Productivity Apps and motivation

This article is about apps. Over the Pandemic, I’ve given technology a lot of thought and realized that technology hasn’t really been helping us. Or more specifically, me. Endless scrolling through dating apps without dates and obsessively opening and closing apps led to an epiphany; they were not bettering my life in any way, shape, or form. I found myself accomplishing nothing and the Pandemic became worse as I began a cycle of starting projects only to never finish.

So I deleted the non-essentials and set about finding new apps. My goal was to make technology my friend and today I share two apps that have helped me thrive during the Pandemic; Habitica and Forest.

Habitica

The holy grail of apps. I found this by chance as I was brainstorming ways of being productive. My wish was to gamify my habits, much in the way Duolingo has turned language into a game. The original plan was to build my own app but to my pleasant surprise Habitica fit the need well. You have your avatar and your tasks are split up into recurring, one time, and daily. You can set them to easy, medium and hard. The kicker is, if you fail to do your tasks you take damage. You succeed in completing your task? You get money, experience, and mana. When you reach level 10, you get to choose a class and that’s when the app really starts to pick up. Each class has four skills and I picked rogue. I can steal money, stab a task (money and experience), collect more items, and even avoid damage if I’m feeling lazy one day and don’t complete all my daily goals. Each skill cost mana, which means you’ll be wanting to keep up with your tasks.

At about level 10 (I’m almost 50 now) I started looking at the other features. The big ones outside of having a fully customizable avatar (along with mounts, pets, and backgrounds) is the party and guild system. The two guilds I joined are for anxiety and life hacks where users can simply chat. These don’t have quests, the party system does. Parties consist of 30 people and create a small community of people dedicated to achieving their goals; it’s absolutely brilliant. With your party, you’re mostly doing quests where you typically unlock pets as rewards (as well as gold and experience) but some quests offer weapons and armor.

Forest

With Habitica, I solved my task problem. I could create goals and adhere to them. However, I was still missing a piece of the equation. Tasks that took a couple minutes or had a clear objective, no problem. But tasks that required flow, motivation, and willpower? Those were a struggle.

By happenstance, I stumbled across a Codecademy blog post where ‘Forest’ was recommended. The idea is simple; you set a timer in app and plant a virtual tree. Leave the app, the sapling withers and the forest does not grow. Reach the allocated time, you have a tree. The main draw? You earn coins depending on how long you set the timer and with those coins you can buy trees as well as shrubs to populate your forest. There is a treehouse tree, a lemon tree, a sundae tree, a celestial tree, and the list goes on and on. You can also use your coins to purchase soundscapes from the lapsing of waves on the Ocean to sitting in a cafe in Paris. With this app, I’ve been able to accomplish more in the last couple months than I had all of last year. Coding has been difficult to learn but getting a reward every 25 minutes has made all the difference. The app is updated fairly frequently with new trees and shrubs, which may not be a big deal for some, but it’s fun for me. The app also has a competitive leaderboard and achievements, so I expect to be using the app for the foreseeable future.

A musing on micro communities and motivation

With the Pandemic, I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what brings about the most joy in my life. To accomplish this, I’ve been exploring the very idea of what makes us human. I’ve boiled it down to competition and community. There are other fundamentals for sure, but as a whole we live to compete and are obsessed with reputation. We need these two things from a survival standpoint. I’ve been dreading competition over the last couple years but have come to see how invaluable it is in our every day life. Left unchecked, it can be dangerous, but utilized in the right ways it can be life changing. If there was no competition, there would be no reason for doing anything. Competition provides challenge and challenge in turn fuels growth.

On the flipside with have community, which I’ve been exploring a lot more. Codecademy has provided a haven for hobby coding, where I can go to feel welcomed. Habitica, has helped with habits. Without banding together in groups, it is much harder. We need other people and if we can focus, we can find little pieces of the world carved out for us. Community we are typically brought up into but micro communities (mostly existing online) we seek out. Typically, we are doing and then for growth to occur, we join together with others. Sometimes we compete, other times we support; it’s all a cycle of motivation. This is the first year I’ve fully explored online communities that match my interest and I plan to delve deeper. It’s an exciting time and here’s to hoping my dreams come true. It’s fascinating how much of a difference a few apps can make.


That’s it for the article! And for the month! I’ll be back in October, for my Short Story Horror Month. The big news is I’ve accepted a full-time offer to work at State Farm as an Account Manager. This month I’m studying for my license in property and casualty as well as life and health. I have 30 days to get everything in order so most of my time is going to be spent studying. On top of that, I have jury duty for the first time in my life as well as a birthday that needs celebrating. It’s an exciting and terrifying time but I’m sure it’ll all go well! Thanks for reading!

Sustainability Month 2021: My Electric Bike and Public Transit

The final article for what has been my first ever Sustainability Series. To close this month, I thought it’d be fun to talk about a questionable purchase I made and my experience taking public transit as well as what I think the future of transportation should look like.

My Electric Bike and I

In 2019, I went on a bit of a spending spree. I decided to make lots of long term investments for future Mike. The tablet computer I invested in for settling down in coffee shops and writing as an aspiring Creative did not quite pan out how I expected (curse you Pandemic). And my electric bike that I would ride miles to work every day on? Has been sitting in my garage for the last year or so with one very brief ride. But it’s assembled and ready to go. In the future, I will talk about it more but for now I have nothing to say. It’s foldable, has a basket, and my God, it weighs 60 pounds. My next E-bike will be lighter and smaller; and when you think about it, folding is not as cool as it sounds. It was an experiment and I might even try the one wheel electric skateboards or an electric longboard in the future. Is E-biking better than driving? Hard to say so instead I will talk about…

Biking

Transportation for me has always followed major life transitions. I have ridden bikes throughout my life but it wasn’t until I reached college that it became something I did on a regular basis. And I should clarify, it was once I moved out of the dorms and didn’t have easy access to the campus. My Sophomore and Junior years I rode almost everyday, from home to class to the grocery store. A good three years were spent on the bike and it was great. I had flat tires that I learned to fix, a handlebar that came off during a ride and learned all about front and back lights as well as fenders for rain. I was riding with a purpose. As college became more and more crazy, I opted for walking and chose to ride my bike more selectively. It’s hard to say if I had more peace of mind walking 20 minutes to class but it was nice to slow it down.

Europe

Throughout college, I hardly ever rode our free public transit. Everything was fairly close and most of the time walking was quicker than waiting for a bus. That changed when I did study abroad. I rode the train, took the bus, and got quite used to every mode of transit that wasn’t driving. Living in a small German village was absolute paradise. The cities are designed for bikes, trains, and buses whereas the U.S. is mostly made for cars (hence why an electric bike makes sense). While the U.S. is getting better, Corvallis and Portland were American exceptions to our public transit. And these two cities pale in comparison to even the most rural German village.

Walking

Truth be told, I love walking. As far as feasibility, it becomes dependent on city. I can only walk so far and while it offers a lot of control, it’s limited by time. It is rare to live in a city that has it all. Many cities in the U.S. have strict commercial and residential codes making overlap between the two uncommon. In suburbs, there are strips of convenience among the sea of houses. If you have a car, no big deal. But anything else? It’s much harder. Where space could be used for whatever the mind can imagine, instead space is paved over for parking lots. Cities are great for walking but chaotic; lots of stopping for cars and traffic that honestly has no business being there.

Practicality vs. Sustainability

Cars are convenient and in the U.S. they are big. Why you might ask? Because our roads and bridges are crumbling, so if it’s not built like a tank, you’re in for a bumpy ride. The amount of space cars take up is staggering. In Portland, I’ve seen some retcons where two lane roads become one as bike lanes are added. As far as emissions, it’s hard to say if cars are our most pressing concern. I like the idea of going all electric and I may be in the minority, but I think electric trucks sound awesome. I also think if we want to cool the planet, we really need to innovate our roads. The pavement retains heat and makes the hot even hotter. Carpooling also might have taken a hit during the Pandemic as Lyft and Uber prices skyrocket with their rates, which is unfortunate, as the model turned a car (arguably a huge economic waste) into a sustainable option for individuals. Cars no longer spent the majority of their time in garages, sitting for the next big trip, but rather could be used to meet demand. I imagine after the Pandemic less will opt for Lyft rides and Ubers but I hope I’m wrong.

Personal Habits

Honestly, I prefer a mixed approach. Cars I view as an economic waste, even were I to buy electric. A car would be a luxury and with an E-bike I can accomplish my city needs easily at 20mph. Longer trips would suffer but a better network of carpooling would fix that right up. In cities with large populations, the cities should limit driving. Pedestrian only city blocks are becoming more popular and it’d be nice to see that arrive in Portland. If remote work sticks, it might save the commuting world. All speculation at the moment of course but it’ll be interesting to see people redefine how they travel. If you do drive, imagine a world with less traffic and more bikes. And if cities were designed so people are closer to their work as well as grocery stores? Then you have a utopia in terms of basic transit.


And that’s it for Sustainability Month 2021! With this, my blog is fully realized. I am talking about everything I want to talk about in a way I want to talk about it. The support for this month has been amazing and I’m excited for next year! Next month, I’ll be testing out a month vacation from the blog and will rejoin the world come September. Until then, enjoy summer and remember that being sustainable doesn’t mean having to compromise!

Sustainability Month 2021: My consideration of going vegan

This is not a confession but rather a musing. Full disclaimer: I am not a health expert. Over the last year, I’ve been focusing on healthier habits in my life and thus warrants exploration of going vegan. Another disclaimer: I eat meat. I enjoy a good steak every now and then and chicken? Well, I actually eat that quite often nowadays. Take the time now to gasp if you feel the need.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough raised a good point in ‘A Life On Our Planet’ His argument was simple, that being a carnivore in nature is tough. So how is it that we, coming from hunters and gatherers, have become the largest consumer of meat on the planet? That point raised one eyebrow in mild interest, as he continued to describe how the apocalypse and end of the world would unfold (great documentary if you haven’t watched already).

People

Before the Pandemic, I talked to people quite often. Some of those people were vegan and thus brought enlightenment of what could be. I think I am now more curious to try tofu than I have ever been before. My brother eats it and I have had it in miso soup, so I’m wondering if it could remove some of the urgency to eat meat. I would have to run the numbers but the little research I’ve done has shown being vegan to be healthier than strictly meat diets as red meats can be linked to some cancers.

The Cows

In my old age, I’ve grown bitter towards the cows. Where once I would run around merrily thinking milk had given me super powers, I now only see evil. Cows produce methane and they are killing us. Your McDouble may taste good, but at what cost? At least chickens are still our friends, right? The future will hopefully shift towards smaller animals with less of a carbon footprint and I will put my faith in chicken. Goodbye steak. In college, I took quite a few sustainability courses from Sustainability 101 to Environmental Economics. In Sustainability 101, we went into great detail concerning factory farms and the current demand for food. That stuck and while it has been many years later, I do truly think we need to eliminate cattle factory farms. Smaller farms might work but honestly I think it is better to shift the societal mindset of a mostly vegan diet with the occasional meat.

Community Gardens

In High School, I was a part of Students for Environmental Action (S.E.A.). I would collect cans around the school to help fund the club and we would meet every week to discuss environmental topics. A decade later and most of those issues haven’t changed, they’ve only grown more concerning. As part of S.E.A, we created a community garden out our High School. We grew carrots, beets, tomatoes, and many other veggies as well as fruit. I would bring food home and the rest would get donated to our local feedback. That was a more wholesome point in my life and I love the idea of gardening. Going vegan could be the chance to really get joy from what I eat, rather than simple consuming. There is more satisfaction in cooking something you grew.

What would it Look like?

For me, it would be a casual affair. My main driving factor in my decisions is my health. I want to have energy and not feel like, pardon my French, shit. All our food nowadays is designed to kill us. You drink a bottle of Coke, it tastes great. You get Diabetes from drinking too much Coke? Not so great. A bag of chips is filled to the brim with salt and eating meat everyday is not all that healthy. If you eat fish more than you eat meat, then we are talking. As I do more research into the subject the more excited I get, which typically does not happen with food. So for me, it is about a sustainable balance. I will actively try to eat less burgers and steak as I do not want to support industries that have grown in excess. If I do eat meat or cook, I will try more chicken dishes. The economics make sense and who knows, when Sustainability month roles around next year, I might just have something to talk about for my journey.


And that’s it for this article! With Sustainability Month, I’ve finally achieved a level of satisfaction with the blog that has pushed it beyond simply writing poetry, short stories, and the occasional article. In truth, I looked up the term and the diet I’m looking at is more a pesce-pollotarian diet than vegan. Fish, chicken, and veggies. Thanks for reading!

Sustainability Month 2021: The Oregon Wild Fires

If you’ve read the blog, you know there’s been some debate over whether or not I would have time to write articles for a month dedicated to sustainability. According to the research I did, a sustainability month doesn’t exist. There is a month in October which is weirdly limited to higher education and after that there is Earth Day in April. Those are the two I found. Of course April is World Poetry Month and since I write quite a bit of poetry, I opted to forgo a month dedicated to sustainability entirely. But then late at night I realized I could do it any month, so why not July? With my schedule, I can plan ahead and not worry about a mad blitz to write an article the week of.

September 2020

My Birth month and now the month of perpetual fire. Where once Autumn brought a cool breeze, now the winds howl and bring an inferno to set Hell loose on Earth. A decade ago this would have been a wild dream. And as I thought about it more and more, I realized we are living in a world that is in decay. The planet will survive but we will not. The children born after my generation will be worse off then we were to no fault of their own; for them, they will inherit the apocalypse. We are looking at the last generation of human beings and in the twilight of my years, as the sun sets on my life, so too will the sun set one last time for our planet. The year twenty one hundred.

An interesting prospect, no? Our parents have answers for the economy and life yet how does one go about even expressing the devastation that will be wreaked upon our lives? Perpetual war, terrorism, and a global pandemic will pale to what we will see by the end of the century. Imagine a world with an Amazon Rain Forest turned kindling, Coral Reefs as bright as the stars, and Mega Storms the likes we are only now beginning to see.

My first few decades were filled with hope, now more and more I am filled with a sense of impending doom. The forest fires seen in Oregon could have been improper forest management, sure. But a part of me knows that this will not be the last time I see fire of the magnitude I saw.

And do we act?

Throughout my Life, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Documentaries starting all the way back with Planet Earth in 2006. There’s a lot of beauty in our planet and I would’ve loved growing up decades earlier to truly appreciate that beauty. A time when there were few people and growth wasn’t the only mindset. I’ve only ever lived in a time where there have been cities and people are nigh unavoidable. There is always hope but we are walking a fine line between seasteads and “The Road” right now. Forget “Fahrenheit 451”, we’d be lucky to end up in that dystopian reality. I truly believe that if we don’t act within the next decade, it will be like toppling dominoes.

The Fear I Felt

The sky was blackened and clear blue gave way to an orange glow. For a couple weeks I had a taste of the apocalypse and all I could do is watch the fire consume Oregon as it crept towards my doorstep. I never saw the blazing infernos fortunately but I had my things ready in case our alert status changed. High winds the likes I never heard howled throughout the nights and made what was already bad, worse. I thought trees were going to topple and we’d all be blown away. Then, the other night, I heard the winds once more. A “freak” occurrence they called it but I had to wonder if this reality wouldn’t become all too common…


This is the start to my first ever Sustainability discussion. I’ve been looking to weave causes into my blog for a while now and the Wildfires of 2020 seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk about a terror that is still relatively easy to ignore at the moment. I wrote the bulk of the article when the fires were still fresh in my mind and while not all the articles for Sustainability Month will be like this, I thought it important to talk about. It’s a worse case scenario and I’m hopeful that it’ll only ever be a bad dream. Next article I’ll be talking about going vegan, so take a breath and recover if you are sitting agape in horror.