2016 Recap…

I’m keeping this tradition alive, but my feelings toward this year are best summarized by a picture:

SCH Fire Department Dumpster Fire Picture
SCH. Haven Fire Dept Dumpster Fire

Fin and I have been through some rough years. This past year, though, felt like an extra special kick in the face. That said, how’d my year end goals go?

See the picture for a summary.

  1. Consumer Debt Free
    FAIL, stalled out in the summer.
  2. Make measurable progress toward moving.
    More FAIL.
  3. Get technical blog running again
    Even More FAIL.
  4. Build wireless temperature sensor system for greenhouse
    Epic FAIL.
  5. Post another piano recording
    You probably guessed it already. (*cough*) FAIL (*cough*)
  6. Take an actual vacation
    Holy shit. We did this one.
  7. Complete an online course
    FAIL.
  8. Learn a web framework (server and browser side)
    You might see a pattern here… FAIL.
  9. Visit at least 2 Kansas City tourist traps
    Well, I saw *both* Sea Life and Lego World? So? FAIL.
  10. Branch out from previous years in a current hobby or find something new altogether
    Hey, I started Taekwondo (Fin calls it Fancy Karate, because she can’t spell it) again. She doesn’t know if it counts, but I’m padding the numbers with a yes.

Well, given all that happened, 2/10 ain’t that bad. Hoping next year goes better.

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:

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.

 

 

 

 

On the Isla Vista Tragedy

Since I heard of the California tragedy, I’ve debated whether or not to write about it. But, the more I hear it being discussed, the more I feel an obligation to talk about it here. I’ve commented on other forums I have a huge problem with the current “hashtag” discussions going on. This blog isn’t about “not all guys” or about discounting random acts of violence against women or an over abundance of misogyny in our society.

No, this blog entry is about an issue I’ve spent many years of my life fighting. It’s about why I’ve made a whole series of decisions that led me to where I am. And it’s at the core of the tragedy on pretty much every level. Let me start by saying something to the “Every Woman” crowd in relation to this event:

The male domination of mass murders in the past 30 years has NOTHING to do with misogyny.

I know the killer posted a very long diatribe of hatred about women. I also have no doubt that this particular rampage killing reflected misogyny at its worst. But, immediately before he committed these actions, he openly acknowledged the EXACT reason why. Now generally, when feminists talk about rights and fighting sexism, I try to take a back-seat and listen. But lately, some well meaning women have started posting conversations we should be having with our children. These conversations may help gender violence in the future. But in trying to prevent a future rampage killing, it comes across about as useful as me explaining menstrual cramps.

From reading “the manifesto” (ugh! what fun), I’m fairly certain that the perpetrator of the California tragedy heard that talk. Not only had he heard it, there’s a fair amount of reason to believe he took it to heart. But then, something happened. The world began to look different, and hatred spewed forth with ugly, disastrous results.

In many of the earlier rampage murders, the reasons have been murky. But, this last character felt the need to inform us all of EXACTLY why he was doing it.

“You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true Alpha Male.”

Or, to simplify:

Penis-Enlargement
Anything to make ‘it’ bigger

Oh yes, it does come all down to sex. Just not in the way that anyone is giving it credit. Now, there’s a discussion going on about how women are objectified in the media. But, let’s take a look at something we DON’T hear talked about.

 

DukeNukem
Girls like the big guy.

Quick – what negative messages does this image send to our children? Ol’ Duke took a lot of justified heat from feminist groups over the years. He was the quintessential male chauvinist fantasy. I can’t argue with the objectification of women in this picture. But, that’s just the start of our societal baggage rabbit hole.  What’s the general description of Duke?

Befitting an All-American hero, Duke is supremely physically fit and completely confident in himself and his abilities, accomplishing sometimes superhuman feats through sheer aggression and ruthless combat skills. He is quick to a wisecrack and frequently speaks his mind, but cares little for his detractors, as he knows his heroic physical accomplishments speak for themselves.

Duke is 6″4″ and is able to bench press at least 600 lbs.

Duke has a big penis. Large enough to make most porn stars say “Damn”.  Oh wait… They didn’t say that. But… you know it’s true. 6’4″? No way he’s not packing something.  The latest rampage killer wrote his whole life story, and yet, we ignore his stated purpose. “Alpha Male”. He was working to show he had a large penis.

Ok, yes, I’m definitely using some hyperbole here. Yet, I hope it gets the idea across. Penis size has long been symbol or… “measure”… of a man. Hopefully, as we grow older, our ideas of ‘value’ become far less juvenile.. But, there’s always a child somewhere deep inside of us. Whenever a woman is being turned into a sex object, men receive a message indicating the reasons why they aren’t the subject of that woman’s affection. Why they are inadequate. Flawed. Worthless. Don’t believe me? Take a trip over to any major “free” porn site, and look at what the ads are for.

Penis pills! Make her orgasm in 10 seconds flat! Gain muscle fast! All messages indicating that people are objects, not just the women involved.

inadequate
Yeah… That’s realistic.

“Am I a man?”

Occasionally, modern fiction hits some hard realities. In an episode of Firefly, a father obsesses with making his son a man and hires a prostitute to do the job right. After, the son is confused, wasn’t this experience supposed to grant adulthood? Is he different now?

We’re starting to circle a root cause now. In the case of misogyny, David Wong does a good job describing how hatred of women can form even in a modern man. If I throw a quarter on the internet, I’ll probably hit 3 people debating the misogyny of the killer. I won’t hear anyone talking about manhood, or how nastily pervasive entitlement interacts with ‘manhood’. Or how men obsess with trying to prove their ‘self-worth’.

The Problem of Self-Worth and Coming of Age

Years ago, a college professor started a class with a simple question. “How does one become an adult?” This particular professor had a knack for opening up discussions in the class, and then discussing the philosophical issues surrounding them. And this particular discussion was life-changing for me.

How do I know I’m an adult? What does it mean to be a man?

Our society has something of a “TODO” list to turn oneself into an adult. And at the top of this list? Sex. Virginity is not seen as a socially viable option anymore. It implies weakness and immaturity. As a society, we mock and embarrass men who haven’t ‘gotten any’. Other elements of adulthood form in our psyche early on. A certain amount of physical ability. Creation of wealth. Work. Completing education. What’s more, there’s an underlying agreement that adults are “productive members of society”. Then, we tie the adult “TODO” list into our self-worth. Women have seen some fairly amazing opportunities for growth in how they determine self-worth. It wasn’t long ago that going to college was strictly for the “MRS” degree. While this move has been positive for all, we’re seeing a burgeoning new set of issues form before us.

Society is a lot more complex.

“Coming of age” ceremonies are common in multiple cultures and tribal customs. They give children and adults clear knowledge of  their advancement into adulthood. Yet, as modern convenience and technology replaces the need for basic lifestyles, previously obvious measures of worth and value are lost. Worse, we worked to identify bad substitutes based in inequality and power. As those substitutes diminish, males (particularly white males) have something of an identity crisis going on.

Now, returning to our subject of rampage killings, there’s a multitude that revolve around sex and unrequited love. The theme, while common isn’t all inclusive.

The San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre, for example, would appear to themed around loss of income and envy of the wealthy.

The oft-discussed Columbine murders centered around retribution against bullies and “jocks”, attempting to prove physical prowess.

Boys are taught a lot of conflicting messages growing up. Old vestiges of long-past standards an society and new values not always fully formed. But, critically, boys are not often given the encouragement they need. We, as a society, do a poor job teaching what it means to be an adult. As we become adults, we have an idea of the things adults do, but not the why or how or meaning. Some grab onto a core set of values and advance them. Others live in an adult world, almost as if children trying on their parent’s clothes.

Prevalence of Male Suicide

School was rough for me, and making connections even moreso. I’ve struggled on a fair number of occasions with my own self-worth. But, even with those struggles still continuing, I decided during my college years that I would take the banner of helping children. That, I, as a personal mission, would do my best to be there if someone needed me to. If only because, I never felt like anyone was there for me.

My constant value, the thing I want to do… Is help people. While working as a disability services tutor, it clicked as what I wanted to do with my life. I worked to become a teacher. I’d be there for students that needed an ear. I was young, idealistic. While life led me in a different direction, I still try to spend a fair number of volunteer hours in mentoring students through a few different programs.

It’s important to me.

The current gender ratio of all male to female suicides in the US is 4:1. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 15-24. Male teenagers are 5x more likely to commit suicide. While women do report as more likely to think about committing suicide or attempt in a non-violent way, men tend toward violent methods, and occasionally kill others as well.

In the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of anger floating around. Immediately after this latest rampage killing, multiple teenagers took to the internet and vented their frustrations about their similar ‘poor luck’ on the dating scene. Others collected these messages, and passed them around, as advertising of how misogynistic our society is. Some mocked the posters and even posted messages indicating that these people were “doing a good job weeding themselves out of the dating pool”. Or worse, subtly indicated it might not be a bad thing if they ‘ended the problem’.

Yes – please poke the already troubled youth into yet another frenzy so we can have more dead bodies. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my life – Broken people will potentially latch onto some very negative, damaging things. You can point out to a broken person the damage their doing, attempt to show them the negativity. But, if you don’t address the underlying issues? You’ll drive them even further into that thought pattern, or into potential despair.

Solutions aren’t that easy

I’d love to end this discussion for some grand plan of ‘how to make things better’. I don’t think it exists. The basic issues of defining adulthood and ‘what it means to be a man’ aren’t going anywhere easily. Others far more intelligent than I have written about them. And, the discussion is anything but new. Philosophers have been pontificating about ‘our place’ since before Socrates and Plato.

For a long while, I’ve believed in the need for men to be more active and engaged in gender equality and justice. Even the most well meaning of “Mens Rights” activists, will often find themselves besieged by movement  toward misogyny. Even though these groups have a few good points (Men have a right to be stay-at-home fathers!), I’ve never felt them to be overly healthy. Looking at the demographics of these groups, and their literature, we see a lot of anger over ‘loss of privilege’.

I do believe that ‘telling your story’ for women will help reduce misogyny in our society. Hearing the viewpoints of others is critical toward development of empathy. That empathy will likely help people consider their choices in a different light before acting like an ass. Or, realize how wrong a situation is when alcohol is involved. I know that Fin has taught me a lot over the years to better understand the female perspective. I’ve slowly learned to only mostly make people uncomfortable. Realize though, stories are powerful, and how you tell the story can be more powerful. At some point, telling ones story can be cathartic. If it comes from a desire to be heard? You’ll help women gain confidence. Feel that they aren’t alone. But largely, you’re helping women here.

Now… if you start speaking to men, thinking this will help us ‘see’ what’s going on. Well, you get the response that’s going on and the flame throwing / back biting on the internet. Those of us that care largely enough to hear the story, don’t need to be told we need to hear it. And those that don’t?

Well, let’s flip the coin over to my views of what men do need to do.

I can call out misogynistic jerks, all day long. While that is helping the women in my life, it’s not helping the misogynist jerk. That energy might hopefully feed into making a woman feel better about men, or at least feeling comfortable walking down the street. But contrary to all the feel-good (or let’s rage!) articles out there, I won’t be helping remove misogyny from our society. And what’s more, it won’t stop the next mass shooter or tragedy.

What will?

Children (boys and girls) need role models and an understanding of how to healthily judge and build their sense of self-worth. Adolescents need a strong transition to adulthood. Young adults need mentored to become the leaders of tomorrow.

I’ve stolen some of Fin’s general philosophy for my own. Real change comes from our everyday actions.

Instead of writing some sort of prescription or magic pill, that will “solve” everything, I’ll leave with what I’m doing to make things better.

I work with kids. I volunteer when given the opportunity. I encourage young girls to get involved with technology. I work to give young boys an example of what hard work can give. I support my wife her efforts to teach others about gardening, planting. I write this blog. I  try to avoid joining angry rants and causes that exist as nothing more than flash-mobs of rage. I share my experiences with those that ask. I thank those kind to me. I muster what smile I can give on a bad day when somebody smiles at me.

It’s not much, but it’s something.

— Fate

Goals for 2014

Unlike Fate,  I don’t do New Years resolutions.

I am,  however,  going to set out some goals that I am going to strive towards this year. I will try to do posts every month,  or couple of months,  referencing these goals.  I want to try to track my progress and hold myself accountable.

1.  Greenhouse

I want to work on getting the greenhouse up and running this spring,  so as soon as the weather warms up enough I can move all of my seedlings out into it. My plan this fall was to get it set up and start growing year round lettuce and cold crops.  We missed our window of opportunity in the weather to set it up,  though,  when my grandma died.  You need between 50-70 degree days to stretch the plastic and we plunged into freezing temperatures really fast with very little return to warmth since then.

I want to be able to start all the he flowers I normally buy.  I just don’t have room in the house to start everything I want to plant.  Some things come up good from seed,  however,  a lot of the flowers I like I just haven’t had any luck with. I bought quite a few medicinal herb seeds I want to get started this year as well.

2.  Garage

The garage is currently packed full of things from the store that we shoved in there.  It’s been 2 years now since we closed the store and a full year since we closed the business,  it’s time this stuff went away.  We halfheartedly went through the stuff this fall,  sold a bit,  and then just quit.  I want to get everything store related out of my garage this year.  I want to be able to work on my projects in the garage,  store my tools where I can actually find the damn things,  and move my rabbits into the garage.  I want to be able to easily keep the rabbits cool,  as well as keeping the space above freezing in the winter so I don’t have to switch from water bottles to crocks in the winter.

Also,  I can’t do this until I have room in the garage:

3.  Quail

I really want to start raising quail for meat and eggs.  My plan is to house them with the rabbits,  however,  I can’t do that until I can house the rabbits in the garage,  I just have absolutely no where to put them and they need a more protected area then my 3 sided shed can give them in the winter.

4.  Hatching eggs

I want to start hatching out eggs,  both chicken and quail.  My friend kept back a rooster for her flock that should produce sex link chicks. Our intention is to hatch out our own meat birds, quail, replacement layers,  and whatever else we see that catches our fancy.  Maybe I can hatch out ducks and geese,  they sell for quite a premium.  I’m excited about this one,  I love raising baby poultry.

5. Earn enough money to take Geoff Lawton’s online Permaculture Design Course.

The more I learn about Permaculture the more I think it’s the way to go for the world.  I want to understand it better then I can just reading and researching all the free stuff out there,  where else to look but to the leading name in Permaculture Design work? I hope to be able to set aside enough money in 2014 to take his online course in 2015,  or as soon as I can earn enough and the class is offered. I’d love to go to a course in person,  but he’s out of Australia and I hate flying.  I’ve also heard that the online course is far more information rich just due to the amount of questions he is able to answer online vs in person due to the lack of time during a live course.

I have quite a few money making ideas,  I just need to get off my ass and do them.

6.  Get my horse trained and start riding.

I plan on this spring getting a trainer to put 30 days on him and then finishing him myself.  I’m just not comfortable getting him started,  which is why at 17 he’s still not trained.  I have no intention of riding him hard like a 3 year old,  I’d just like to be able to get out and ride some again.  It’s been a long time and I really miss it.

7.  Get the house shoveled out and ready to sell

We have too much stuff.  Tho,  I will say,  I’m not sure if the problem lies in too much stuff,  or too much extra stuff that’s not ours.  Either way,  this goal is a companion to goal #2.  The house needs to be shoveled out and cleaned/fixed up so we can sell it.  We are looking for a piece of property that has acerage,  but we are never going to be able to move if this place isn’t ready to sell. I’m not going to put a goal of finding somewhere to move to,  I think that will happen organically,  however,  getting the house ready for sale will not.  It’s gonna take work and lots of it.

8.  Consolidate and fix up fish tanks

My fish tanks have gotten pretty sad.  I want to consolidate down to 2-3 really nicely set up fish tanks with lights on timers.  I keep forgetting to turn on the lights and my plants are dying.  My favorite tank crashed (heater went out) and a couple projects failed so I kind of lost interest.  I need to get things back to awesome again,  only this time a bit more automated I think.

9.  Kick the back yard into high gear

I’ve fenced off an area for the chickens and need to fence off another area as well (the dogs need to be able to use part of the backyard too!) I have plans to replace the grass is those two areas with a mixture of food plants with both the chickens and rabbits in mind. I want to tractor grow out rabbits through the back yard as well as rotate chickens through.  I hope to be able to feed my breeder rabbits from the surplus as well.  I’m trying for more food security for my family,  however,  I’m not happy with feeding or treating what I eat with the same normal that you can buy at the supermarket.  I want my food to be as healthy and happy and as close to naturally fed as I can manage. If I wanted the same quality meat as I can get from the supermarket,  I’d just get it from the supermarket.  It’d be a hell of a lot easier!

There are also a couple of trees that need to come down. One is an elm tree that is starting to completely shade out my garden. The other is a peach tree that has been limping along for a couple years now. I will be surprised if it comes back at all in the spring,  it started weeping sap this fall. It’s never really produced,  I’ve just kept it around in the past because I hate to cut trees down and I keep hoping it will give me awesome peaches,  but no dice.  It’s going to go this year for sure though.  I will probably replace those two trees with several more in a Permaculture setup,  which will improve the back yard by leaps and bounds.

10.  This blog

We have big plans for this blog. It’s ebbed and flowed over the past few years since we set it up.  It’s had times of high posting and even more times of low to no posting. This year I have a couple of changes in mind for this blog and it’s broken down into two parts:

— My intention is to post two times a week this year,  Tuesday and Friday.  There may be more,  however,  I am going to try to at least hit those days,  even through the busy gardening and canning season.   Fate and Blazed Monkey will probably post as well, whenever they want to, this goal is just My goal. I’ve set up some redundant reminders for myself,  I tend to forget to post,  hopefully those reminders will help.  Unfortunately,  when it comes to this blog, if I don’t see it,  I forget about it, and there isn’t much to remind me about it in day to day life. Hopefully I’ve changed that,  but it remains to be seen.

—Podcast! Fate got some recording equipment so he could record the piano and it just so happens that the same equipment translates into podcasting equipment as well! We’ve been talking about starting a podcast for awhile now,  but haven’t had the equipment to be able to do it.  Our Podcasts will be posted on this blog as well.

There are quite a few other things I am planning for this year,  however,  most of them are just continuations of things I am already doing,  or things that I’ve got to get done that I don’t plan on focusing heavily on. Those things should find themselves on the blog eventually.

I’ve set my tablet up with a nice bluetooth keyboard these days so typing is a whole lot easier and amazingly faster.  I forget how fast I can type when I’m not just limited to my thumbs. Hopefully this will translate into more blogging.   Between my reminders setup,  the keyboard,  and podcasting this blog should be rocking this year!

There are 8760 hours in 2014, what are YOU planning on doing with them?

-Fin

Fate's Resolutions 2014

I’m maintaining my yearly habit of new years goals. This year, I’m going to attempt to be slightly more specific, in hopes of actually accomplishing a few.

1. Pay off 2 more accounts

If I can manage this guy, I’ll probably be shouting “I’m debt free” some time in 2015. Debt sucks. I’ve been working slowly at paying off a lot of it over the years, and, hopefully, Fin and I will dig ourselves out soon. Until then, we keep working at it.

2. Publish an App on the Android App Store

Not for any real reason, other than to say I’ve done it. I’ve got a couple ideas up my sleeve right now.

3. Make a few batches of fermented beverage

I’d like to try my hand at creation of Apple Cider, wine, mead, and beer. My main goal will be a hard cider, but I think the others could be interesting. We’ll see how they go.

4. Develop a whizz-bang suburbanreject.com theme

I’m really tired of borrowing wordpress themes, I’m hoping over the year to get some good photos, do some experimenting with colors, and build a cool theme for this site. Stay posted.

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

My Christmas present to myself was a bunch of recording equipment (mics, mixer, laptop). I’m also hoping to do some experimenting with Techno, and sound effects in general with my Midi keyboard. We’ll see what develops over the year.

6. Have a solid work out routine formed before September

There’s a lot of questions here in terms of what/when/where/how. As the year starts, I hope I can work at answering those, and that sometime in the middle of the Summer, I have a solid routine going. My knees will thank me.

7. Learn C#

Professionally, I use a moderate amount of C# currently, but not enough to place it on my CV. I’ll be switching a few projects over to C# for sake of being more familiar with it. I don’t expect to have the same level of mastery I have over C++/C, but it would be handy to push forward a bit more.

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

I’ve got an ever growing list of things that need done to fixup this house. In 2014, I’d like to be able to report that I accomplished at least a handful of things. Given the increasing number, that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.

9. Average 2 posts a month on SuburbanReject.com

Hey, this blog has been greatly neglected… I’d like to get back to publishing useful stuff.

10. Resume my tutorial writing / developer documentation niche

I got back one of my old domains. I used to have multiple tutorials floating around out in the wild. I’d like to get back to that.

Stretch Goal #1 Develop Income Sources Outside of Office Work

I saw someone online mention the wisdom of having a secondary source of income besides the “day job”. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I think I’ll begin to follow. I doubt it’ll happen in 2014, if only because I don’t want to deal with the taxman yet.

Stretch Goal #2 Get Involved with Make style community

I’d like to start doing some more “maker” / electronic hobbyist sort of things. We’ll see.

Stretch Goal #3 Amateur Radio License

There’s a couple reasons why I’m interested in this. Not sure it’s going to happen in 2013, there’s a bit of research / equipment / prep to accomplish.

 

2013 Year In Review

It’s been something of an odd year. Looking back on my 2012 resolutions, I’m somewhat suprised by the mixed level of fail and success. Somethings just didn’t work out, some worked out really well. And some, worked for a bit and then went by the wayside. Oddly enough, a few things I listed in prior years managed to happen.

So, looking at my resolutions and revising them:

1) Restart Dave Ramsey Plan

My employer offered “Core” from Dave Ramsey, Fin and I took it. Overral, we managed to get with the plan and had some success paying off debt and organizing our finances. Our efforts lasted for 3-4 months, but then we got lazy. I think some of the success we felt continued though, and we’ve been doing fairly well on budgeting. We’re also slowly but steadily moving to “debt free”,

2) Make soap again 3) Build mad project laboratory

I’ve got a small start on #3, and #2 has remained stalled out. Largely, this is an issue of space. I’m hoping that we can continue to clear out the house and downsize / organize our collections of stuff.

4) Learn a Bach Fugue

I ended up working through some of Handel’s French Suites, and burned out a bit on Baroque / counterpoint. I dove instead into learning a Beethoven Sonata, and have managed to get the first movement of Op. 2 No. 1 fairly well polished. Really, I think the Bach Fugue might have been slightly amibitious. I’m working on a Sinfonia now, and it’s going fairly well. Perhaps this coming year I’ll look again at a Fugue, provided I don’t get burned out on the Baroque again.

5) Time Lapse Garden Video

This was going very well for several weeks until disaster struck, and the cats destroyed the camera I was using. I’m going to try again this year with an always on solution located out in the garden. Might start the project in January, but I’m debating moving it to “growing season” or similar.

6) Get Back to Writing

Epic Fail. I did start taking another look at a book I’ve been planning on, but the blog has been badly maintained. Fin and I have a few ideas for the new year, we’ll see how it goes.

7) Reorganize the Office

Funny. We accomplished this one, but now it’s back to being a mess again. So, both WIN and FAIL.

8) Take a better vacation in 2013

The office funded a trip for Fin and I to vacation in Cancun. It was awsome. Suprising Win.

9) Excercise 10) Spend less time watching TV

Epic fail, and sorta fail. Really, I think #10 is more symptomatic of my lack of Work/Home balance than the reality of watching signifcant amounts of TV.

Other Interesting Developments:

Fin and I began looking for land, and started work on a plan for moving out of this house.

Fin began breeding rabbits, and we now get eggs fairly regularly from our chickens.

Fin is working with friends to breed meat chickens on their land. We butchered 20+ fairly recently.

Some coworkers and myself formed a “company” band. Sadly, our plans to play at the Christmas party didn’t pan out. However, we’re talking about doing something for another upcoming Holiday.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly consumed at the office working, trying to get a product out the door. Sadly, I think my work/home balance has suffered as of late. This is something I’ll try working on for the coming year.

Largely, a lot of things internal to our family have interfered this year, many of which are too personal (or completely off theme) to post here. 2013 has been one of our rougher years, but also, I think, one of the best for our development. Life will move on, and I think Fin and I are stronger for it.

Broody Chickens

Two of my chickens decided to go broody on me.

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One has gone broody three times on me since I got her.   I tried putting a golf ball in the other nest box to try to move her over but she went right back to the original nest and then another of them decided she was going to sit on the golf ball.

Well,  since the one has gone broody so many times now I decided she could be productive and hatch out some eggs for me.  I decided to check Craigslist to see if anyone out there was selling fertilized eggs.  I really had no plan in mind on what kind of eggs I wanted but I was hoping for one of the heirloom breeds.  I ended up with birchen marans.

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The eggs are really dark brown and quite a bit bigger then the eggs my hens lay.  I’d say my hens lay a large egg and these were an extra large if you go by the ones from the grocery store.

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I should have taken a comparison picture,  but didn’t think of it.

I bought 16 eggs,  8 for each hen.  The guy gave me 18, two extra to account for non fertility of a couple.   I picked up the eggs on June 2 and put them under the hens that night.   We should be looking at having them hatch around June 22nd or so.

Last night we candeled the eggs. Out of 18 we found 2 that were definitely bad, and one we weren’t sure about so we just went ahead and left it just in case. I imagine it will end up not hatching but since this was our first time we figured better safe then sorry.

I tried to take pictures of the candeling but my camera phone was just not up to the task. We opened the two bad eggs when we got inside just out of curiosity. One was completely unfertile with no blood spot or anything. The other was a dime sized chick that had obviously not made it past the first several days. I would imagine if we were to open the other one that we suspect is bad we would find a quarter sized chick that had died a couple days past the other one.

I am looking forward to the hatching. I am very excited to watch the hens raise their broods. 10 more days and they should be all hatched out!

-Fin

Water Bath Canning: Part 1

I have,  for the longest time,  had a mental block of some kind regarding canning.  I’ve always intended on learing how to can,  I just thought,  for some reason,  that I needed someone to show me EXACTLY what to do,  or I wouldn’t be able to get it right.  This isn’t because I thought it was too hard,  or there was a special trick to be learned,  or anything like that,  it just seemed to me like something that needed to be learned from someone,  in person.  Like I said,  it was just a mental block about the whole thing. 

I had grand plans of going to South Dakota to visit a friend of my mother’s to learn everything there is to know about canning.  In retrospect this seems silly,  but at the time I was convinced it was the way to go about it.  The trip seemed to be a hazy plan “in the fall,  during canning season” about every year since I got serious about gardening several years ago.  Every year something came up and it just never seemed like “the right time. ”  

This spring,  came the tipping point. 

This year,  I have had an absolutely amazing crop from my rhubarb that I planted 4 years ago.  This is the biggest crop I’ve had from it yet.  I was determined that this would be the year that I finally managed to can something,  and I decided that that “something” was going to be shrawberry-rhubarb jelly.  I LOVE strawberry – rhubarb jelly.  Like,  can eat it straight out of the jar love it,  and boy is it be hard to find (especially organic),  and when you do (most of the time at a farmers market) it is usually very expensive.  Now,  I don’t begrudge the cost,  since I know organic produce is more expensive in general,  and organic strawberries even more so, but that just makes it a rare treat indeed. 

I was absolutely determined I would figure out this whole canning “thing.”   This year.  In fact,  this spring.  Right now,  while my rhubarb was producing a luscious crop and strawberries were in season. 

My first major hurdle was finding organic strawberries that actually smelled like strawberrys and weren’t rotting.  This actually proved to be harder then I expected.   Everywhere I went it seemed like their organic strawberries were in one of three categories: 1. Unripe 2. Rotting 3. Nonexistent.  Non organic strawberries were found by the billions everywhere I went,  however,  strawberries are one of the things I insist on buying organic since they are part of the dirty dozen.  Apple’s are another big one for me,  and man,  it’s getting ridiculously hard to find organic granny smith apples these days,  for any price!  I finally lucked out at Costco,  where they were selling 2 lb containers for $7, which,  although double the price of non organic,  is a good price for organic strawberries.  I bought 10 lbs since I wasn’t sure how many I would need for the amount of rhubarb I had.

Allright,  organic rhubarb? Check.  Organic strawberries? Check.  Organic sugar? Check (also from Costco, that’s the best price I’ve found on organic CANE sugar,  since I refuse to buy beet sugar.)  Organic lemons? Check.  Organic pectin? Che…… errrr,  what? I didn’t think this one through apparently.   I actually have no idea if you can get organic pectin or not,  sadly I just grabbed the first thing off the shelf I saw in the canning section at my local Ace Hardware,  which is where I got the canning lids I used as well.  I have since discovered they are almost half the price at the local big blue box store (which I absolutely loathe shopping at with a passion I can not even begin to describe),  which might be enough to get me to shop there if I start doing a whole bunch of canning in the future.  I do plan on investing in some of the Tattler reusable canning lids in the future,  however,  I didn’t want to make the investment until I was sure I was going to be comfortable canning in the future. 

I already had a whole bunch of canning jars that I’ve collected over the years in sizes ranging from 4 oz all the way up to 1 gallon,  in both the wide mouth variety and the regular ones.   For years now I have been using glass jars for storing food both in the fridge and in the cupboards.   Not canning things,  just using them as dry storage for beans,  lentils,  chips,  popcorn,  and things like that.   I’ve also discovered if you store things in glass in the fridge they both last longer AND taste better.   No funky refrigerator taste in the food and no food adding funky smells to the refrigerator.

This has gotten so long that I am just going to end the first installment here and continue on with part 2 in another post.  

-Fin

Fate's 2013 New Years Resolutions

My 2012 resolutions all went downhill pretty quick.  So, here I am at the start of 2013 trying to figure out my list of ‘accomplishments’ for this year.  As usual, these will be more “goals” than resolutions, although a few of them are a bit cliched.

1. Restart “Dave Ramsey Plan”
While we haven’t gone crazy in our spending, Fin and I have relaxed after a couple years doing a really good job budgeting.  Mostly, this is my fault – feeling burned out looking at bills.  By most measures, we’ve taken a year off our financial plan, and need to get back onboard.  There’s some discussion at the office of bringing on personal financial advisors and such – might be interesting.

2. Make soap again.
I made enough soap to last us a long while, and then we switched over to left over fragments floating around.  We’re running low on all of the above, and I need to get my stuff together and go through with it.  Largely, it’s a bit of a pain with the cats (we wrangle them up into a room for a couple hours).

3. Build evil-project laboratory
I haven’t had space to work on electronics projects since I moved to the area – multiple small apartments, followed by a small house.  Working on audio wiring, I purchased a soldering iron, and find myself considering the possibilities of electronics tinkering again.  With any luck, Fin can have some space for her craft projects, and I’ll have space to tinker.

4. Learn a Bach Fugue
I’m hoping better than “learn a Beethoven Sonata”, and then playing Op. 49.  I still haven’t selected one, but I’ve started working on a 3-part invention to get my ready.

5. Time Lapse Garden Video
I’m still dismayed by the destruction of my previous camera for the time lapse project.  Tho, I do a significant collection of photos I could make something with (at least until mid-spring timeframe).  I’m not sure what sort of hardware investment I’ll make here, but there’s multiple options, and I do have a nice project enclosure to help things along.

6. Get back to writing
I haven’t written significantly for a year.  I’m hoping to improve my work/life balance and get this blog thing going well again.

7. Reorganize the office
This one would likely be #1 if Fin ordered the list, but the low place here is symptomatic of both of our desires to tackle the beast.  The office is the one area of the house that isn’t currently “awesome”.  Mostly on account of HUGE collections of “stuff” that needs unpacked and sorted, including the majority of boxes from before I moved in. 😮

And now, I’ll place the “standard” resolutions.  These are serious, but feel too cliched to take seriously.

8. Take longer/better vacation at some point in 2013.
9. Get to the gym / Y / etc…
10. Spend less time watching TV & playing video games.

I’m not going to justify these with explanations, and really, I debated putting them on the list.  Still, I hope to break trends and accomplish something there to write about. 🙂

That said, one of the important things (to me) about the “New Years Ritual”, is to recognize your accomplishments over the past year that might not have been “resolved”.  2012 saw a large number of “bucket list” items, and I suspect 2013 will as well.

— Fate