his darn dog away from me and put it on a darn leash.

I did not say “darn.”

It wasn’t his dog. He was just being a good Samaritan.

And he was a dog-whisperer too. He got the stray dog calmed down fast. The stray even rolled over on his back after a couple of minutes.

Poor dog. Poor good Samaritan. Getting yelled at by the strange foul-mouthed man in the park.

And now everything was calmed down. The stray dog was quiet. The good Samaritan had one arm draped over the stray’s shoulder. I stood about five feet away, with my back to the wall of the public bathroom. Minnie was next to me.

I didn’t want to go anywhere, in part because I didn’t want to abandon the young man with the stray dog, and in part because I didn’t want the stray dog following us and resuming hostilities.

The man’s wife came over, along with his two little kids. He asked her to get a rope from the car, which she did, and fashioned a makeshift leash.

The man and his wife conversed in mixed English and Spanish. They seemed to be Mexican-American. I’m throwing that in here because of the stupid bigotry against Mexican-Americans we’re seeing from the Embarrassment in Chief in the White House and other assorted morons. Here was a Mexican-American who did a good deed for a stranger.

During that time, I called the cops. 911. “There’s a stray dog roaming around the park. It charged me and my dog!” I said.

“What is the emergency?” the operator said.

“Um, that was pretty much it. Stray dog. Charged at me. Off leash. Owner not around. Dangerous.”

We went back and forth like that and the dispatcher said they’d send a car but there were four calls ahead of me. Which seemed reasonable, but did leave us in an awkward position.

The police wanted to know if the stray dog was wearing tags. The dog was not. No tags, no collar, no identification of any kind.

It seemed at that point that the most useful thing I could do would be to get Minnie away from there, and so I did. The man said he’d wait for the police.

We walked back to my car. I took Minnie home, checked on her to be sure she was ok, let Julie know what had happened, and then went back to the park with a spare leash we had around the house.

I came upon the man and his family loading up their car in the parking lot. He told me the police had been and gone, as had the dog’s owner. I shook his hand and thanked him for his help, and he said you’re welcome and then I left.

No doubt he was telling his children never, ever to use the kind of language they’d heard me use at that dog.

As I was driving off, a police officer returned my call. He told me they’d been there and resolved the situation.

So what happened to the dog? Honestly, I don’t know and as I drove off I didn’t care anymore. I’d spent far too much time on the fiasco, and was very, very hungry for dinner even before the dog charged us. I just wanted to get home and eat.

My guess is that the dog is home. Either the owner got there before the police and picked the dog up, or the police took the dog away but the man at the park told the dog’s owner what happened, and the dog’s owner picked up his animal from the shelter.

Either way, I fear things will end up badly for that dog and maybe someone else the dog encounters. The dog had no tags and no collar. That suggests that the dog’s getting loose may not have been a freak accident. It suggests the owner is careless and irresponsible and the dog will get loose again and maybe it won’t have such a happy ending next time.

Script for adding an email from Outlook as an OmniFocus task

I had an amazingly difficult time finding a working script that would automatically save an email from Outlook as an OmniFocus task. Google kept directing me to scripts that did NOT work. But at last I was able to find a solution – it’s here at the bottom of this thread on the Omni forums.

The page contains both a script and an Alfred workflow. I’m using the workflow. Enjoy!

Hot public sex in the park!

I came across these two having hot, shameless public sex in the park!

Walking Minnie Friday afternoon on the footpath around Lake Murray, as we do almost every day, I saw a half-dozen people standing around looking at something on the edge of the path.

When I got closer, I saw this is what it was.

I kept a prudent distance in case they were poisonous rattlesnakes. (What do I know from rattlesnakes? I’m a New Yorker born and raised – we don’t have snakes, just garbage strikes.) Later, Julie found a photo on Facebook nearly identical to these videos, and the person taking the photos identified the snakes as California king snakes, non-poisonous, and they eat vermin too. So you two lovebirds just go at at and make plenty of little baby snakes.

Aeropress

I’ve been using Aeropress to make coffee every day for a few months now. I like it because it makes great coffee, it’s fast and forgiving, and the Aeropress itself is cheap – about $25.

The Aeropress doesn’t care if you use the precisely right grind. Measuring can be approximate; at first I used a scale and measured coffee and water to the gram, but now I just scoop and measure by eye. The coffee still tastes great.

No need to even boil water: We have a third tap on our kitchen sink that dispenses water at the right temperature for the Aeropress, about 175 degrees. Many people have those; I suspect the Aeropress may have been designed with that in mind.

Cleanup is easy: Just rinse and use a damp sponge to wipe the parts that come into contact with the ground coffee.

I make four cups of coffee at a time first thing in the morning, which requires two runs through the Aeropress. That sets me up for the whole day.

I’m currently looking for a container that I can brew the coffee into and keep it hot for the hour or two it takes me to drink it all. Previously, I’ve been making the coffee in a glass beaker and then transferring it to a Thermos. But I think I might be able to make the coffee directly in the Thermos – just use a funnel to catch the brewed coffee. I’d be balancing the Aeropress on top of the funnel on top of the Thermos, which sounds precarious but I think I can make it work easily.

On the other hand that might result in a huge mess and a trip to the emergency room. I’ll try it tomorrow. Adventure awaits!

Updated Saturday 5/19: The adventure ended anticlimactically. The entire assembly of Aeropress, funnel, and Thermos was too tall to fit under the instant hot water spigot. I was left scrambling to find a suitable container to brew the coffee into, while the ground coffee in the Aeropress got damp. The coffee still tasted good, though; like I said, the Aeropress is forgiving.