Still Missing The Blog

I’m still missing this blog a lot.  But then, I say that every year. Various updates:

Quick updates on the projects mentioned a year ago: Project Surround: partially successful, but incomplete. However, I learned enough to know what I need to know, and it’s “just” a matter of execution to get it done.  Project Hurricane (phase 2) is underway and going well. Project Rock Star seems to be dead (boo).  Project Matte was a success, at least initially. It’s something I can also go deeper with, though, so I’ll keep working on that in the upcoming year.

Sad news this year was that my father died in May. It was not wholly unexpected, but neither would I have predicted it would happen when it did.  I do not, I have learned, tend to grieve publicly much, but I am grateful to those who have listened when I’ve wanted to talk about it.  I am also so glad that TLG (now 6) was old enough to know and remember him, and is showing such thoughtfulness even now as he continues to process it all.  My mother’s birthday was just this week and TLG told me he was sad for her because he wishes my dad could be there to go to dinner with her for her birthday.

Big logistical news for us this year was that we moved from a townhouse into a single-family house. (A pretty generic colonial only a mile from where our townhouse was — I’ve obviously got nothing against generic colonials; quite functional!)  There’s a fair bit of backstory to that move (and loads of pros and cons that, obviously, ended up weighted toward the pro-move side, but it was a hard decision.) We are loving the extra space.  Spouse and I each have our own offices now, for one thing – and since we both work from home a lot, that is a huge benefit.

TLG is doing well. He started piano lessons this past summer and has really taken to it. He loves his piano teacher and clicked with her from our first meeting in a way he hasn’t with any other teacher or instructor so far. He participated in his first recital last night and did well – it’s been fun to watch him zoom through the early curriculum. His teacher is using parts of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course and supplementing that with a few other things. It’s a much more integrated and thoughtful course than what I learned on when I was a kid. I’m even learning a few things myself from the theory portion he’s doing.

I’m not going to comment on current events in this post – you can scan my twitter feed for the usual outrage at the horribleness there.

These lyrics from Frank Turner’s “Photosynthesis” have always resonated with me, and struck me again recently as a pithy summation of reckoning with middle age:

Well I guess I should confess that I am starting to get old
All the latest music fads all passed me by and left me cold
All the kids are talking slang I won’t pretend to understand
All my friends are getting married, mortgages and pension plans
And it’s obvious my angry adolescent days are done
And I’m happy and I’m settled in the person I’ve become
But that doesn’t mean I’m settled up and sitting out the game
Time may change a lot but some things may stay the same

And I won’t sit down
And I won’t shut up
And most of all I will not grow up

 

Posted in General Musings, Journaling, ProjectHurricane, ProjectMatte, ProjectRockStar, ProjectSurround, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Year Whooshed Past – Projects Update

A quick update on the projects I outlined at the start of the year:

Project Rhubarb is mostly done.

Project Surround was mostly a failure. Needs to be reconceptualized.

Project Hurricane, at this moment, looks to be a huge success (phase 1, anyway), but I can’t say that 100% for sure yet because certain papers have not been executed. But all signs point in the right drection.

Project Rock Star started well, and stalled. Needs a restart.

Next year’s project will look much like these:

Project Hurricane: Execute Phase 2. Super excited about this – it will hopefully have positive repercussions for all of the other projects below.

Project Rock Star: Restart.

Project Surround: Redesign and restart.

And to round things out and to replace Project Rhubarb, I declare: Project Matte – a completely personal project, part research, part implementation – it doesn’t have clear metrics of success, but has at least 2 major components, one of which, if I put my mind to it (along with some cash), can be accomplished in Q1.

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Point Me to Positive Writers and Thinkers

In an effort to combat the constant malaise that arises when trying to stay abreast of the news, and in an acknowledgement of the fact that my day-to-day work is focused on vexing, wicked technology and policy problems that, even if a solution were to manifest itself, would likely continue to be unsolved due to the intractable political mess that is Washington, D.C. …. I am in search of more positive influences to bring into my information flow orbit.

I’ve started creating lists of writers, thinkers, tweeters, and so on who, in spite of the constant malaise, manage to remain upbeat. The kind of people who can’t help themselves from making the people around them (or the people who read them) feel better. It doesn’t mean they always write/talk about positive things or that they’re never sad, and I’m definitely not interested in any fake, buzzword, life-coach kind of stuff. Just looking for authentically upbeat and optimistic people.

Note – I myself would never fall into this category. And nor would most of my closest and dearest friends (no, probably not you, either). You folks, I love you with your mordant, witty, Gen-X, cynicism and always will. But, I’m trying to branch out and diversify in a different direction – to expand my set of influences a bit.

So, I’m seeking suggestions – here are a couple of examples in no particular order and they by no means span the space of topics or ways in which writers can be authentically positive: the two women running Simple Green Smoothies; the Spohrs; an old HS acquaintance of mine on FB who is just incredibly warm and present in her infrequent posts [no link]; Jessamyn; Tara Brach; John Halamka.

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2013 is Half Over!

I told TheGuy the other day that lately I find myself in a constant tension between berating myself in my own head about not getting enough done and that “life is short!” and alternatively feeling anticipatory about how much space and opportunity there is and to chill out because “life is long.”   My head is a challenging place to be sometimes.

So. It’s July. Half of 2013 is over.  TheLittleGuy turned 5 (very exciting!). We have taken two family trips so far this year and had some family visit for a few days for the afore-mentioned turning 5. Of my 4 big projects: 1 (Rhubarb) is basically done. RockStar is started (but had a huge slowdown in the last month or so). Hurricane has met a number of positive milestones, but is still not quite where I want it to be. And Surround is a dud so far.  6 more months to get these latter 3 on track.

This week on a friend’s recommendation we have been trying out “green smoothies” using the recipes provided in Simple Green Smoothies 30-day challenge. With one exception, TheGuy and I have liked them all. TLG enjoys making them with me, but will only sip a little bit.  To be fair, he’s been that way about our ‘regular’ smoothies for awhile, now – I think he’s just not into the smoothie form factor at the moment. He also rejected strawberry shortcake yesterday (I know?!!?) and would prefer just a small piece of dark chocolate as a treat, if you don’t mind. Ohhhhkay.

Short unrelated bits of blogging:

I recently listened to two interviews with Jeremy Scahill (1, 2). Some overlap in content. Worth the time. He’s super sharp, thoughtful, and impressive.

Iain M. Banks passed away recently. I had not read any of his sf; several people suggested his Culture series so I read the first one, Consider Phlebas. I liked it, but don’t yet feel hugely compelled to go read the next.  On the other hand, I’ve seen many raves about the Culture body of work as a whole that I’ll probably try to get to more of it soon.

I have nothing useful to add about the recent surveillance revelations except that I think more attention and critique needs to be aimed at Congress as policymakers and appropriators.  (Not to say other parts of the government don’t also merit scrutiny.)

TLG’s pre-K program has been teaching them a bit about Independence Day, I gather. TLG’s takeaway is that there was a fight with guns and bombs, and one of the bombs hit the flag. And the fight was about “the freedom” and “the choice.”

 I share Marco Arment’s concerns about interoperability and the open web.

Posted in Books, Current Events, Journaling, Parenting, ProjectHurricane, ProjectRhubarb, ProjectRockStar, ProjectSurround | Comments Off

Mother’s Day Update

Drafted this on Sunday – didn’t get around to posting until today. Oops.

Even as a parent, I still find Mother’s Day (and its ilk) to be a rather manufactured holiday. But even so, I had mimosas at bunch with TheGuy and TLG this morning and have been sitting around watching a baseball game since then while the boys are off giving me a little me-time and playing some minigolf. (TLG loves minigolf – they usually do 36 holes and he’d still be up for more.)

Status of projects: Project Rhubarb, in some sense the easiest, is almost done.  It was a refresh of the paint and fixtures in the living room, dining room, and main level powder room. Finally moving beyond the 11-year-old renter beige. Pictures soon.  Project Surround is not going well. Project RockStar is going slowly. And Project Hurricane has been going very well (high praise for it from high quarters just this past week, in fact) except for one key aspect over which I have basically no control, but for which I have scheduled a key meeting next week.

Recently read: Mechanizing Proof by Donald Mackenzie. A real tour de force. Highly recommended.  Currently reading: Jaron Lanier’s new book, Who Owns the Future? (So far – 10% in – recommended) and re-reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.

 

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Shared Culture

Via Violet Impudence:

Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk.

-Henry Jenkins

Posted in Books, General Musings, Media Dysfunction | 2 Comments

Boston

At the beginning of each of my son’s tae kwon do classes, his instructor tells all of the 4-6 year-olds to find a square on the mat to stand in. Then he says: “Point to your square and say: ‘my square, sir!’” Periodically throughout the class, he urges them back to their squares: “Whose square?” “My square, sir!”

For awhile after 9/11, every time I took the Metro under or across the river into the city I felt a small bit of defiance. Defiance against those who seek to make us afraid to live and work and play in our homes and towns and cities.

So tomorrow, in Boston, NY, and DC; in Chicago and Houston and SFO; London, Madrid, wherever you happen to be – go about your day, take the train, drive your car, ride your bike.

And take a moment to plant your feet in the earth, look up at the sky, and remember:

Whose cities?

Our cities!

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Project Updates

I have (as usual) some great blog posts that I’ve composed in my head, including one about parenting and cultural literacy.  But when I sit down to write them, I just get tired. Maybe another day.  For now, a quick update on the 2013 projects:

  • Hurricane: Still doing some data gathering, but I have a plan for the next step. Need to do some writing/thinking between now and then, though.
  • Surround: Minor progress by one metric. Surprising (positive) result awaiting confirmation, though.
  • RockStar: Some emails sent and a trip being arranged. So it appears to be on.
  • Rhubarb: Mostly just thinking so far, but the next action item is slowly coming into focus.

In other news, TheGuy has a ton of travel this year, so I’ll be trying to move forward on all of these in and amongst various bouts of solo parenting. That’s pretty hard. Although to be fair to TLG, it’s less the parenting aspects of it that are hard right now, than the ‘manage the household, and the fulltime job, and parenting.’  The household management leg of that triad usually falls to pieces when I’m solo parenting, and that drives me bonkers, because it takes us a long time to recover when entropy overtakes the house.

Posted in Journaling, ProjectHurricane, ProjectRhubarb, ProjectRockStar, ProjectSurround | 1 Comment

Big Plans, No Time for Retrospection

I barely blogged at all this year, and only managed to eke out a few Holidailies this month. And really, the year flew by incredibly fast from my perspective. So, I don’t feel like I have the time or inclination really to do a big retrospective as an end of the year post. A few quick thoughts, though, just as a marker.

  • I’m really glad we managed a couple of little vacations this year, even if we didn’t venture very far. TLG also experienced his first plane flight and did very well.
  • One thing I’ve been doing since the beginning of 2010 is keeping a oneline journal. It’s no great literary feat, but it is at least a terse record of what was going on when. So I now have three complete years of 1-2 sentence descriptions of each. A sample: 2012-10-05 – Fri – Worked at home. [TheGuy] took [TheLittleGuy] to tee ball practice. Watched the Braves/Cards one-game playoff. It works for me – I have a reminder set early each morning to write the entry for the previous day. Voila. If nothing else, TheLittleGuy might be amused to read the mundanities of our day-to-day life at the turn of the century.
  • I think I spend too much keeping up with news that is utterly irrelevant to my day-to-day activities, not to mention harmful to productivity. I know far more about certain things (such as this week’s atrocious fiscal “cliff” fiasco) than I need to. What is the point? So I’m thinking of significantly trimming the amount of time and energy I put into following this stuff, with, perhaps, a complete Twitter/NewsBlur blackout for a week or two, as a sort of a news-fast, just to see if I feel any better. I’m going to have to actually remove the clients from my devices, though, because the habits are just too engrained.

And that moves into the realm of plans and goals for 2013.  I have 4 ambitious goals for the year. I’m not sharing details here, but I’m going to give them codewords and vague descriptions so I can talk about them cryptically.  Aren’t I fun? Here we go:

  • Project Hurricane: If I can execute on this, it has the potential to be a really high-profile, long-term result.  Challenge: High risk (even if it works) and getting what I need to make it work is not at all a certainty.
  • Project Surround: Requires a lot of focus and creativity, as well as some detailed data management. Challenge: What this project requires is not really in my wheelhouse.
  • Project RockStar: Also requires a lot of focus, creativity, and huge chunks of time (which–see above–I will try to steal back from my newsjunkie addiction). Challenge: Deeply psychologically/emotionally hard for me, but, if I’m honest, it may actually be squarely in my wheelhouse. Also, I have excellent support for this one. If I pull it off, it will be huge for me.
  • Project Rhubarb: A totally fun thing that will mostly require outlays of cash along with some time and planning. Challenge: Just finding the time to do the planning and convincing myself to spend the cash.

All of these are in addition to my full-time job and suite of projects at work, parenting TLG as he barrels on toward kindergarten, trying to be present and mindful for both TheGuy and TLG at home, and managing a household.  But I’m actually excited about each one. And I’m going to try to remember the truism that the way to get anything done is to give the task to a busy person, and assign myself (a busy person) the tasks associated with each of these projects.

Also: gotta’ stop reading the news.

Posted in Journaling, Parenting, Personal Organization, ProjectHurricane, ProjectRhubarb, ProjectRockStar, ProjectSurround | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve. There was a tiny bit of snow earlier today – looked nice falling, but quickly turned to just a rainy afternoon. Obama (as Dubya did before him) gave FedGov today off, given how the holiday falls on the calendar. My DotOrg followed suit, so I got the day off, too. We have a good friend (and member of my personal advisory council – why yes, I have one, you might even be on it and not know it!) visiting for a few days. Credit to TLG for asking whether we had a gift for our friend when we gave him his “Christmas Eve” presents to open tonight.

We put the rest of our presents for TLG under the tree tonight and I realized I may have miscalculated. For the last couple of months I’ve been setting aside things I pick up for him, like socks, the occasional puzzle book, new toothbrushes, new pajamas, and such, and wrapping them so he’d have plenty of stuff to unwrap under the tree. Well, he has plenty of stuff. Between the useful stuff we’ve wrapped for him, the more fun gifts we got him, and then the gifts sent by family and friends, he’s pretty much set. Note to self: next year, no need to wrap white athletic socks and put them under the tree!

Here he is wearing one of his Christmas Eve presents – a sweatshirt from his tae kwon do school. Tomorrow I may suggest he wear it on top of another Christmas Eve present – crazy Christmas pjs with matching green slippers. He will look like one badass elf!

Christmas Eve present: TKD school spirit wear.
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