2022 Challenges: Twitter quitter

I am not the biggest social media user but I am also no slouch. I am proud that MarkTurner.Net predates Google and nearly every other commercial social media site still around. I wasn’t the very first to use Twitter but I was one of the first. I joined in 2008 back when it was a bumpy ride of a place with frequent failures. As it grew and I was astonished to see that actual revolutions were being built around tools like Twitter, I became hooked. I could follow the accounts of notable people and get the facts straight from them. I could turn to Twitter whenever something important was happening in the world as there were bound to always be a play-by-play available from somebody there. I built up a whole list of people I followed and a much smaller list of people who followed me. It was amusing, educational, and community-building.

Then Elon Musk showed up. In a fit of insanity, he bid for the company and then desperately tried to back out of the deal. Finally, he took the helm, fired all the people who knew how to run it, let the Nazis and traitors back on the platform, and promptly made other erratic decisions that not only killed off any trust anyone had in the platform and community but also killed Musk’s reputation as a supposed genius. As a result, Twitter was cripped with outages and failures, loyal users were alienated, and the stock of Tesla (which was used as collateral for the Twitter purchase), swiftly tanked. Musk ended the year as the person who had lost more money than anyone else in history.

What to do about my account and it’s 16,000 posts? I didn’t see many viable alternatives to Twitter. There is Mastodon, though it is quirky enough to keep people from adopting it. I could stay put at Twitter, but I really don’t want to offer any support to Musk’s right-wing Twitter adventure.

I made the decision to stop updating my Twitter account and move to the Fediverse (where Mastodon is the most popular platform). I joined a few Mastodon servers (the first in November 2017), before deciding I’d set up my own server using a Mastodon cousin, Pleroma. I have my full Twitter archive downloaded and could easily add it to my “toots” or posts, but for now I prefer to be starting off from scratch. Though I no longer update it, I will keep my Twitter account alive to tune in every now and then on the chaos over there. I will also use my developer account to mirror some interesting Twitter accounts over to my Pleroma account. That way I can continue to follow the accounts I enjoy following while not having to log into Twitter to do so.

Mastodon/Pleroma and the Fediverse aren’t perfect, certainly. But I was a Twitter user back with Twitter was still shaky. I have confidence that the Mastodon/Fediverse community will work to figure things out my experience will continually get better.

It helps that there are no Nazis.

2022 Celebrations: Sharing the spooky side

Some of you may know this about me, but I have had lots of experiences in my life that cannot be explained by mainstream science. I have mentioned before how I’ve learned remote viewing but I haven’t talked much about my UFO and ET experiences here. 2022 was the year that I finally shared many of these stories with others. I decided “fuck it,” they really happened to me and I couldn’t possibly bear possibly getting hit by a bus someday and not having shared these with anyone. Not that I’m ready for any buses to come careening towards me, mind you. I joined an Experiencer group called CERO this year that consists of people like me who have had an ET experience (a.k.a. “Experiencers”). Much of my memories of those events has been vetted by others who have had similar experiences. I’ve also been happy to help fill in the blanks for others by adding my experiences and thoughts.

ET experience is still one of the very most taboo subjects. When it happens to you, you can feel like the only one on the planet who’s had this experience. Not only do you feel incredibly lonely to find yourself the sole human in a roomful of aliens, you are lonely afterward because you don’t have anyone you can tell about it. Finding people who can relate is a huge, huge blessing because otherwise you can think you’re going nuts.

I felt comfortable enough to go on podcasts with some of my experiences, such as Cameron Logan’s “This is my Alien Life” podcast and my friend Nicolle Morrock’s P.E.E.P. podcast (episode 46). I also sat down in November for a video interview with Bill Howard for his upcoming documentary on Experiencers. We spoke for nearly two hours! Those who have seen the teaser clips have praised me for my candor and humor about it. I really look forward to the release of the whole documentary, coming to the Reveel streaming service soon.

Did it happen? Yes. Will some of y’all think I’m nuts? Yes. Do I care? Not in the least. I call ’em like I see ’em and I am not about to pretend that what happened to me didn’t happen, especially if it’s only to keep people from getting uncomfortable. Do I think I’m special? Sadly, no. You’d honestly be shocked at how many people this happens to. If I’m special, it’s only because I’m one of the few people who:

  1. recognizes it for what it is, and
  2. is comfortable talking about it.

On this note, late last year I published a blog post publicly that had composed eight years prior, couching my alien experience in terms of a dream. You can read it here.

2022 Celebrations: Public Service

Speaking of public speaking, I got the opportunity to dust off some public service skills this year, including public speaking and organizing. Earlier last year, one of my friends currently serving on Raleigh’s Parks Board invited me as a former Board member to join the board’s Fred Fletcher Award committee. I agreed and also brought along my friend Scott Reston. We spent a few Zoom meetings collaborating with other committee members to weigh the contributions of so many of Raleigh’s parks volunteers and make the hard decision on whose work deserves an award. The Fred Fletcher Awards Ceremony was always one of my most favorite events and I was thrilled to help make it happen again. I was beaming when I took the stage on MAy 10th to give a speech honoring my awardees. I didn’t miss a beat and it rekindled nostalgia for my days of civic leadership.

Then this fall, I dusted off my CAC skills with a one-off meeting of the old East CAC. I was approached my my friend and former CAC chair, Lynette Pitt, about getting another East CAC meeting done. There were neighborhood concerns about crime and development which weren’t being addressed. I met with her and another former CAC official to get something planned. In October, we held a meeting at the Lions Park picnic shelter and several dozen folks showed up. We even had free food donated by Brookside Bodega. We heard from the community on what issues need addressing and made plans to meet again to address them. I look forward to working with Lynette to make sure our community needs are addressed.

2022 Celebrations: NC Reading Service

Late in 2021, I was reminded about the North Carolina Reading service (formerly the Triangle Area Reading Service), either in a news story or a friend’s mention. I decided to dust off my speaking skills and get back in there as a volunteer. I got back going in as a fill-in volunteer, and for the first time in ten years I was back behind the microphone in February reading a shift. Since then I’ve gone on to read about a half-dozen times over the year, doing the evening shift and reading USA Today. I have been mostly diligent in saving the resulting recordings off the website, and listening critically to how I sound. This has helped me considerably with my public speaking skills and I feel good about performing a service for the sight-impaired folks in my community. It’s always been fun!

2022 Celebrations: Karaoke

I love to sing. Just love it. And at times I have needed to scratch the itch of public performance that I haven’t been able to get through DNR. So, when I feel up to it, I’ve been going out to the various karaoke shows around town to get my “sing on.” My favorite shows are Steve Scott’s show at the Brickhouse on Hillsborough Street on Friday nights. Steve’s shows have some really good regulars and a crowd that seems to appreciate good singing. Beyond that is Harryoke’s show at the Raleigh Beer Garden on Monday evenings. Another good crowd that appreciates good singing, and Harry has a good selection of songs. I also go to Jacob Sobel’s shows here and there, though his show at Picked Pub in north Raleigh seems to have been handed off to another KJ. So much depends on the audience’s response for me, and there are some venues where my songs or style just don’t click.

For a few weeks this fall, I tried a new show just starting out on Wednesday nights at the Dueling Piano Bar on Glenwood Avenue. It’s a first-rate club with lights, stage smoke, and a decent sound system. The crowd was small but into it, with a lot of good singers. The club had a karaoke contest each week, awarding $100 to the best singer. I competed twice but never won and got frustrated with the process, so I stopped going. I may revisit it later, though.

In Randleman this summer, I drove miles north to a club called Kamikaze’s Tavern just on the edge of Greensboro. It was mostly empty on karaoke night but I blew people away with my performance. Some regulars actually asked me “you mean, you drove all the way to sing here?” Ha! Not quite, but I totally did enjoy performing and I hope to get back there again someday either for karaoke or with my full DNR band.

2022 Celebrations: Empty Nesters!

2022 was the year Kelly and I became empty nesters. We’d gotten Hallie settled at Chapel Hill in 2020 and for a while Travis was a virtual only child at home. In March, he and I went on college tours to UNC Charlotte (taking Amtrak) and to Appalachian State. He liked App more than UNCC but the small class sizes of UNC Asheville appealed the most to him. He graduated Enloe with honors in June, spent the summer working for a short while, and got settled in at UNCA in August. He’s been thriving there! He is delving into engineering classes there, making friends, playing on the school’s ultimate Frisbee team, too. He also makes time for bike rides and learning the banjo in his spare time.

As for Hallie, she spent the spring semester in Montana doing field work in environmental science outside of Glacier national park. In-between sciency stuff, she would go on miles-long hikes in the mountains and camp out. It’s been wonderful watching her love of science blossom, though I think she prefers field work to lab work! After a short break at home, she left in the summer for a semester in Highlands, NC doing more field work. She was studying the effects of stream pollution on the hemlock trees in the area and became an expert on taking core samples. More hiking, camping, and waterfall exploration took place, in addition to road trips to Tennessee to go see bands. Hallie was initially unsure she would like her time in Highlands but was soon loving it and was sad when it came to a close. I don’t doubt there will always be a place in Hallie’s heart for mountains and I love seeing it.

So, how have Kelly and I been using our time as empty nesters? We took a week to stay at a riverside cabin in Randleman, NC back in June. I was jobless by that time but we didn’t let that ruin our break. We paddled on the river, paddleboarded on the local lake, and did lots of hiking in a North Carolina forest I’d never explored before: the Uwharre National Forest. I loved our little trip there and want to explore more of all the parks in North Carolina I have yet to see.

Beyond the Randleman trip, we’ve not done much. The flaw in our Empty Nester plan is that we may not have kids but we do have two dogs. Boarding two dogs for a week turns out to be quite expensive. This tends to put a damper on any spontaneous plans to get up and go somewhere. In fact, last month Kelly took the kids up to visit her parents while I stayed home. Boarding the dogs while I have no income didn’t seem to be a prudent use of our money.

2022 Challenges: Matt Feath dies

I learned on December 21st that my friend and shipmate, Matt Feath, died after some recent heart surgery. Matt was a flaming liberal in a military uniform disguise when we served together on the USS ELLIOT. I kept my politics to myself when I served and he did as well, but once he had retired and I Was out I really began to appreciate him. It is a lonely thing to be progressive in a conservative culture like the military. I assume Matt did it for the same reason I did it: purely out of love of country, and not because of some forced, fake patriotism that drives some on the right. He and I traded messages on Facebook every few days, swapping takes on national politics, good bands and musicians, military life, and mutual interest in spooky topics such as UFOs, remote viewing, and the like. I was delighted that our friendship has blossomed the way it had. I smiled at all the photos Matt shared of time he spent with his kids, on whom he absolutely doted..

Matt was very loyal to his family and friends. He helped me find my way as a liberal veteran – that is, a former military member who actually gives a shit about others. He introduced me to a lot of good music, too. He was an atheist for much of the time that I’d known him but I suspect some of the woo woo interests I’d shared with him may have made him think that perhaps there is something more to material life. When I eventually cross the border into the next world, I look forward to sharing a beer with my good shipmate, Matt.

2022 Challenges: COVID arrives at the Turner household

Twenty twenty-two was the year that COVID came home to roost at the Turner household. After masking nearly everywhere, Travis went to his high-school chorus rehearsal unmasked on April 6th and the next day was sick. He spent the next week or so coughing and hardly leaving his bed. Kelly and I masked and tended to him and she and I dodged the bullet.

It was a little over a month later that it was Kelly’s turn to get COVID. She tested positive on May 15th and was sapped of energy for about a week. Kelly isolated in our guest bedroom while I took care of her. We’re not sure where she picked it up: possibly a work event or a social event.

Hallie is the latest to come down with COVID when she tested positive on December 22nd. She had dodged COVID when it affected her Carrboro roommates, drove for hours with her sick friend Jonas as they traveled the state, and kept healthy during her semester at Highlands with the exception of a short bout with the flu. She isolated in her bedroom here at home for over a week, always answering a sad “not good” when I’d asked how she was feeling. Only after Christmas did she seem to start feeling better. We all masked up in house and I kept the HEPA air filter running day and night and thankfully we are all healthy again.

I have never tested positive for COVID, neither PCR or rapid antigen tests. That is not to say that I dodged COVID because I think the odds of that are pretty small. Still, I have never stopped masking up in public places. I got another COVID booster vaccine in May and the bivalent booster in September. Yet, in spite of the negative tests I have noticed the “COVID toe” phenomenon appearing occasionally. And the day before I thought to test Hallie, my right shoulder began aching – the same one that I got my last COVID shot in. It always makes me wonder that I’ve been exposed to COVID but perhaps my body is very good at fighting it. Who knows? I am adamant on staying healthy and that’s that.

2022 Challenges: Job changes

The biggest challenge of 2022 for me personally was job changes. Up until June, I had a job that I loved at Pattern Health, working with old friends at a startup and building new skills. It was about all I could ask for until one day in June when my boss called me into an impromptu Zoom meeting to tell me the board was cutting the workforce and I had been laid off. My manager, John, is a good friend. He was as surprised and saddened as anyone and I know it must have been tough for him to do it. I didn’t take it personally – startups don’t always succeed – but it is never convenient to have to look for work. The silver lining is that within two days, I had 42 leads from my huge network of friends. I had to make a spreadsheet to keep up with all the suggestions.

After a vigorous job search I wound up getting three job offers. I politely turned the first one down. The team was really nice but the role itself was largely Windows-focused and I didn’t want my Linux skills to atrophy. The second was for a local startup company that would’ve gotten me (or at least one foot of me) back into sales engineering in addition to DevOps. I considered it but turned it down as well since I didn’t think I clicked with upper management and there were some things I saw that raised some ethical questions.

I wound up taking the third offer even though it was significantly lower than the other two. It was for an even tinier startup because the company was intriguing and I would be working a four-day workweek. I felt good about working for a company that claimed to want to give back, and was looking forward to having some extra time to devote to my own projects. Well, it turned out the company didn’t really live up to its values. Material information was withheld until after I’d accepted the offer. My manager did not play well with others, alienating me as well as the developers we ostensibly were serving. The DevOps work I had hoped to be doing never materialized. The four-day work week? Well, they didn’t really mean that. I was relieved when we parted ways. To think that I had chosen this employer based on ethics is laughable now.

Recap of 2022

So, 2022 is in the books. It was another year on the planet, another year of learning, and for that I am grateful. Still, a few of the lessons of 2022 were pretty shitty ones, overall. Even so, there were great achievements in 2022 as well. So here’s a recap. This year I will mention the things that didn’t go so well right at the start, so that I can focus on the things that did go so well. Part of my focus for 2023 is to celebrate the good things, of which there are many and to which I don’t typically give proper credit.