Practical Advice Over Tricks and Tips

A curled tape measure.
A curled tape measure.

At one time, I was seventy pounds heavier than I am now. That number doesn’t seem like it can be right, but it is. Along the way I’ve tried several approaches, bounced back up thirty pounds or so, and undergone multiple big life changes that impacted my ability to manage my weight. And now that I’ve done all of that that, I’m frustrated to see weight loss information that either peddles hacks and secrets, or is based in science but fails take into account the constraints and challenges that real people face.

I don’t have all the answers, and I…


Inner Peace Through Using Less

I used multiple monitors for years, in various configurations. I used them arranged symmetrically in front of me. I used one directly in front of me and one off to the side. I tried turning one vertical for looking at long documents. At one point, I had three monitors going, spread out around me. And after years of trying these different options, I ditched it all, because I realized that having multiple monitors was making it harder for me to focus, and driving me crazy.

The appeal of dual monitors is obvious: more space to spread out, and an escape…


A photo of a child using a tablet, but with her hand on her head as though she’s frustrated.
A photo of a child using a tablet, but with her hand on her head as though she’s frustrated.

“My computer has been acting slow” is the bane of any end-user support professional’s existence. It’s one of the most common complaints, but it’s also so non-specific that it’s often hard to diagnose — it’s a bit like going to a doctor and only telling them “I feel sick.” But it is possible to figure out why a computer’s performance seems to be dragging, as long as you take the time to figure out what the symptoms are. Here are the things I consider when investigating a performance issue.

It’s Almost Certainly Not a Virus

“My computer has been acting slow” is often followed up with…


My fitness tracker saw my infection before I did

A line graph showing a sharp increase that goes out of a set range.
A line graph showing a sharp increase that goes out of a set range.

In late July I came down with symptoms consistent with allergies, or a mild cold. I had no sore throat or loss of taste, and I’d been vaccinated for months, so I didn’t think it was Covid. But since I was planning to see friends from out of town over the weekend, I got tested on Friday morning just to be sure. It was positive.

In the midst of canceling all my plans, notifying anyone I’d seen recently, and making work arrangements for my quarantine, I checked my Fitbit app to see if there was anything unusual in what it…


Even to fighting zombies

We’re always hearing about the importance of good communication, but we almost never get an explanation of what good communication is. For all we do to champion the idea that “communication is key,” we do little to teach one another what effective communication looks like, or how to be better at it. It’s as though the topic of communication itself suffers from a classic communication problem; everyone has their own idea of what “good communication” is, and assumes that everyone else is working off of that same definition. But someone once taught me a simple communication technique that I’ve thought…


Not everyone is a perfect parent. Or a great one. Or even “kinda okay.”

Parenting is hard. No matter how much you try, you will still make mistakes. That’s why I’ve decided to not try, and that’s okay. So stop shaming me for not getting everything exactly right, or even attempting to get the slightest bit better. I’m done pretending like doing the absolute bare minimum somehow isn’t enough.

Yeah, my child doesn’t bring the most nutritious food in his school lunch. But you can’t judge me for that, because you don’t know my situation. Sure, I have enough money to buy better food, and time to fix it for him, but maybe I…


There’s a lot of fluff that you don’t really need.

There are several reasons why you might want to clear extra space on your computer’s hard drive. Maybe it’s getting a bit full, and you need space to install a program. Or maybe the computer has slowed to a crawl, which in some cases can be due to an overfull drive (see the notes in the next section about when this is and isn’t the case). Or maybe you’re just a bit obsessive about keeping things tidy. No matter what your reason, there are some simple ways to clear lots of space without touching the things you actually need to…


And no one would admit that they secretly longed for the sea

Sea shanties are “in” right now. The harmonious sailing tunes have made an unlikely comeback, thanks to the video app TikTok, where a stirring rendition of “Soon May the Wellerman Come,” a 160-year-old New Zealand song, went viral weeks ago. But the question is why sea shanties, of all things, and why now? To find out, we interviewed a range of regular people, none of whom would admit the truth: that their hearts ached to toss away these drab little lives and set out for a life on the ocean.

“I think it’s just a fad,” said Jeremy Rider, 34…


Some advice never goes out of date.

Technology moves fast, and new devices come out all the time, so getting a new laptop often involves digging through a wealth of reviews for everything on the shelf. But some guidelines for laptop shopping never go out of date.

I’ve been working in Information Technology for twenty years, and much of my job is recommending purchases and assisting people who are using laptops and desktops. These are the rules I go by, based on all the real-world feedback I’ve received from people who are using computers for their daily work.

  1. The more you’re going to use it, the more…


Excerpt from a more perfect world

“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists, and militia groups, and to say that they need to stand down, and not add to the violence that we’ve seen in these cities, as we saw in Kenosha, and as we’ve seen in Portland?”
“Sure, I’m willing to do that.”
“Then do it.”

“White supremacy, and any other ideology that believes one race of human beings is better than another, or that one race is corrupted or inherently lesser, is an abomination before God, an abomination before the United States of America, and an insult to everything this great nation has…

Samuel Cook

Former writer for Tested.com and Geek.com, currently a technology professional, teacher, and father. I write about whatever is on my mind.

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