Getting Back In Shape…

Over the past few years, I’ve made some variant of the “get back into shape” New Year’s Resolution multiple times. Talk to any regular at the Gym, and they’ll tell you all about the January – February rush before things return back to normal.

The past couple years, I’ve struggled with increased mobility issues. So much so, that I spent some time with a Doctor and Physical Therapist for my knees. The general consensus is some form of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. After 6 months of physical therapy, I felt a marginal improvement. This year, I decided I was tired of pain and would attempt to tackle my knees, as well as improve my health.

My ‘start stats’ for this journey (Aug 31):

  • Male
  • 6’6″
  • 260 lbs

I plan on writing up how things go, if only to help myself track progress. I’ve made a few different changes:

  1. Eliminate high-caffeine, soda, high-sugar desserts and foods. I’ve tried to align my diet in order to better control blood sugar, and hopefully prevent diabetes. Started at beginning of August.
  2. Start tracking caloric intake and logging foods / feeling. I’m using MyFitnessPal for my log. I’ll look at writing a more complete review later. Followed for about 2 weeks now.
  3. Monitor activity level, sleep, and heart rate. I’m using Garmin Connect and a VivoActive HR for monitoring. Followed for about a week now.
  4. Gym Lifting Program. I started a membership at our area YMCA, and began working with one of their fitness coaches. As part of a YMCA membership in our area, you get 6 sessions with a fitness coach where they help you build an exercise program. Followed for about a week now.
  5. Returned to the Dojo. I restarted a martial arts program at a new local dojo. It’s an odd feeling having been a fairly advanced student and returning as a white belt. I appreciate a lot more what’s going on, and can focus on the basics again. This also gives me a reason to do daily stretches and excercise beyond the schedule class times. Started at beginning of September.

I think I’m finally starting to see some results, but time well tell. The real question is “can I stick with it?”. Hopefully tracking / posting will help. Meanwhile, a video from one of the Dojo’s I decided to avoid:

Speaking to an empty room…

… write it and they will come? Perhaps.

I’ve recently tried to step back from FB and Twitter and ‘social media’ in general, and return back to the blog-o-sphere. I’ve had some form of blog or another since 2000 – lately, it seems that the majority of blogger folk have jumped ship to FB and friends – or just quit altogether. I’d estimate fewer than 1:10 blogs I used to read are active. Many, like this one, go for great periods of time with no updates, then a series of updates, and then back to quiet.

I guess if we have important things to say, we can post/share them on social media instead.

A while back, Fin alluded to things going on that prevent her/us from posting on a regular basis. In a lot of things, we’re fairly private, and so, I’ll leave it to her to share or not the past couple years. I’ll summarize it with a single phrase: Fuck Cancer. Fin and I have lived the past year in Cancer’s shadow – taking care of a dear relative through all stages of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Losing a close family member sucks, and we’ve both been fighting to move on. It’s only been a few months, but it feels like years.

We had grand plans for this blog when we started – chronicles of our adventures.

As the dust settles and Fin and I seek a new normal, it seemed like a good time to come back to the blog. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to adventuring and exploring the earlier themes here. I’m not sure where this blog fits in on the new normal – but we’ll see. Maybe there’s some life left in the room after-all.

Lazy Sunday Listening

This has steadily grown on me

A+ producing here. The individual components / performance are good to mediocre, but the combination of mixing, editing, and (shock to here me say it) tasteful digital enhancements combine to a very powerful studio effect.

Side note: anyone else thought about the resurgence of musical videos on the internet? I’m glad youtube and vimeo are around.

2015 Recap and 2016 Resolutions

I’ll be short on last year: FAIL

The only resolution I feel I fully accomplished was participating in the company wellness program. And on that, I give myself a solid C. Last year was about family, and trying to keep it together while my father-in-law fought Cancer. Fin can fill you in on that, but I’ll summarize the year with “Cancer sucks”.

I’m trying to move on, and what better way to start by posting my usual yearly post.

So, 2016…. here we go:

  1. Consumer Debt Free
    No car, auto, credit card, or signature loans. For a stretch, I’d also like to pay off my last remaining student loan.
  2. Make measurable progress toward moving.
    One or more of the following: engaging real-estate agent to help determine needs / value of house, contracting professionals for needed repairs and/or DIY if possible, starting bank relationship for pre-approval of mortgage, seeing houses / contacting buyers agent.
  3. Get technical blog running again
    My technical blog just currently posts a “nothing to see here message”. I’d like to get it going and average 1 post a month. Believe it or not, that blog actually had a regular following and fairly decent traffic.
  4. Build wireless temperature sensor system for greenhouse
    Goal here is to get a temperature / humidity read-out and log for Kris. Bonus points if I can get a working weather station reporting conditions to the web and displaying on the sidebar here.
  5. Post another piano recording
    I’ve worked on a few really lovely pieces the past few years. I’d like to actual post a recording of something – especially since the equipment is just gathering dust in the closet. It’d be really cool if Fin and I could start a pod-cast too, but that’s not likely this year.
  6. Take an actual vacation
    “Actual vacation” is defined here as a minimum of 3 contiguous planned days off from work, not associate with family camping trips, doctors, or family obligations (funeral / wedding ).
  7. Complete an online course
    Technical or musical, I don’t care which – but I need to practice life-long learning again!
  8. Learn a web framework (server and browser side)
    I might combine this with the previous item. I’d like to become more fluent in building websites, especially as the lack of knowledge on modern web development is the major reason why I haven’t yet built a whizz-bang theme for this site.
  9. Visit at least 2 Kansas City tourist traps
    I’ve got a fairly long potential list of tourist traps to visit. I might should add “besides the plaza” here, unless I’m there to visit the art museum. The trick here will be convincing Fin to get out of the house.
  10. Branch out from previous years in a current hobby or find something new altogether
    Lately, I’ve realized a steady movement away from “Jack of All Trades” to “Master of a few”. This year, I’d like to actually explore some new things… Maybe drawing, building models, more hardware instead of software based projects, gardening, tinkering… I dunnos.

It’s that time of year again!

If you haven’t started your tomatoes and peppers yet it’s not too late to get them going!  Cole crops too!

Here are some pictures from the greenhouse:

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Elderberry cuttings,  some paw paw seeds,  and some wild cherry seeds:

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Radishes planted in the ground in the greenhouse:

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The greenhouse is getting kind of full,  I really need to figure out some way to make use of the vertical space in there a bit better. 

– Fin

Crowd-Funding Campaigns

Every few days, someone messages me on a new and great crowd funding campaign.

Generally, this comes in the form of sharing a video – a video that makes many grandiose promises if I only donate a few bucks to the cause.  As a few of these campaigns have raised crazy amounts of cash, it seems that they are becoming more popular. Throw a coin at any “Make” fair, and see what I mean.

Now, this may be common sense, but I’d like to share my general way of looking at these crowd-funding campaigns in the hope that I won’t have to deal with people finding me a “Kill-Joy” when the next “big thing” comes along.

Questions I ask when seeing a campaign

What’s in it for me?

If I donate money to your cause, am I preordering a product, or buying a t-shirt that says “I liked it before it was cool”?

Pinonccio – $49 donation gets me a prototype

While kickstarter won’t run them, other crowd funding  sites will host “get a t-shirt” with donation campaigns. If you donate to these, you’ll get a t-shirt, but don’t plan on that t-shirt being anything more than a statement that you can easily be separated from you money.

Why hasn’t this been done before and how is it different?

Let’s say I run across a campaign for creating a garden time-lapse camera system. All I get until the $250 is a thank you and a t-shirt.

At this point, the campaign has satisfied the “something in it for me” angle. There is a real product, and I’m at least somewhat interested. But, is that product out there already?

A quick search on amazon shows me that producers of garden cameras do exist. And, a few of them are substantially cheaper than the $250 this campaign will cost me for one. Does this product provide something new? I may simply not like the company that provides the competing product. Maybe that company hasn’t listened to customer feedback. Perhaps there is a specialized feature I want. Or, maybe I’m just feeling generous.

If the product hasn’t been done – why not? Is there something fundamentally flawed with the idea? It’s possible that this particular product fits a very small niche, and that the only way  of seeing it released is a crowd funded campaign. Or, maybe this product has no real hope for success as the design itself has serious flaws.

Does the group have the expertise to pull the product off?

So, now we have agreed that they have enough of a “hook” for me to bite. At this point, the question becomes, can they make it happen?

Let’s say the campaign is for a desktop Fusion power generator, suitable for fitting into my flying car.

Does the group include a physicist? If not, do they have a good one on standby? If not, would anyone in the group have any way of knowing a good physicist? If not, has the group provided any evidence that they can solve the whole “fusion” part of the problem?

Is there any evidence suggesting that other companies have looked into this problem? Are there solutions out on the market now?

If the group lacks the expertise to build the idea, what are they bringing to the table?

Building a product takes more than having a bad comb over and the ability to shout “your fired”. If the group is going to pay to have the actual development done, have they shown a reasonable budget and plan for doing so?

In the case of a desktop Fusion generator, the evidence would need to be overwhelming before I’d even consider a donation. In fact, I’m not sure anything would convince me it wasn’t a scam. Extremely innovative products tend to have large money backing quickly. Large enough that crowd funding wouldn’t be talked about.

Returning to the Garden Camera, I’d probably look for a meaningful prototype, a good product manager with a gardening background, or simply some good engineers. The technology is known, and I wouldn’t need to worry about development of specialized high technology.

Are they over promising?

If I see a video of something so truly beyond the state of the art to be amazing, the question becomes, how is it real?

If a video advertises some whizz bang Artificial Intelligence, is there research that shows something is possible. For anything computerized, just imagine that instead of the ideal computer shown in the video – it’s your cell phone. How would your cell phone do at the tasks shown? If they are doing similar tasks with significantly better ability – how are they accomplishing it?

Or, are they just lying?

Very talented people are working on lots of the ‘space age’ devices we want to see. Every day. If those devices don’t exist yet, it may be for a reason. Just remember the ‘pet robots’ in the 90s. Yeah, they are cool, but they weren’t R2D2.

Does the group have a valid business plan? Do I care if they vanish?

Let’s say that I really hate the companies producing the garden cameras, and want to donate to this new garden camera company. Does this group demonstrate that my donation will help create a sustainable competitor?

If not, will I care that I’ve purchased a one-off product? In a year, how much will I care if the product breaks?

Perhaps I’m happy that I’ll get my garden camera and can worry about the same problem again later, if need be. That’s a perfectly good answer, but one I should be aware of.

Responding to a Campaign

I’ll generally ignore campaigns that I come across, unless either poked or prodded about it directly.

If so, I’ll walk through these questions until I hit a reason not to donate, and if I hit that reason, I’ll try to let whoever know why I’m not. If the campaign has gone “viral” and I think other people might donate, I might be more proactive about criticism. And, it’s also possible that I’ll share a campaign I’d want to see succeed.

If you share a campaign video, remember – you are sharing a request for money. Requesting money, in my book, removes much of your ability to complain when someone tells you where to go. Manipulative videos may insist that criticism is fighting against a greater good.

We enjoy the right to ask the public for money. In return, the public may criticize that request. Don’t like it? Build the product first using traditional means. And remember, if you are sharing a funding request, then realize the social dynamic of seeking contributions.

Saying Yes can be a Bad Thing

I watched closely as the Diaspora project got going. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it was one of the first kickstarter campaigns to go viral. Earning $200,000+ in very little time.

Any experienced engineer watching would have smelled trouble. The grand yet completely undefined scope of the project. The lack of real requirements. The lack of any experienced or skilled developers. The poor choices of technology, showing blatant ignorance of the current challenges of competitors trying to do the exact same thing.

In the end, the group of students working this project put themselves through some very rough times. It’s impossible to say what might have happened if the product just fizzled out. And indeed, the tragedies associated with the project, may have happened anyway. Windfall earnings does weird things to a group and to friends. Still, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the eventual suicide of one of the initial members. I don’t think the success of the funding campaign can be directly blamed, but it definitely didn’t help.

Kickstarter does a lot of work to prefilter applicants and campaigns, and even there, people have found a real “bit” in terms of taxes and fees eating into the cash intended for development of a product.

A lot of campaigns fail, but that doesn’t mean the dream has to die. And many campaigns, on their second try, find and fix the errors with the first.

TL;DR

  1. Try to apply some common sense before sending random people on the internet your money.
  2. Asking someone for money gives them a right to ask why and determine if you deserve it.
  3. Giving someone money isn’t always helpful.

There’s a lot of cool kick starter projects out there. Fin and I have sent money to a few. We’ve gotten some cool stuff in return. Do your search before. And if somethings viral?

My experience with viral campaigns is that they are rotten. The cool ones I’ve found and funded tend to be more niche oriented. Though, sometimes, lots of people get onboard for a reason.

— Fate

2015 New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again.

So far, my record for New Year’s Resolutions:

  • 2014 – 40%
  • 2013 – 25%
  • 2012 – 10%
  • 2011 – 30%
  • 2010- 50%
  • 2009 – 30%
  • 2008 – 50%

The past few years, I’ve not been hitting my goals. This past year, toward the end, things have started heating up again. Hopefully the trend continues. This year, Fin and I will likely be focusing a lot more on the family than some of our other endeavors. Still, we’ll be working at moving onward and upward.

1. Pay off at least one more account

Yes, even after succeeding for several years on this, there are more to go. This year, I hope to pay off at least one more account.

2. Publish an App for Android, PC, or Web

I’ve actually managed to do some degree of Android development this year. I’ve got ideas, and have even made a few toy apps on my phone. The next step is to get something released and out there. Hell, maybe I’ll do another Asteroids game. This really is a continuation of last years goal. I simply find myself not having enough time or ideas to put toward it.

Meanwhile, I’m working on some stuff for myself. I’m hoping at least one of my efforts I can publish, if only to pad my resume.

3. New SuburbanReject.com theme

I started playing a bit with this mid-year, when the site went funny looking for a bit, and ended up reverting back to the old theme on the newer wordpress. I’m still looking at some ideas here, but like the Application business, time has been an enemy.

4. Document at least one project for each season (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall) here

I think the previous years, I’ve tried to plan out my year in to much detail, and ended up doing nothing. So, this year, I’m simply stating that I want to complete a single project every 3 months and document it here. That will hopefully mean doing some fermented beverage, or making soap, or maybe a piano recording. We’ll see. I’m leaving this open ended so I can decide on a project every few months and do it.

New suburbanreject theme and publishing an app both don’t “count”.

5. Complete at least one online course

I enjoyed the Coursera experience earlier. This year, I’d like to work through at least one more online course. Maybe I’ll learn something useful.

6. Post another piano recording

Not going to go for a multiple here, I just want to do one this year. Hopefully more will happen. Ideally, I’ll play in another studio recital and have a strong performance this year.

7. Work my company’s “Wellness Program” plan

Every year, my company does one of those “Wellness Programs”, where you get a physical, set some goals, and potentially try to loose weight and exercise more. While I generally roll my eyes at such things, this year, I’ll play ball and take it a bit more seriously.

I’m also thinking about things I can do to start expanding my activity tracker goals into some real workouts. I’ve been doing a bit of running around the house to hit goals, I think I might start doing some more to focus on strength training. I’m not really considering that part of the company “Wellness Program”, but more along the lines of “bonus points” for this goal.

8. Write more and Produce some referable  content for this and/or my other blog

I’ve written some widely circulated articles in the past. I find myself realizing that I do have some skills and knowledge and ability to explain some difficult tasks well. I’m not sure exactly what articles, tutorials, or opinions I’ll be posting. But, I’d like them to be the sort others will find enough value to read and link to.

9. Actively take time off work

Unfortunately, family obligations might make it difficult to take some planned days off this year, but I’m hoping to plan and take some vacation time – a day off here and there. Simply to avoid the constant grind of working and lack of work/life balance I’ve had so long.

My goal is to take planned vacation day at least every 4 months.

10. Get to know Kansas City better

To be clear, I want to visit / do some of the historical / touristy things around here I haven’t done. I’ve lived here now for 8 years, and still haven’t been to many of the museums or parks around here. I’ve really done a minimum of the “KC required” tour outside of walking the plaza a few times.

And I know there’s a lot more and a lot more history around here.

So, this year, I plan on taking a bit of an effort to do a few of the larger attractions.

There’s also several large communities that I should be more active in – Make, Sustainability, general Nerdom.

Extra: Stay Positive

There’s no doubt that 2014 was a rough year, and 2015 looks to be rough too. Fin and I did a lot this past year. We learned a lot, and had a lot of positive experiences.

This year, I’ll also be looking a bit at the past several years goals, and trying to accomplish/track a few of them as appropriate. We’ll see how that works when the year closes.

Still, it’s been difficult. This year, I’m hoping we can stay positive and take the good and bad together. I’ll be hoping for a great year, but whatever more life throws at us, I’m hoping we can stay positive through it all.

 

 

 

 

2014 Year In Review

To borrow a phrase from the wonderful world of sports, “This was a rebuilding year”. While Fin and I work to shape and build a new lifestyle, I’ve found myself wrestling with questions of how to have a healthy view of life while also looking forward. Another year has passed by, and I find myself wanting to enjoy the next year more, to live a bit more in the now, instead of toward the future.

I’m not a fan of sharing too much on the internet, but the work/life balance issues, followed by the challenges of health in aging parents and relatives have put more than a little strain on Fin and myself.

Previous Years Resolutions

This is the time of year I force myself to look back into the past, and look at my previous goals. I see a mixed bag.

1. Pay off 2 more accounts

BORDERLINE. Fin and I free-wheeled into paying off one of my student loans. At this point, we’re “better than average” Americans on debt. Not quiet where we wanted to be, but we’re definitely still making progress. The closer we get, the more effort it seems to stay focused.

2. Publish an App on the Android App Store

FAIL. I’ve taken some time to learn about Android and app development. I even have made a few demo/test apps for my tablet and phone. At this point, it’s about finding time to actually sit down and build something. Taking care of family has been significantly more important over the past year.

3. Make a few batches of fermented beverage

FAIL. Didn’t even get a chance to look at this.

4. Develop a whizz-bang suburbanreject.com theme

FAIL. Ugh, same here. But, I’ve at least kept this site online!

5. Record/Produce a few pieces of music and publish them on the net

BORDERLINE/FAIL. So far, I’ve put up a single recording on SoundCloud, and it was a quick and dirty playing for a Mic test (versus something done to record). I’ve focused more on developing my musicianship this past year, including doing a bit of the coursera thing.

 

6. Have a solid work out routine formed before September

FAIL/BORDERLINE. This has been slowly developing for the past few months. Mostly, on account of having purchase an activity tracker: the vivosmart. I’ve joined the “get my steps in cult”, and it definitely helps to have a “trainer” that sets reasonable goals and pushes you along.

7. Learn C#

CHANGED. After switching jobs, I’ve found myself more involved in C/C++ land than before, but I’m now adding OpenGL and SQL into the mix. I’m working on developing newer technologies, but will probably target Java first, and then C# as required for work.

8. Get a few of the homestead Carpentry/Plumbing/Electrical “TODO” items out of the way

NEAR WIN. I accomplished a couple things here on my list. More to do still, but there’s been progress!

9. Average 2 posts a month on SuburbanReject.com

WIN. Not all quality, but I managed this one.

10. Resume my tutorial writing / developer documentation niche

FAIL. Life has been in the way here.

Stretch Goal #1 Develop Income Sources Outside of Office Work

Stretch Goal #2 Get Involved with Make style community

Stretch Goal #3 Amateur Radio License

All stretch goals where fail.

Unexpected Developments

Switching Jobs

My former employer turned into something of a drama show during last winter. Disagreements between managers, the owner, and a multitude of political games and politics killed my desire to work there. The environment leaked into my personal life, and caused inordinate amounts of stress.

From the months leading up to my leaving, I watched many good people walk out. At the end, only a handful of people from my starting remained – mostly the successful sales people.

I’ve switched to worker for a larger company, and so far, it’s treating my well. If only as a place where I don’t have to deal with as much interpersonal stress and confused dynamics.

The majority of wins in my goals list all came AFTER switching jobs. And more so, after switching jobs and spending some significant time decompressing.

Health

Fin posted a while back about the challenges we face with her father. I don’t have any plans on actively blogging about it except to say – it’s been tough for us both.

Fin might not be around here much, because she’s focused on taking care of her Father. Watching her makes me think just how lucky he – and I – are to have such an amazing person in our lives.

Conclusions

This blog remains an experiment to chronicle our adventure – in trying to escape a “suburban lifestyle”. And yet, in that adventure, the timeless issues of living come and rear their heads. I find myself wishing we did a better job chronicling the earlier – we’ve done some really cool stuff over the year.

But, that’s getting into my standard “new years” post.