Dallin Crump

Full-time Clark Kent. Moonlighting Superman.

Jamey Johnson performing at the Grand Ole Opry on 9/20/2022

I've never been a fan of country music. Until now.

It's not that I have particularly disliked it or avoided it, but it's never really resonated with me. Yet music has always been an important part of my life.

My father was a high school and elementary school band director for 40 years, my mother sings and plays the piano. Music was always in our home. I started taking piano lessons at a young age and took up the clarinet in 4th grade. Later branching out to the saxophone, flute, even a little percussion, all the way through college, my educational experience revolved around my participation in concert band, marching band, solos and ensembles, jazz bands, jazz combos, and anything else related to instrumental music. Music is in my blood. I just never took particular interest in country music.

In recent years, however, I have discovered Bluegrass music. I had a co-worker a few years back who loved Bluegrass and even liked to get together with folks to play it. He tipped me off to a few Bluegrass bands and something about it spoke to me. I love the folk-heavy acoustic sound, tight vocal harmonies, and often Christian themes to the lyrics. There's even an improvisational aspect to it that appeals to me as a longtime fan of jazz music. But I still didn't feel drawn to more mainstream country music.

Then I saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. I live in Utah and work full-remote for a company based in Nashville. My company brought me in for a week to visit the corporate office and meet and work with people in-person. My father, who in retirement has moved to Nashville and become a tour guide for the Grand Ole Opry House, took me to see the Tuesday night show on 9/20/2022.

It was phenomenal.

Ticket and program from the Grand Ole Opry

The lineup for the evening was:

  • Jeannie Seely
  • Hailey Whitters
  • Dailey & Vincent
  • We The Kingdom
  • Charles Esten
  • John Crist
  • Jamey Johnson

I knew Daily & Vincent from their Bluegrass albums, and I knew Charles “Chip” Esten was one of the regulars on the Drew Carey version of the improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but I had never heard of the others. Regardless, there was not a single bad performance. Every act was fantastic and enjoyable.

What struck me was the variety. Before my Opry experience, I had what you might call a stereotypical perception of what country music is and what it sounds like. But every act was different – different styles, instrumentation, sound – they had different vibes. Some used the house band. Others brought their own. One just brought his voice and a guitar.

Jeannie Seely – who just celebrated her 55th anniversary as a member of the Opry – opened the show with classic country flair.

Hailey Whitters – a new and budding artist – brought youth and spunk with her hit Everything She Ain't.

Daily & Vincent departed from their Bluegrass roots and played a few tunes from their new country album. They were fantastic, both as musicians and vocalists, and were one of the highlights of the evening for me. They also got to talk a bit about their new cover of I'll Leave My Heart in Tennessee being made a new state song for the state of Tennessee.

We The Kingdom brought a lot of energy with their Christian rock sound. They were all over the stage and I saw a lot of believers in the audience in full praise and worship mode. Definitely the most energetic act of the night.

Charles Esten sounded great – I had no idea he had this kind of talent. His duet with Julia Cole singing Worst Day was particularly memorable.

Jon Crist – a comedian – was hilarious and had the audience laughing pretty much his whole act.

But they saved the best for last with Jamey Johnson. I had never heard him before. He walked intentionally onto the stage with only his guitar and his voice – no band, no backup singers. A man of few words, his performance was just breathtaking. The audience particularly loved his rendition of In Color. And he ended with a stirring tribute to fallen military members called 21 Guns. He got a standing ovation as he quickly thanked the audience walked off the stage.

If there's one thing I learned about country music that night at the Opry, it's that it deserves a spot in my personal music library. From this single show it was obvious there are so many different styles, sounds, and themes in the world of country music. Like any other music genre, some flavors of country may not appeal to you, but others will.

Music from that night at the Opry has been playing in my mind ever since. I looked up the artists, listened to more of their music, and found a lot to appreciate and enjoy.

Later in the week I went on one of my dad's tours at the Opry. I learned more about its history and legacy, what makes it so special, and why artists like Garth Brooks consider their membership in the Grand Ole Opry to be the pinnacle of their career. There's something special about it. I know, because my first visit to the Grand Ole Opry was a special one. And it won't be my last.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 17) #music

Earlier this month, I went on a trip with my family to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We stayed at a campground situated between the two parks. We use an MVNO (Ting) for our cell phone service to save money and, therefore, had no service at our camp. In fact, during the few days we spent exploring that magnificent part of the world, we had little or no service at all.

Without cell phone service, my smartphone became a PDA (personal digital assistant) with a camera. Tasks I took for granted suddenly weren't possible. No random web searches. No checking the weather. No catching up on the news. No email, IM, or social media.

I did use my phone to take photos, keep my journal, jot down notes, and use Google Maps (I had the sense to download a local map of the region in preparation for the trip and I was glad I did because it came in handy).

I caught myself, however, regularly reaching for my phone and trying to go through my routine of catching up on news and social media. It's something I do multiple times a day. I don't have any social media apps installed – I check social media via the mobile browser. And except for direct messages, I have notifications disabled on my messaging apps. So instead of being pestered by notifications, I check my social media and IM groups manually. In theory, this is to encourage intentional use of my phone – to use it on my terms rather than as one of Pavlov's dogs conditioned to salivate at the chime of a bell. Being without a data connection for a few days made me realize that, in practice, I have just formed a habit of regularly checking my phone to compensate.

I'm confident the way I use my phone has resulted in fewer distractions and less screen time overall, but even in the absence of distraction, I still seek it.

I'd like to think that by the end of our trip, I was reaching for my phone less. But I couldn't help but wonder why I had been conditioned to reach for it so much in the first place. Was it simply a habit? A behavior so natural and normal that it has become a part of my behavior? Or was I afraid of being alone with my thoughts? Was I uncomfortable with quiet reflection or observation?

What am I really reaching for when I reach for my smartphone? Knowledge? Comfort? Companionship? Entertainment? Direction? Hope? A smartphone can provide all of these things and more to some degree, but it is rarely the ideal source or medium.

Take companionship, for example. Email, messaging, phone calls, video calls. There are so many ways to communicate with others and stay connected with them. Yet, if I had to choose between those digital methods and interacting with a loved one in-person, I'd take the in-person option every time. There simply is no substitute for being in the same room with those you care about. Yet there I was, reaching for my phone for no reason, when the most important people to me in the world were already there with me.

Since the trip, old habits have returned, “real life” has resumed. I'm reaching for my phone, but not thinking about what I'm really reaching for. Maybe I'll say it out loud. Every time I reach. Ask myself “what am I really reaching for?” Just take a couple of seconds to really think about it. I bet most of the time, the answer would be: something more important than this.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 16) #tech #intentionism

(And plan to eventually switch to an Android phone.)

Back in May, I upgraded from an iPhone SE 1st Gen (2016) to an iPhone 12 Mini. But after the initial novelty wore off, I realized that, while it might be newer and more sophisticated on papery, it actually provided a worse overall user experience for me than the 6-year-old iPhone it replaced. So when my wife an son needed phone upgrades, I decided to make some changes.

I'll get this out of the way up front, the reasons I'm not interested in any iPhone since the iPhone 8 are simple:

I don't like Face ID. Your experience may be different than mine, but for me it only worked when I was looking directly at the device and when there was adequate lighting. So if it's lying on a table or desk off to the side and I just want to tap into a notification to read a quick email or text? I have to stop what I'm doing, pick up the phone, and look directly at.

With Touch ID, I could just scan my thumb or index finger, see what I wanted, and move on without skipping a beat. I rarely had to enter my PIN to unlock my old SE 1st Gen. But with my newer and “better” iPhone 12 I was entering my PIN all the time. It made me especially nervous whenever I had to do that in a public setting. What if someone was glancing over my shoulder and taking note of my PIN?

Bottom line: Face ID, for me, was a step back in both convenience and security.

I noticed no substantial performance gains (based on my use case). I know I'm in the minority, here, but I don't use my smartphone like most other people do. I currently have 36 total apps installed. To the extent possible, I prefer to do everything I can using a mobile browser. Social media, reading news, etc. are all done in Firefox. This means I don't have to install as many apps and I don't have to deal with the potential privacy, security, and resource-hogging problems that come with them.

I also refuse to install games or video apps. In addition to the problems stated above, they are colossal time-wasters and not something I want ready access to in the palm of my hand. I do watch videos via a mobile browser on occasion.

So I use my phone mainly for: church-related apps, multi-factor authentication apps, communicating via email, text, and instant messaging, occasional GPS navigation, light social media (via the browser), reading, checking the weather, snapping photos, and a few other things. My SE 1st Gen could handle all of it just fine and I'd still be using it if it had a fresh battery and if Apple wasn't killing mainstream support for it next month.

iPhone Roulette

When my wife and son needed phone upgrades, I saw an opportunity for me to downgrade to the kind of iPhone that's a better fit for me and to get each of them inexpensive newer phones.

They were both using an iPhone 8, and their batteries were failing. They got 3-4 years of use out of those things. Considering I bought them both as refurbished units and their batteries weren't 100% when we got them, that's pretty impressive. But the iPhone 8 will likely only be supported by Apple another year or two at most, so it seemed the right time to upgrade them both.

The battery in my son's phone was in the worst shape, so I looked for a replacement for him first. I found a great deal on an open-box iPhone SE 2020, which still had the shipping plastic on it and 100% battery health. This left me with his old iPhone 8, my old SE 1st Gen, and another SE 1st Gen that I kept around as an emergency backup device.

I sold the two SE 1st Gens on Swappa, and with the proceeds from those I decided to take my son's old iPhone 8 to our local Apple Premiere Partner and have the battery replaced. The replacement only cost $55 out the door. When I got the phone home, the fingerprint sensor wasn't working, so I took it back in and they ended up doing a full screen replacement that was covered under their repair warranty.

I've been using the newly refurbished iPhone 8 for a few days and it's great for what I need.

For my wife, I ordered her a new iPhone SE 3rd Gen (2022) and will be trading in the iPhone 12 Mini for credit towards it. She got her new phone today, and thanks to Apple's pleasantly painless phone setup process, she's already up and running and enjoying a familiar, but fresh experience.

ISO Android Phone

My iPhone 8 has a fresh battery, new screen, and 1-2 more years of support from Apple. That should be plenty of time to find a good Android phone to switch to.

Why Android? Simple: more choices. I want a fingerprint sensor. I want a 3.5mm audio jack (I hate using a dongle). I want the ability to install apps from outside the built-in app store. New iPhones provide none of those options.

At this point I'm not looking to run a custom ROM or get a de-Googled Android device. I'm looking for something that will get OS updates for at least 2-3 years and will run all of the apps I need stably and consistently. It's looking like Google, Samsung, or Nokia are going to be my best options at this point. But I'm still looking.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 15) #tech

I have always known the importance of keeping a personal journal or diary. But for four decades of mortal life thus far, my journal keeping has been sparse.

Read more...

A principle is “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

We all have deeply-held principles by which we live our lives. Some of those principles may be innate – a part of us as long as we can remember. Some principles were taught to us by our parents or families. Other principles we adopt throughout our lives as we learn and grow.

Read more...

I enjoy reading biographies, especially of people who have overcome tremendous challenges and done something good and meaningful with their lives.

Most recently, I have read a couple of memoirs by Duane “Dog” Chapman, famously known as Dog the Bounty Hunter.

As I was reading these books, for some reason I kept pondering the idiom:

Can't see the forest for the trees.

Read more...

I tend to go through phases where I get obsessed with certain things, getting really into them and wanting to learn all I can about them. For my latest obsession of the past couple weeks, I blame Pluto TV.

Pluto TV is a free online video streaming service that works like traditional over-the-air TV in that it has channels and each channel is just a continuous broadcast of content with commercial breaks. You just “tune in” to a Pluto TV channel and watch whatever is on at the time.

When my favorite Star Trek series (TNG, DS9, and VOY) disappeared from Amazon Prime and Hulu, my brother told me there was a Star Trek channel on Pluto TV. I started checking out their other channels and bookmarking a few.

Then I found their Dog the Bounty Hunter channel. I remembered watching and enjoying that show back in the day. So I watched a few episodes and I was hooked (again). It's entertaining. But I also find it uplifting.

Read more...

The device I currently keep on or near my person, both at home and on the go, is a first gen iPhone SE smartphone. First released in March 2016, it's a nearly 6-year-old phone. At the time of this writing, it runs the latest version of iOS and still receives updates from Apple. It does everything I need a smartphone to do, and almost everything I want one to do. While I have tinkered with different smartphones here and there, I keep coming back to my little iPhone. I know it's not going to be usable forever, so I've been thinking for a long while about what will take its place.

Read more...

This post is being written entirely on an iPhone SE 2016. Why? Because it’s possible.

Possible? Yes. Ideal? No. Ideal would be a full-size computer keyboard with good key travel and tactile feedback. In the absence of that, my thumbs have always preferred the distinctive and satisfying experience of typing on a BlackBerry physical keyboard. In particular, the four-row keyboard found on the Q10 and Classic models, or even the Android-powered KEY2. If I wanted to, I could type for hours on those phones for the sheer joy of it.

But, alas, those phones are long gone, and I have reluctantly and begrudgingly joined the ranks of the glass-typing masses.

To be fair, my thumbs have adapted quite well to the iPhone keyboard, considering my personal preferences. I insist on typing each word in its entirety without the aid of auto-correct or auto-complete. I don’t use swipe-to-type and only really use word suggestions for emojis. I don’t want some computer algorithm completing my thoughts for me. More often than not, I waste too much time correcting inaccurate auto-corrected and auto-completed words. Best to leave them off and trust my brain and thumbs to do the writing.

Despite my dislike for typing on glass, it certainly is a much more pleasant experience today than it was 10 years ago. And I’m using a 6-year-old phone (that still gets software updates from Apple)! My first smartphone was an LG Optimus V. It ran Android 2.2 and had a 3.2” screen. That was pretty rough!

Just having the ability to write anything of decent quality as well as publish it wirelessly to the web from a pocket-sized device is still a pretty amazing thing.

Amazing. But still not ideal!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 9) #tech

I've been using Mastodon – a free and open source, decentralized social media platform and a compelling alternative to corporate-controlled platforms like Facebook and Twitter – regularly since June of 2019. Mastodon is part of the Fediverse – a collection of inter-connected apps developed around ActivityPub, an open, decentralized social networking protocol.

In 2019 a company I have been following called Purism launched their own Mastodon instance – called Librem Social – as a part of their Librem One suite of ethical web-based software services. I signed up for a subscription because I wanted to show my support for any company trying to offer viable, non-exploitative alternatives to popular services.

Purism hasn't done much with Librem One since they launched it. I expect it didn't catch on as much as they had hoped it would. Since then, they've focused on their hardware and haven't mentioned hardly anything about Librem One. But I appreciate them maintaining Librem One as long as they have.

Admittedly, I didn't renew my Librem One subscription after the first year. I tried their email, chat, and VPN services, but didn't find them compelling enough to keep using them. Librem Social, however, has become my main personal social media account.

On more than one occasion, I have considered moving to a different Mastodon instance. But there are several reasons I keep using Librem Social.

Librem Social-Specific

Here are two reasons specific to Librem Social.

Disabled Local and Federated Timelines

Most instances of Mastodon allow you to see Local and Federated timelines. The Local timeline is a feed of all of the posts from all of the accounts within your same instance. The Federated timeline is a feed that shows all of the posts across all instances – at least the ones that support posting to the Federated timeline. Not all of them do.

Librem Social has disabled both Local and Federated timeline support on its instance of Mastodon. I see this as its biggest strength and it has been a good thing for me. It means I am not at risk of being blindsided by a deluge of random, unsolicited content that I never wanted to see. From day one, I have had to intentionally seek out content by searching for it. I search for hashtags, keywords, and phrases related to my interests. I have been able to find and follow people across many different Mastodon instances that I find interesting in some way or another.

General Purpose Theme

Some instances of Mastodon are narrow in their theme and focus. Others, like Librem One, don't have a specific theme or topic – they are just general purpose. My interests are pretty eclectic, so I don't want to feel like I'm pigeonholed into posting about specific stuff all the time.

For example, I interact with a lot of good folks from from the fosstodon.org instance. Sure, they can and do post about all kinds of things aside from FOSS (free and open-source software), but the name of the instance still has that implication and that is their main interest and focus.

I like that Librem Social is a bit more generic in scope.

Mastodon In General

The rest of my reasons are likely true of most Mastodon instances, not just Librem Social.

Chronological Timeline

The main feed is in chronological order. No annoying algorithms causing different posts to show up at the top of your feed every time you reload. I never miss a post if I don't want to, and they are always in the same order.

No Tracking, No Ads

It's certainly possible that some Mastodon instances track their users in some fashion or serve ads, but I would bet that most don't.

And what a refreshing experience it is to not be accosted with endless ads in a social media timeline.

Community

I have met some genuinely good, caring, thoughtful, intelligent people on Mastodon. Some of them share my interests. Some of them don't, but are quite good at expressing themselves in a way that I find interesting or make me want to learn new things.

This has been possible because Mastodon is about allowing people to interact and share their thoughts. It's about building communities, not about exploiting and monetizing people.

Conclusion

I have deleted all of my other social media accounts except for Facebook and LinkedIn.

I keep Facebook because I use it to participate in a few important groups, including Church and family groups. And I keep LinkedIn because it is the best way to keep in touch with professional contacts, network with others in my same area of expertise, and find good employment in my field. But I rarely post to my own timeline in either of them.

Librem Social is now my preferred social media platform, and I hope Mastodon continues to grow and evolve. So far, it's the closest thing to my ideal of what social media should be. I think it has tremendous potential.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 8) #socialmedia #tech #intentionism

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