Jumping on the MeWe Bandwagon

A screenshot of a sign-up page for MeWe including an image of a hand holding a smartphone showing MeWe and the text "The Social Network Built on Trust, Control and Love; No Ads. No Spyware. No BS."

I rarely use Facebook, partly because it eats up a lot of time but mostly because I started to realize just how much Facebook was doing with and profiting from my personal data. It’s creepy. So, I cut back my Facebook time to about 30 – 40 minutes every month or so. I’m not keeping up with everything on Facebook anymore and sometimes I wish I could when it comes to family, but Facebook really isn’t about family updates anymore and hasn’t been for a long time so I don’t really feel as guilty about walking away from it as I might have 10 years ago.

With everything going on with the election and the inauguration, alternative social media platforms have been getting a lot of sun. I’m always keen to try out new platforms, mostly to see if there are any great memes, but I hadn’t heard of MeWe so I decided to give it a try. It’s surprisingly well put together and fun to use, once I got over the learning curve and figured out which groups to avoid.

There are, however, some really basic things wrong with MeWe that are surprising. Here are three things I’ve noticed so far:

  1. If I create an album in My Cloud and upload photos to it, there’s no way to share that album with anyone, whether they be Close Contacts, Contacts, or Public. Those photos are dead weight. You have to create a photo post and add 50 images, share it, then create another photo post and add 50 images, share it, etc. That’s really messy. It would be nicer to create an album, caption the photos, and share it when it’s finished one time so people see the finished product. Granted, I don’t have a lot of albums that would need more than 50 photos, but I do have a few and other popular social sites offer this functionality and have offered it for many, many years.
  2. There’s no way to delete an album and have it just delete the photos in the album as well. You have to first delete the album in My Cloud and then you have to manually select every photo in your Photostream, clicking one at a time and then clicking delete which is absurdly tiresome and shouldn’t be how things work in any social network, free or paid.
  3. Once you’ve created your account, it’s apparently impossible to change your email address so I may have to delete my entire account to change to a new email address. Why this is a problem shouldn’t even need to be explained. I figured this out after opening a Proton Mail account, which is encrypted and comes with 500 MB of storage on the free account. I figured it might be nice to have a new account for professional messages, since my Gmail is now an advertising-filled dumpster fire like my Yahoo! email was before it.


I don’t want to use Facebook, but the alternatives really make it hard to settle in with glaringly obvious problems that should have been addressed a long, long time ago. MeWe isn’t brand new after all.

I’m reminded of how Signal is just now trying to add custom backgrounds and more customization options after this influx of users. They’re going to lose out to Telegram, which isn’t as secure, because it’s just more user friendly and more fun to use, because they didn’t take the initiative. It’s also possible to search for public channels or chat groups, which Signal doesn’t seem to support.

I submitted feedback about those issues more than once over the time I’ve been using the app. Now, the Signal boat is sinking and they’re trying to bail it out with new features rushed out in their beta version while people are choosing whether to hop on board or swim to the Telegram boat. I wonder how you explain that to all of the people who donated to Signal to create an exceptional and secure messaging app? That they created a product that lost out to another messaging app run by a Russian oligarch as a pet project?

I think I’m going to wind up using MeWe mostly for a handful of groups and some personal updates, but probably nothing too personal. I didn’t even sign up with my full name. The way that social media is being weaponized now is honestly terrifying and has a chilling effect on speech. Something you say today that is conventional might become a weapon to attack you in 10 years.

I think the 2020s are going to be a time when people take a step back and anonymize and the web goes back to how it was in 90s, before every post and comment online became part of a global ePeen contest. If we can get around current government and corporate efforts to prevent that from happening anyway. I imagine they want and need the US to move more towards a blending of offline and online identities leading to a shadow social scoring system. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t one already in place.

Baking flaky biscuits for two in cast iron

As a kid, when we visited my grandmother in Georgia on the weekends she would make biscuits from scratch. Biscuits and bacon gravy. I always looked forward to eating breakfast there. It was like having a feast every week and different family members would show up each weekend. I’d still be going to her house every weekend if I lived in Georgia, but I’d be doing the cooking now I think.

About a year ago I decided that I should learn how to make biscuits for myself and I did some research online to find a good recipe. Something fast, simple, and reminiscent of how my Nana makes them. I wound up finding this recipe:

Watching this guy cook in a cast iron skillet got me interested in using cast iron as well, but getting involved with cast iron is a pretty serious commitment so I held off for quite a while before I bought a 12″ cast iron skillet. There’s a lot of preparation involved in seasoning cast iron and it was daunting at first. Now that I have the hang of it, it doesn’t seem that tough at all. And cleanup is a breeze, if you’re using them right anyway.

You can’t really cook flaky biscuits for two in a 12″ cast iron skillet, though. I mean, you can, but it’s not practical, especially since that’s where the bacon will be frying. So, I was using a 9″ cake pan. A few weeks ago I finally picked up a smaller cast iron pan and after seasoning it a few times in the oven, I finally used it to bake some biscuits.

I’m not sure if it’s just in my head, but I felt like the texture and flavor of the biscuits was a lot better this time around. And even if it is just in my head, what difference does that make? It was fun, felt good, and tasted good. And now I’m carrying on a tradition from my childhood, even if it’s just for my wife and I.

New smaller cast iron skillet

Something my wife and I have been working on is switching our nonstick cookware out for healthier alternatives. It’s part of an overall plan to improve our lifestyle. I know the stereotype of an oily, cast iron skillet, doesn’t fit well with the notion of healthy living, but we’re going for balance, not extremes. Healthier food choices, including less meat and desserts. More exercise. Less binge watching and more reading. Reducing clutter in our home to make way for things and activities that matter to us. It’s a weird, happy synthesis of almost vegetarianism, the persistence of good physical fitness habits from my wife’s days in track and my time in the Army, and Japanese minimalism.

So, why cast iron? On the one hand, cast iron is just better than nonstick. Nonstick coatings flake off into your food over time. Someone tried to tell me they don’t, but I have eyes and I can see the inside of our pots and pans. It’s happening. I know we’re consuming that stuff and it just can’t be good for us, so we’re going to move away from nonstick and get a mix of stainless steel and cast iron. From what I’ve read, cast iron can leech iron into your food, but it’s not bad for you at all. Our bodies need that anyway.

So, what do I want to do with this little cast iron skillet? Well, it’s not really big enough to fry much. Maybe one egg at a time, but I haven’t quite nailed frying an egg in our larger cast iron skillet yet. Mostly I got it so I can bake biscuits and cornbread in it. I’m sure I’ll come up with some other uses over time. It’s just fun to have, like it’s a toy or something. And even though it’s a little more work to maintain them, cast iron skillets are oddly satisfying to have and use.

Chicken Vienna sausages in a cast iron skillet.
The seasoning on the skillet still needs some work.

I wish I could say we cooked something amazing in it right after I took that photo, but we just heated up some chicken Vienna sausages to have with eggs and rice for breakfast.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 28 – Cooking, Jazz, and Corona-chan

So, I stayed up too late last night, I think, because I feel really tired and I have a headache. Coronavirus symptoms, I know, but this is pretty normal for me when I stay up past 2:30 AM.

I spent most of the day cooking. Not that I’m complaining. This is a good time to work on perfecting cooking skills after all. I think I’ve got biscuits down to a T:

A 9″ round pan filled with biscuits about to go in the oven

I’m still having issues with cooking bacon in our cast iron skillet, though. The pan is seasoned well. It’s not that the bacon sticks. It’s just that the skillet doesn’t seem to heat evenly on a gas burner.

The bacon overcooks in the middle while the ends are still near raw
I had to squish the bacon up over the part of the pan directly over the heat. I know the skillet is off-center. I had too much bacon in the skillet to cook it all at once so I had the rest of the slab over on the left side.

I haven’t quite worked out what temperature to cook the bacon at or where on the skillet to position it so that it cooks in the way I imagine it’s supposed to work. But maybe it just doesn’t work like a regular pan and you just have to do this way? Scrunched up over the part of the pan that’s directly above the heat?

Cornbread for tonight’s dinner

I also made cornbread. I finally figured out how to do that without burning it. Later, I’ll fry some chicken. Also in that cast iron skillet. I love that thing. It’s so fun to use even if it’s a little difficult.

I’m taking a break right now. I found this nice jazz livestream to listen to while I put my feet up for a bit. It’s really relaxing. I feel like I’m in a cafe somewhere, like things are normal and I don’t hear sirens outside the window constantly.

I haven’t even been outside in over a week I think. We just go to the grocery and then come home. The statistics for New York City are really bad and I don’t want us to wind up sick. Who would take care of all of our cats? And besides, I have too many books to read and video games to finish to die now! I haven’t even finished “Breath of the Wild” yet. Or The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Anyway, I’m starting to burn out on trolling Twitter for coronavirus information. The conversation has gotten bogged down by trolls and morons that are peddling conspiracy theories about everything from secret magic treatments for COVID-19 to an upcoming war between Trump’s forces of righteousness and the “Deep State”. Apparently, all of the coverage about the coronavirus from around the world is a hoax made up by “the Libs” to destroy America.

I did find this gem last night, though:

Corona-chan’s campaign for world domination

It’s brilliant. It really catches the popular mood in the US. All of the memes and conspiracy theories are in there. It epitomizes the idgaf attitude towards the pandemic many Americans have shown both visually and through the choice of music.

America loves end of the world scenarios. I think it’s baked into our culture, a leftover from the religious fundamentalism that played a large role in the colonization of the continent. Not that religious fundamentalism is in our rear view mirror, of course. There are plenty of Protestant evangelical/fundamentalist churches out there.

This is sort of a different topic, but I think Christian fundamentalism is dangerous because it encourages decision making based on feelings rather than logic and reasoning.

Don’t think. Just have faith.

Don’t ask questions. Just believe.

Don’t do any research. Just listen to what I tell you.

And that’s how you wind up with groups of people that are ready to believe in “deep state” conspiracies, that COVID-19 is a hoax, and that we’re about to go to war with someone. Not sure who, but someone. Either the Deep State, or China, or maybe us against the rest of the world.

It’s nuts, but it’s fascinating. Trump being elected somehow brought all of this insanity to the surface. I think it’s a good thing. We needed to know it was there. Of course, we could guess that this kind of crazy exists in American society, but now we know for sure. Hopefully, as a result the politicians will take notice and shift some of the national budget away from funding the military-industrial complex and instead boost education, regardless of who wins the November election.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 27 – Trying to reach the back of the cabinets

Since we’ve been going to the grocery store less, we’re actually using up things in our cabinets that might have otherwise occupied space until they went bad.

I’ve also been finding and discarding products that did, in fact, occupy space until they went bad.

Silver lining? Social distancing and the fear of a deadly virus is good for minimalism. My goal is to hit the back of the cabinets and the bottom of the freezer by the time this is all over. No more old stuff sitting in the cabinets, fridge, or freezer.

Case in point is this meatloaf. I had the meat in the freezer for months and now that I have less inclination to go outside and more time to actually cook, it’s done and ready for dinner.

This is the recipe, in case you’re interested: Easy Meat Loaf

Evening Cycling – Central Park

I’ve been trying to do a lot more exercise this year. Most of that has been cycling because it’s easy on the knees and that’s important when you’re trying to lose weight.

I’m going to put more emphasis on running this month. I have a 10-mile run coming up at the end of next month. I’ve never done one before. I probably should have put more time into training for it, but life gets in the way. It’s nice to go out jogging again.

My wife and I used to jog together all the time when we lived in Singapore. It’d be great if we could find a way to get back into the habit. We need to move, though. Where we live now makes it really inconvenient to just go out the door and run. We have to drive down to Central Park to make it work and that adds commute time to just working out.

New year, new music obsession

Post Malone – “Wow”

I know Post Malone has been around for a while, but I never really paid much attention to his music because his music is outside of what I usually listen to. I’m usually into Electronic, Classical, and some Pop.

The type of stuff I usually listen to.

I mean, I’m not sure I even really like most of what the lyrics are about, but Post Malone has a good voice and a lot of talent. And, for some reason, he reminds me of my brother.

Since I’m sharing music, here are a few other videos that I really love right now:

Cyling with a GoPro Hero 7 Black

Testing out the GoPro Hero 7 Black at night.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I bought a GoPro Hero 7 Black. We’d been thinking about making the purchase for about a month and finally decided it’s something we’d enjoy having, and it has been kind of fun being able to record most or at least some of our rides. The battery life leaves something to be desired, but we solved that by just buying more batteries and another charger.

Like driving, cycling in New York City was something I said I would never do. Also like driving, cycling is now a regular part of my daily routine. I’ve found that riding a Citibike is easier as the last leg of my commute than waiting on the L train or taking the bus. It’s also faster, which is kind of sad. Maybe that will change when 14th Street is closed to all but bus traffic at the beginning of next year. Who knows? But we’ve also found using Citibikes to be a faster and more enjoyable way to get around Lower Manhattan when we’re out on the weekends. And it’s exciting, and having a camera on your head to record the rides is also fun, especially if something crazy happens.

My wife has used the camera a few times but every time I’ve wanted to over the last two weeks it has either been raining or I just haven’t had time to bother with it. I finally took it for a spin last night. The video looks great on my phone while watching both the local video and the YouTube upload, after it finished encoding at 1440p. It looks like crap on my laptop, but I don’t think it can display 1440p anyway, which is annoying, but that wasn’t why I bought it, I guess.

It’s a nice new toy. I’m thinking about getting another one so we don’t fight over the one we have. I kind of want a Pixelbook too though, so I have a more portable typing device that I can take with me when I’m out of the apartment. Decisions, decisions.

Here’s another video I took in the Union Square train station. It looks clearer, which makes sense given that there’s more light in the station.

My head wasn’t in the helmet when I recorded this. You’d have to be crazy to lean in that close to a train coming into the station. People get hit by trains every day. Someone died on the platform near where I recorded this a few years ago after they leaned out to check for the train and the train struck their head. That was pretty sad, because it was just a kid.

Elder Scrolls Online Gameplay: Lycanthropy (plus Destiny 2 and Overwatch Gameplay)

Khajiit Dragonknight in front of unknown statue in Tamriel

So, I spent some time messing around with Elder Scrolls Online tonight. One of my gifts this year was the 2 volume book set of the ESO Lore. Elder Scrolls isn’t the most popular game out there. People joke that one of the hardest bosses in the game is a 1 foot wall because just walking in the game can sometimes be difficult, but I like how rich the lore is in the game, so the books were a great gift. They’re really well done, too. I’ll have to post some pictures later on.

Anyway, about two weeks I found out that you can contract vampirism or lycanthropy in the game. As I was traveling across Tamriel on my way to a castle where I was scheduled to perform a fire breathing and sword swallowing act, I ran into a werewolf shrine. I liked the idea of having lycanthropy, so I found a player whose character has it and that person helped me find someone that could infect my character with it too.

The process was a lot more involved than I expected. It had a mini questline that took me into a portal where I essentially proved my worth to Hircine, who is apparently the god of werewolves, by killing a mammoth with my bare hands and then sharing the carcass with the werewolf pack. Also, you pledge allegiance to the werewolves above all other loyalties in the game. Nifty!

So, now I’m ready to add mauling people as a werewolf to my favorite pastimes of murder, robbery, pickpocketing, and assault. I’m really enjoying the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild questlines!

This is a live stream of me playing Destiny 2. It was not my finest hour. I’m not too familiar with the Mayhem Crucible yet, and I was trying different subclasses to see what works, but Titan overall seems to suck for it. Warlocks have what appear to be heat-seeking ultimate abilities that are just ridiculous for that type of round.

And this is a little livestreamed footage from me playing OverWatch. OverWatch doesn’t seem to play nice with Nvidia’s screen recording software and kept hanging.

SMISKI Collectibles – Series 4 Box

There is a Kinokuniya bookstore across the river in Edgewater, NJ. We stumbled onto it while we were looking for the Trader Joe’s that’s a few minutes up the road. Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore. The first time I visited one was with my wife in Singapore. They have a large selection of Japanese and English language books, magazines, and manga.

The Kinokuniya in Edgewater also has a stationary consignment shop inside that is pretty nice. The shop is located in the same shopping center as Mitsuwa Shopping Center, a Japanese grocery store with a food court. Mitsuwa is pretty cool, too. I like walking down the aisles and looking at the products. They also carry items that we already enjoy like Ito Ten roasted rice green tea and Yakult, a probiotic drink.

SMISKI Series 4 Box
SMISKI Series 4 Box

Anyway, Kinokuniya is set up so that when you walk in, you’re in a section with a bunch of cute knickknacks and collectibles. One of those collectibles is called Smiski – Opens Japanese language website. It’s basically a blind-box item, where you open a box and get a random version of the collectible.

When I saw them, I was reminded of these forest spirit things from an animated movie called Princess Mononoke.

After a few visits, I decided that I wanted to buy one and open it. I don’t know why, but I like the idea of having them on my bookcases, or in random places in the apartment. It would be fun.

SMISKI Series 4 Collectible
SMISKI Series 4 Collectible

I picked a series 4 box. I was hoping to get the guy laying down with a smaller Smiski sitting on his head, but I got this guy that’s climbing up the edge of my books, which is also fun.

SMISKI Series 4 Collectible Sitting on my Books
SMISKI Series 4 Collectible Sitting on my Books

They’re supposed to glow in the dark, but I haven’t noticed that happening with mine. I don’t think it’s defective, though. The spot it’s sitting in doesn’t get much natural light.

I’m looking forward to picking up more of these. Maybe once a month?