Archive for December, 2014

fourth quarter check in…

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

It’s the end of the year–time for an accountability check. First, I’m just going to summarize how I’ve done against my goals. (Judgement will be passed later…)

  • Reading (14 of 24 done so far this year):
    • Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, Steven Rinella: I really dug this book
    • Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen: I didn’t really dig this book
    • The Driver’s Guide to Hitting Pedestrians, Andersen Prunty: this book was weirdly satisfying
    • A Dance With Dragons, George RR Martin: this book was weirdly dissatisfying
    • Meat Eater, Steven Rinella: good stuff, a re-read but still dug it
    • Homeland, Cory Doctorow: unsettling and seemed very interstitial
    • Charcuterie, Michael Ruhlman: motivating
    • The Carb Nite Solution, John Keifer: good stuff
    • Salt Sugar Fats How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss: scary
    • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson: love me some Stan
    • The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross: good but formulaic
    • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgramage, Haruki Murakami: good writing but not my thing
    • The Peripheral, William Gibson: I *REALLY* dug this book, Gibson’s at the top of his game
    • Neptune’s Children, Charles Stross: not sure how I never read this when it first came out, but I’m caught up on this series
    • The Restoration Game, Ken Macleod: still underway…
    • The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Russell McNeil: still underway…
    • The Heartmath Solution, Childre and Martin: still underway…
    • The Primal Connection, Mark Sisson: still underway…
    • Practical Demonkeeping, Christopher Moore: still underway…
    • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William Irvine: still underway…
  • Photography and this blog:
    • So, this definitely did not happen.
  • Diet:
    • Started the year where I ended the year, at around 260. Along the way, I’ve tried multiple things, but very few of them with any kind of consistency such that I could say whether or not they “worked”.
  • Health:
    • Nope, did not get one tiny little bit of traction here.
  • Entrepreneurialism:
    • Nope.
  • Travel:
    • Following Nova Scotia, I’ve spent a lot of time in Denver these last few weeks…
  • Camping, hiking, backpacking, stargazing:
    • A little bit of hiking in Denver, but totally blew off the last few meteor showers…
  • Gardening:
    • The basil died after flowering, and the parsley turned into a monster mutant thing which became inedible (not really sure what happened there, other than I stopped pruning it after Sunshine’s food sensitivities listed demonized parsley). The sage, thyme, rosemary and pineapple sage all seemed to do really well. Then one day late in October there was a huge windstorm that knocked my plants off their stand and did in the pineapple sage (which I was really sad about because it was seriously thriving). Since the turn of the weather, the sage and thyme have pretty much dried up and died. I suppose I could have gone through the process of making a few sage smudges and dehydrating the thyme, but my heart just wasn’t in it. The rosemary has battled the cold and the wind, and appears to be trying to survive, but repeated storm batterings have reduced it to a ghost of its former self. What I learned here is that I do not have a black thumb, and that I can get plants to do well and provide. Now, I’m looking forward…but I get ahead of myself…
  • Hunting & Shooting:
    • So, I got my New Jersey permit, my hunting license, and I have really dialed in my archery accuracy. I also took Sam’s Hunter’s Basics course down at Bangers’, and really feel like I at least have a general idea of what the hell I’m supposed to do. Turns out, I still need a fair amount of gear, including a tree stand and several other things like camo and the such. All in all, I feel like I did some good things on this front, but did not get nearly as far as I had hoped, because of distractions…
  • Butchery:
    • Same as it ever was…
  • Meditation:
    • I still have this as a goal, and I think I’m going to keep it going forward, but I haven’t really made any appreciable progress — for fuck’s sake, I haven’t even meditated ONCE since the last check-in. Maybe I need to rethink this…
  • Screen printing:
    • Nope.
  • Poker:
    • Well, some live play (including a big score at a home game) and tons of free play (which only FEELS like poker). We’ll see how this goes in the future…
  • Limit social media time:
    • I’ve GREATLY reduced the amount of time I spend on Facebook, going so far as to delete the apps on all my devices (meaning that I can only access FB via the built-in browsers). I still spend way too much time on Reddit, but just like you gotta take time to sharpen the saw, sometimes you just gotta fill a drool cup. I think this will become an ongoing battle.
  • NO ZERO DAYS:
    • The only way for me to provably achieve this is to track it on an ongoing basis. I have a venue for doing so, but I tend to see daily maintenance activities as something to be avoided, so I have to figure out how to do this without it becoming a burden…
  • Chess:
    • Lots of traction, and I feel like I’m getting much better here. Pedro and I have played four full games so far, and are well into our fifth, and I’ve won all but the first game. Partially, I think I’m getting lucky, and partially, I’m spending a LOT of time looking at the boards and picking my move. If we were in a timed game, I’m 100% certain I would not be doing as well.
  • Woodworking:
    • No traction here since my table top project. I’ve got lots I want to do here, but no real way of doing it (since I let my membership at The Factory lapse…for good reasons…).
  • Frisbee:
    • So, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the PADA Ultimate league (somewhat, I wasn’t really into the group-social thing after games), but I hated the amount of running required.
    • Haven’t done any disc golf, either, but I have great intentions…

So, overwhelmingly, my progress on my various goals has come to a screeching halt in the last 90 days. Of course, lots of other things have happened since then:

  • Got a promotion! I am now Director of QA for Video IP Engineering and Research (VIPER), a division in Comcast that focuses on IP-delivery of video services. They are based in Denver, CO, and we’ll be relocating there in January (woohoo!)
  • As we prepare for the move, which will mostly be managed by moving services that come as a part of my relocation package, we have been busily downsizing our stuff, with the goal of being able to fit ourselves into a small 1-bedroom apartment, hopefully close enough to downtown Denver to keep my commute to a decent walk. We’re also targeting a much lower outgoing monthly cost, in the hopes that we’ll be able to sock away a bunch of cash (especially when Sunshine finishes school and starts work herself–ideally, we’ll be in a position to put the entirety of her paycheck away and just live off of what I’m making). This is all part of a much larger plan involving a big plot of land (hopefully bordering on BLM), a tiny house (possibly multiple tiny houses) and a big-ass studio.
  • New ideals have come to the fore: minimalism, decluttering, un-junking our lives and putting focus on experiences over possessions. The “tiny home” thing is a deliberate move to keep debt to a minimum, and to enable us to do the things that we want and make the choices that we want to make (instead of the choices we have to make to pay a huge mortgage and service a pile of debt). Longer term includes things like being off-grid, reducing our footprint and impact on the planet, and being closer to our food and our lives. It may take us a while to get there, but it can’t happen without deliberate steps.

Exciting things are coming up: a move across the country, a new job for both of us, a new city closer to family and friends, with a lifestyle more in tune with the things that are important to us these days. It will definitely be interesting to see how things go.

I look at my list of goals for the year, and the things that I have accomplished, and even though I didn’t even come close to hitting most of my objectives, I still did a lot and am very happy with how things have gone.

Looking forward, I feel like most of those goals are still relevant and motivating:

  • Health/Diet: I think I need to put this at the top of the list. I really have to lose more weight, and I really have to start putting the work in on my longevity and health, including going to a doctor and getting a comprehensive assessment done. I also need to get my dental situation resolved. So many other things are contingent on this stuff getting right, which is why I think I have to prioritize it.
  • Reading: 24 books still seems like a reasonable goal for a year–I used to read so much more. This, more than anything else, is what suffers under the weight of social media. (Oh, and this blog…)
  • Photography and this blog: I am genuinely hoping that the change in venue and the numerous mountain vistas will get us out on the trail more and get me many more inspiring opportunities for photography. I think I should also consider some projects, like a 30-day challenge, just to get me shooting again. I’m also thinking of revamping my shooting rig–I’ve been looking at the recent rise of mirrorless cameras and find that I shoot more with my phone than anything else (but that may just be a matter of opportunity and inspiration). I also want to redesign this blog, including putting a gallery of my favorites shots on the front page (which has been the same for almost a decade now). In general, I’m thinking that I may need to clean house and reset my context in order to get myself motivated on this front…
  • Entrepreneurialism: this is most likely to be dropped. I have some interesting opportunities here, but nothing really in the “center” of what I want to be doing. If something comes up, then I’ll go after it, but the objective I was thinking of for this goal last year was about programming and building some passive revenue streams–it turns out that I simply do not have the passion to re-learn the coding skills necessary to build the product I was thinking of, and that pretty much kills that…
  • Travel: ALWAYS a priority, but we do so very little of it. I think a lot of what we’ll be doing in the near term will be much more about exploring what will be near us in Denver…but there are plans on the horizon that may take us on a nice little journey or two…
  • Camping/Hiking/Backpacking: see above…
  • Stargazing: this is a separate category, once that I shouldn’t conflate with the above. This also ties into photography, and I am hoping to prioritize more of this in the next year, especially since we’ll be at a better elevation to get some real stargazing in. Denver itself is a wasteland of light pollution, but there are plenty of dark sky sites within a few hours, and a thriving astronomy subculture there, so I’ll just have to get involved…
  • Gardening: this will likely be postponed until we get out of the city…
  • Hunting & Shooting: I will just pick up where I left off here a few months ago. Colorado is an excellent place for shooting and hunting, and gun ownership is way simpler there than here in Jersey…
  • Butchery: I keep thinking that this is part and parcel of the above goal, but there’s enough hipster locavore stuff going on in Denver that I’m betting there will be opportunities here outside of whatever meat I might harvest myself…
  • Meditation: I still want this goal in my life, but I seriously have to put some time and attention into it to make it happen…
  • Screenprinting: I suspect that I won’t be able to make much traction on this in 2015, but I miss having my hands in ink. It’s a very robust and industrial process to do well, and having the facility to do it is just not in the cards in the near term. My best and most likely avenue is to find a co-op or other facility that may allow me to print…
  • Poker: it turns out that the new group I’m working with has a fair number of degens, so I’ve already gotten hooked into the home game there. And there’s also quite a lot of bar poker, and the Indian casinos up in Blackfoot feature a strong poker presence as well. No online options, but that’s probably good…hoping to start rebuilding my bankroll in 2015…
  • Chess: keepin’ on keepin’ on. I should really try to do more study and exercises here…
  • Woodworking: maker spaces are surprisingly thin on the ground in Denver, I would have expected more. As such, it is unlikely that I will be in a position to do much on this front in 2015…
  • Frisbee: I will need to investigate the disc golf opportunities around Denver–I’m definitely hoping to do more of this.
  • Limit Social Media time: I need to set explicit goals and work to them.
  • No Zero Days: if I give myself 12 30-day projects (one a month), each month focusing on a different goal, then I can achieve this without really having to measure it…

I feel like I should have evolved some during the year and added more new goals (and aged off some existing ones). The whole minimalism/decluttering thing is really just a step along the way towards a tiny, off grid, joy-focused lifestyle. Sunshine and I are definitely going through some intense stuff as we paw through all of the gubbage we’ve carted back and forth across the country (at least twice), but it all feels like healthy stuff. Like today, I’ve gone through all of my clothes and have come up with over a hundred pieces to donate, and Sunshine has a similar pile to cart off to Goodwill. But seriously, that is but a small dent in a HUGE pile–we have so much more to do.

Still, things are actively changing for us, which I think is a good thing. We’re headed in a chosen direction, with strong and fulfilling short- and long-term goals. I feel like we’re on the right path, and it feels good to be acting in ways that will enable us to achieve these goals. I guess I can’t really ask for anything else…

Looking forward to 2015…

* * * * *

Addendum (12.26.2014/1.1.2015):

Reading through this, even though not much happened in the last quarter, I still got a lot done this year, and I really should honor those outcomes…

  • Reading (* * * – -) — I read 14 books this year. I definitely can do better, but I’m happy that I got any read at all…
  • Photography and this blog (* – – – -) — I had some fits and starts in Instagram and VSCO on the phone, but truly very little photography happened this year. This is now going on six years since I lived near the beach and was able to take the kind of photos that really inspire me. Inspiration is the key for me here, and I have a strong part of my identity wrapped up in the creative things that used to be such a prevalent part of my life (photography, music, screenprinting, etc.). I truly want to get back to a more creative space, as I am my happiest when I’m creating, and I’m really hoping that our longer term plans will enable me to be there (and then some!), but for now, I think I need to be less goal-oriented on an ongoing basis, and focus more on specific projects instead of nebulous open-ended goals.
  • Diet (* * * – -) — this is a whole other post. In short, I have proven the Fad Diet Fallacy: extreme diet strategies are not sustainable. I have tried several different approaches this year, and overwhelmingly, compliance has been the biggest issue. I have ended where I started here: around 260 pounds.
  • Health (- – – – -) — I actually went to see a doctor, and changed a couple of things (including getting off over-the-counter allergy meds and moving to Bromelain Quercetin). But in the big picture, I know no more about where my general health status is than I did at the beginning of the year, so this definitely needs more work.
  • Entrepreneurialism (- – – – -) — as I mentioned before, I the original goals I had in mind here were really about coding up a couple of apps in the mobile space. I got nowhere on that front, and really should re-think this entire space.
  • Travel (* * * – -) — we did upstate New York (Corning, Ithaca and Niagara Falls/Buffalo), and then a whirlwind tour of the northeast including Nova Scotia. I would like to have done more, but at least we got out a little bit. There were also a couple of scouting trips out to Denver, but those were either so focused on the relocation or otherwise freighted with agenda that neither trip out there really felt like travel…
  • Camping (* * – – -) — we only went out on one camping trip, and that was abbreviated by aggravation and weather. I fear that this has long term implications…
  • Hiking (- – – – -) — we did no hiking at all this year. Totally unacceptable. Gotta fix that.
  • Backpacking (- – – – -) — we did no backpacking at all this year. Totally unacceptable. Gotta fix that.
  • Stargazing (* * – – -) — I am increasingly becoming discouraged by living on the East Coast, as the cloud cover invariably blocks all of the best celestial events, and dragging ass way out to Cherry Springs just isn’t practical. Good thing we won’t be living here anymore…
  • Gardening (* * * * -) — FINALLY! A goal I feel really good about. It took Sunshine a good amount of prodding to get me rolling on this, but that worked out, and once the plants were established, I did a good job of keeping up with the watering. I used a ton of the basil, as well as the rosemary and thyme. The sage just wasn’t as nice, the parsley got used sparingly, and the pineapple sage was supposed to be given a full season before harvesting in the second year (too bad it got decimated in the last blowdown). All in all, I feel really good about progress towards this goal.
  • Hunting & Shooting (* * * * -) — I did a ton on this front. Even though I never actually went hunting, I’m very comfortable with my bow, and look forward to a good long set of seasons in Denver.
  • Butchery (- – – – -) — very little opportunity, very little traction.
  • Meditation (* * – – -) — a couple of false starts during the year, but I want to keep trying. Thinking of doing a 30-day “project” for a morning 20-minute sit.
  • Screen printing (- – – – -) — very little opportunity, very little traction.
  • Poker (* * – – -) — some online, some live, tons of social play. Feel like the game is getting better, just need to put in more hands and build an actual bankroll.
  • Limit social media time (* * * * -) — I have GREATLY reduced the amount of time I spend on Facebook. Unfortunately, I’ve probably supplanted that with Reddit. Going to start a tracking project…
  • NO ZERO DAYS (* * – – -) — focus, Pinky, focus!
  • Chess (* * * * -) — really doing well against Pedro, but I’m slow and not really putting together long-term plans, just doing deep analysis of reactive approaches. I need to do some studying and figure out how to put together an action plan.
  • Woodworking (* * * * -) — I’m definitely proud of the table top that I built, and enjoyed the process enough to want to keep going. This is going to be a challenge going forward of opportunity and focus. Will definitely have to look into a woodworking makerspace in Denver.
  • Frisbee (* * * – -) — I did the Ultimate season, but flaked out halfway through because of the fear of the stress that I was putting on my knees. I bought a starter set of disc golf discs (and lost one on my first day), and haven’t been out since. This might be a social context I’ll have to get into out in Denver…