I don’t think I can give up social media…

Well, it’s been over 10 days since I reduced my social media usage to a minimum. Unfortunately, over this period, I have come to learn how much I depend on it, especially Twitter. Perhaps it’s just being an expatriate that makes Twitter so useful; it’s basically a mini-expatriate community online, and this can be very helpful at times.

I also found myself logging onto Facebook at one point to find the contact details of a friend who I hadn’t been in touch with for several years. At this point, Facebook is like a friend and acquaintance depository.

So yes, social media, you beat me; I am dependent on you. However, I will attempt to be more mindful when using these services in the future.

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One Minor Downside to Exercise

For most of my life, I have not been a very physically active person. Then, in 2009, after some persuasion, I started to play badminton, which I still very much enjoy. Last fall, around late September or early October, I finally started running to increase my stamina. Not long after I started running, I started going to the gym to lift weights a couple of times a week.

All of this physical stuff is relatively new to me, and I do like the way I feel. However, a slight downside to all of this are the injuries that accompany it.

Not long after I started playing badminton, my knees started to hurt badly. The court where I was playing had a cement surface (as opposed to a slightly softer surface which most standard courts offer) and I was only wearing normal sneakers when I played. The pain continued for around a month and finally subsided after I bought some new badminton shoes with flat soles and little lateral support.

Luckily my running has been mostly injury free (still soreness at times though). However, about a month ago, I was out walking around District 3 in Saigon with Tyler and we were taking pictures of historic buildings. At one point, I was trying to frame a shot and not looking where I placed my feet and stepped on a part of the sidewalk that was broken and loose. My foot twisted sharply to the right and I felt a brief, shooting pain. However, we kept walking and my foot seemed to be fine; I even went running that evening. But then the next day my foot hurt like hell. I couldn’t even walk normally and was really freaked out. I took a week off from running and the pain disappeared and I have been running normally since.

One injury that has been plaguing me since December and I have still not been able to overcome is something that I never thought would affect me: Tennis elbow. For someone like me who didn’t really know what it was, I’d always thought that tennis elbow was some kind of minor annoyance for people who played tennis. I never thought it could be this painful and long-lasting.

In my estimation, things started to go bad after I went back to the U.S. to visit my family for Thanksgiving. After two weeks off of weightlifting, I dived right back in where I left off. I did something wrong with dumbbell curls which strained something. Then I went to play badminton as if everything was fine, smashing and twisting my forearm which is part of the normal movement for the sport. My arm really, really hurt.

I finally reached the point where I took a some time off from badminton and completely stopped with dumbbell curls. I bought an elbow brace. I used a variety of creams and sprays to reduce the pain. Finally, after more than two weeks off, my forearm felt fine and I played again. And my arm was killing me afterwards.

Searching online for treatment, I finally found this website and am following this regime. I hope to ease myself back into the game and eventually be pain free.

Why I’m Cutting Down on Social Media

I’m sick of social media. There, I said it. And I feel better for saying so.

As much as social media platforms get billed as the next big innovation in terms of life and living over the past few years, how much have these services benefited me in real terms? I guess that was the question that took root in my mind. I’d noticed for some time how much of the day I wasted looking through Facebook, scrolling on Twitter, checking in on Foursquare, not to mention the other platforms I’d download to my phone and try, all the while seeking social media enlightenment.

I’d begun to feel overwhelmed and exhausted with social media, while at the same time addicted to it and wanting more posts and links to articles and silly pictures and pithy comments.

Finally, just last week, a well-timed letter (you know, made of paper and ink) arrived from a friend, describing a couple at a restaurant that didn’t interact with each other at all, but instead played on their phones the entire time. I think that was the tipping point. Since then, I’ve uninstalled the Twitter plugin for my computer at work, have not looked at Facebook or Google Plus and have not checked in on Foursquare. Enough is enough.

Short of closing my accounts down, I will instead use them as distribution channels for this blog.

Oh, and just from being off of this social media stuff for a couple days, I can already feel my stress levels falling. There is a ton of information out there, but I’ll just choose to read less of it now.

As far as communicating with friends now, and old-fashioned text message will have to do.

Why I love Android

Despite its numerous detractors, Android is now the most widespread and most used mobile operating system in the world. There is more than enough written about the technical details of Android, but I just wanted to highlight a brief vignette of how I have found the customization options available to be absolutely incredible.

Slightly more than a year ago, I purchased an HTC Desire HD running Android 2.2 (Froyo) after being impressed with my friend Hendrik’s original HTC Desire. It was my first touchscreen device, and I had been leery of them before. The device was not my first smartphone as I had been using the Nokia e63, which was a very capable device, but apps did not integrate well and it was a bit on the slow side.

One of the first large customizations that I made to the device was installing Swiftkey X as the default input method. This virtual keyboard is much better than the default HTC keyboard (which I found to be better than the default Android keyboard). If someone like me, who is not highly technical, had been using a device from Android’s main competitor, something like this would not have been possible.

In late December 2012, HTC sent out an over-the-air update which updated the Android version and also updated HTC’s own user interface, also known as HTC Sense. When I first had the phone, I liked HTC Sense, but after a couple months of using the new HTC Sense 3.0, I was getting annoyed by the animations, random reloading for no reason and generally sluggishness.

A friend of mine, Michael, has a Samsung Galaxy Ace, and one time when we were hanging out, he showed me that he had installed GO Launcher, which completely changed the main homescreens, app drawer and lockscreen. I was impressed and installed it myself. It ran well, but I wanted something more.

After doing a little more research, I settled on Launcher Pro, an app that I’d tried previously, but never really given a fighting chance. However, with this second iteration of me trying Launcher Pro on the aging HTC Desire HD, the phone seems to have come alive all over again. Scrolling through the homescreens is fast and smooth and transitions are well done.

Perhaps the best thing about how the device is running now is that I have certain aspects of HTC Sense 3.0 that I like (i.e. app access from the lockscreen, quick settings from the pulldown menu) along with the beauty, customization and speed of Launcher Pro. This, along with the countless other tweaks and customizations that I’ve done with the phone over the course of a year have solidified my admiration for Android and the countless app developers out there who have made such wonderful things possible.