Tagged: blog

Focus

I used to write a lot. This blog started out with stories from work and evolved to chronicle my life. Along the way it became a photography blog, dabbling in a 365 Project, 52 Cameras, and most recently a roll-a-week project.

But lately it’s been nothing. Zip. Nada. I’ve largely broken the Facebook addiction, but my online time has been devoted to Twitter and Instagram. Even there I am more a lurker than a participant.

NFMH has lost focus.

Objectively life has been pretty good. Fourteen months ago, we made the decision to straighten out our finances. We cut up our credit cards, set a strict budget, learned to cash flow life, and paid off $[redacted large number] of debt. Today I don’t owe anyone a cent beyond the mortgage on our house. It feels wonderful.

Everyone is healthy; school is going well. The oldest cats have achieved a colony record age of 15 ½ years and show no signs of stopping. The dog lies curled at my feet as I write this.

Yet my days are occupied with putting out one fire after another. (Not literally – that I might enjoy.) Our home, our vehicles, our stuff. The infrastructure of life takes up all of my waking time and I hate it.

Like the blog, I too have lost focus.

Wil Wheaton had a good post the other day entitled “Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life.” They don’t translate directly to me, but they did inspire. Without further preamble, and shamelessly cribbed from Wil, here are my latest goals:

Read more & write more – Time spent with a book is good. Time spent with a book and my dog (and maybe a good beer) in front of the pellet stove is the definition of a good winter’s evening. Writing doesn’t just happen right now; it needs to be planned.  Dog, stove & beer help.

Spend more time with my photography – Specifically, spend more time in the darkroom printing, and organize my images. Again, a good beer is helpful. I don’t need to make more images or play with different cameras. I need to refine and get a grip on what I have.

Eat better & exercise – I’m the heaviest I have ever been. I have had 15 or so extra pounds for years; lately it’s closer to 20. That ends now. I never feel better than after a good workout, yet I don’t get to the gym as often as I should. That ends now too.

And finally, the STUFF. I have a fuzzy goal here and no plan. For a couple years we have tried to get it under control. Things aren’t getting worse, but we are not improving much either. It’s easier said than done.

I’m throwing it all out here in hopes that a public pronouncement will help me keep on track. Stay tuned.

Now I’m off to pack my gym bag and a lunch for work tomorrow.

Around the Blogosphere – September 22

Presented for your enjoyment and/or enlightenment, a random assortment of things I’ve found interesting recently. Like everything else at NfMH, AtB will run irregularly at my whim.

For openers, Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man presents the ultimate collection of playground FAIL. Peter runs a very enlightening blog and was the inspiration for Around the Blogosphere.

Michael Morse is finding his compassion and saving lives in Providence. Nice job, Lieutenant.

Kal over at Trauma Queen is having a teachable moment.

The Grumpy Dispatcher has started a new job, and he’s getting back in touch with the personal side. It’s great, and it isn’t.

Too Old to Work, Too Young to Retire has a two-part series on constructing your ‘end of the world’ first aid kit. Once you’ve read that, slide over to Happy Medic’s place for his important personal Disaster Plan series. (It’s not new, but it is always relevant and important.)

Speaking of Happy, he and Motorcop have been running an awareness campaign for male-specific cancers this month called Kilted to Kick Cancer. Ambulance Driver is running a fundraising challenge with cool prizes and some fun side bets. Drop by, pick a favorite, and make a difference. And get checked!

Finally tonight, CKEMTP chimes in with a UK police blog I’d never read before. Minimum Cover writes of every police officer and medic’s nightmare. It’s very well written but not for the faint of heart.

That’s all for now. Stay safe!

Written by Comments Off on Around the Blogosphere – September 22 Posted in Blog Tagged with ,

Who owns you?

Or more accurately, “Who owns your name?”

Take a brief walk with me into one of the stranger corners of the Internet. Don’t worry, your identity is safe. Just keep your hand on your credit cards and don’t click any popups.

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes listen to political talk radio. (Lately I don’t find it as entertaining, but that’s an unrelated issue.) One of the major Boston talk stations used to have an interesting personality in the afternoon drive slot. For the sake of our story let’s call him Birch Barlow. Mr. Barlow was paid to annoy you to the point you would call in and argue with him. He did his job well for over 10 years. Occasionally he would go too far and get himself suspended.

Last spring Mr. Barlow disappeared from the airwaves without warning or comment. I never knew if his ratings had tanked or if he’d finally made an unforgivable blunder.

The other day the question, “I wonder what happened to Birch?” wandered through my brain. I sat down with Google to find out. The first few entries were news articles covering his departure from The Big Talk Station. At the bottom of the first page of listings, however, was ‘BirchBarlow’.org

“Aha,” thought I, “I can see what Mr. Barlow has to say about it himself.”

And then things got strange.

The website in question uses Mr. Barlow’s name and his picture, but it is not affiliated with him at all. Part of it is devoted to criticism couched in “we love him but. . .” statements. The rest is a 9/11 Truther manifesto.

I knew such things were possible, but I’d never been confronted by one. The Internet is still the Wild West. Anyone can say anything about you, and there is little you can do about it.

Do you own your own name? Why not? Think of the most horrible thing you can, and then imagine it published under YourName.com by your worst enemy.

Not very pleasant, is it?

It turns out that Chadbourne.com belongs to a major international law firm. I can live with that. I doubt they will libel me. My full name was free, though. I immediately bought the .com, .org, and .net versions of it and a few other terms important to me.

Next I did an availability search using the real names of some of the bloggers I read. It was shocking. More than half were available. I could be passing myself off as any one of quite a few fire/EMS celebrities today.

IF YOU HAVE ANY SORT OF INTERNET PERSONA (blog, twitter handle, or your real name) YOU NEED TO OWN IT AND CONTROL IT, PERIOD.

Just ask Birch Barlow.

Feeds, scraping, & titillating Germans

For a while now, I’ve been aware that NfMH was being scraped. I didn’t get too upset about it. Even if my text was being used to hawk tree services in Austin it was still linked back here and hopefully driving traffic my way.

This all changed last week when an aggregator swiped my text, translated it into German, and used it to sell sex toys.

Really. I didn’t know this post was especially titillating, but it would seem the scraperbots thought so.

In an effort to combat this the blog’s RSS feed has been modified to display article summaries only. If you receive my ramblings via email or a reader application you will need to click on the headline to read the whole article. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I draw the line at selling ‘adult’ products for other people.

In the course of effecting repairs, I also discovered the subscribe links were not working properly. I think they’ve been fixed now.

Carry on, and try to keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

Blogroll Additions

Please welcome to the blogroll Paramedic Pulp Fiction and the Insomniac Medic.  Both write with the wonderful narrative style for which I strive.  KC at PPF isn’t new to the blogosphere, but somehow I hadn’t discovered him until today.  Ben the Insomniac Medic has been a longtime read of mine; I’m not sure how I’d missed linking him.

If you like them, be sure to check out Pink Warm and Dry, Rescuing Providence, Siren Voices, and Trauma Queen.  And of course the rest of the blogroll.

Pimping the blog

Last week I received an email from one Taylor Dardan:

I wanted to send you a quick message, and see if I would be able to write a guest blog on your site. I am very passionate the health concerns that can endanger first responders. I am trying to raise the awareness of the many environmental toxins that first responders can come into contact with on a regular basis. I feel that I could write a compelling article that would be of great interest to the readers of Notes from Mosquito Hill (http://notesfrommosquitohill.com/).

Please feel free to email me back if this interests you.

I don’t publish a bare email address on this blog; this person (or bot?) took the time to fill out my contact form.  A few of the other bloggers I read have been approached by various people offering to create *fabulous* content for them, but this is a first for me.

As usual when something seems odd, my first stop was Google. I found articles by this Taylor Dardan person on multiple websites.  Mr. Dardan is alternately identified as he/she, and is described as “a cancer treatment advocate and extremely interested in insuring [sic] that cancer patients’ medical privacy is fully protected in our current healthcare system,” “a dedicated advocate of veteran’s benefits,” and “a brave soul that is bringing awareness to those that are unaware of the sacrifices that not only a soldier makes away at war but those they endure most times with the families upon their return home.” You will note that above he identifies himself as “very passionate the health concerns that can endanger first responders.”

Whoever this person is, he seems very dedicated to multiple causes including HIPAA, veterans’ benefits, “chemotherapy and natural forms of treatment,” and public safety among others.

Each article begins with a paragraph or two devoted to the core interests of the blog in question.  In paragraph three, we reach the dreaded (wait for it. . . . . . . . . . . )

MESOTHELIOMA.

All of the articles contain one link to the same website dedicated to information about the disease.  A brief bit of digging reveals that it is owned and operated by a major law firm, of the type most commonly seen on mid-afternoon TV commercials.

I was curious to see how far I could push it, so I sent the following reply:

I’m interested in your proposal, but I have a few questions first.

1.  Who are you?  What is your background?
2.  What is your message?
3.  Why not just start your own blog?  It’s cheap (free!) and easy.  I started with blogger.com years ago, and I often post links to other people’s work which I feel worthy of notice.
4.  Why me?  What can you tell me about me to prove you’re not a spambot?
and finally
5.  Not to sound crass, but what’s in it for me?  You seem interested in reaching my legions of fans with your message.  Where’s my benefit?
Awaiting your reply. . .
–James
The silence has been deafening.  I guess my legions of fans will just have to keep waiting for the miraculous message.

Inspiration

I don’t have it lately.  Ideas for blog posts come, bounce around inside my head briefly, perhaps emerge partially onto the keyboard and Writeroom, and then disappear before reaching maturity.

Some of my favorite reads are still at it though, capturing snapshots of the wonder and passion of life in public safety.  Presented for your reading enjoyment in no particular order:

Thanks guys.  I’m glad someone else is still writing about it.  I’ll get the pump re-primed soon.

Gettng my head (and my data) out of the Clouds

I’m a bit of an early adopter.  I’m not on the bleeding edge of technology, but I’m out in front of many people.

I’ve been into Gmail for years, since back when you needed an invitation to get an account.  I know the dangers of cloud computing; namely that your data is at the mercy of someone else.  In Google’s case, that someone has no direct financial incentive to keep me happy.  Their advertisers pay for my service, not me.

Google enticed me with other value-added services which made my daily life easier.  All for the low price of ‘free’ and paid for by advertisers who mine my data in hopes of convincing me to buy something.  I let it happen.

The Hydra slowly crept into my life.  Gmail, Calendar, Documents, Reader, Picasa, Voice, Blogger – it all worked together seamlessly.

Until last night, when it ALL crashed and burned.  Seamlessly. Years of email, software licenses, all my appointments, all my documents, and all of Project 365 — GONE. This blog would be gone if I hadn’t moved it to a self-hosted domain.  The Blogspot account is gone.

Google had a small problem with Gmail yesterday, which only affected 150,000 or so accounts.  They have been disabled ‘pending repairs.’  Google is being very tight lipped about when or if they will return, and  they won’t say anything about potential data loss.  All I get is an error message stating something about violating their Terms of Service.

I’m no spammer, I don’t file share, and all of my photos are my own work.  I highly doubt I’ve violated their ToS.  Buried deep in their ToS, however, is this ominous line:

Google reserves the right to terminate your account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.

And without compensation, of course.

So I’m scrambling.  I’ve set up a new email address on a domain I own.  As long as I pay the server bills, it shouldn’t get shut down.  (If you correspond with me, please drop me a line via the Contact Form.  It has my new address, and I need yours again.)  I’m beginning to seriously question the wisdom of setting up a business on a Google Voice phone line, but there’s little I can do about it for now.  At least I can still forward it to my cell phone and use AT&T’s voicemail.  I can find alternatives for most everything else, but I will miss Google Reader.

I will probably still find ways to use the Cloud for data backup, but it will never again be my primary storage.  You can say, “I told you so,” and I’m saying this to you now:  Get out while you can.

Even if my account were fixed tonight, I’d have a hard time trusting it again.  It’s too easy for a mistake or a hacker to take out my entire digital identity.  So goodbye, Google, it was nice knowing you.

Savoring the moment

0300 hours finds me seated on the foot of the stretcher, resting my feet on the rear bumper of Medic 9. The empty ambulance bay at Local Suburban is framed in the rear doors as a few snowflakes drift gently past. For once things are quiet, and I am alone as my partner finishes her paperwork inside.

I savor the moment. It’s good to be back.

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The blog has been quiet of late. Life has been hectic. It’s not that I haven’t been able to find the time to write, but rather that I haven’t been able to take the time to see the things I want to write about. That’s beginning to change. I can feel it. Stay tuned.

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Mutual Aid of a different sort

Everyone has heard the old cliche about cops and donuts.  The equivalent joke for paramedics centers on coffee.  Everyone knows we work high stress, weird hours, and they think we thrive on caffeine.

For me it’s iced tea.  Lots of it, with lemon.  Leave the sugar in the cupboard, please.  Lately I’ve taken to brewing it in bulk and carting at least two liters to work with me.  Then the ice maker died.

Iced tea without ice is just, well, tea.  Not good.  Unhappy decaffeinated paramedic.  This was right up there with a 10PM truck swap.

Enter The Grumpy Dispatcher.  He’s been running a series of Totally Handy Websites on his blog.  Conveniently, last week’s entry was The Appliance Clinic.  Not only did he save me the cost of a service call, but I learned the history of my ice maker and got to look like a Smart Guy.

The cubes are flowing again, caffeine levels are back up, and life is good.  Thanks, Grumpy.