Dec 31, 2009

2010 - A Year of Living...

Intensely... Intently... Intentionally?

The confluence of 4 things brings me to this post, and my plan for 2010.

1) A while back I read Bill McKibben's book: Long Distance. In it, McKibben documents how he spent a year of his life dedicated to a training regimen similar to that of a world-class competitive cross country skier. It gave me insight into the general differences between amateurs and professionals in sports.

2) Later, I read: Angry White Pyjamas by Robert Twigger. The author was working in Tokyo when he decided to enroll in a "special" martial arts class. I say "special" with tongue in cheek since what this class amounted to was a year of more than full time training in Aikido. I'm talking about all-day Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. That is more training than some regular person taking two typical one-hour classes per week for 10 years! This was a fascinating read on many levels.

3) More recently, I read what I thought was just a book about competitive scrabble playing. I read it mainly for the amusement value since I have only ever played scrabble as a way to pass time and I have never cared about winning. The book is Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis and, as it turns out, the author took a leave of absence from work to not only write about this world I knew nothing about, but also had a goal of raising his own skill level enough to compete in the "Expert" division of tournament play. At first I thought this would be a hard book to finish but I found that it was actually hard to put down.

4) About a week later, we happened to see the movie Julie and Julia. I had an idea about the movie beforehand but I didn't know that an underlying facet was that a person, Julie Powell, decided to cook every recipe in Julie Child's first book (all 524 of them) in one year. For some perspective, it took Julie and two other authors 7 years to write the book which is somewhat of an encyclopedia of French cooking.

This brings me to myself and 2010. I have decided to live the year dedicated to something. What exactly I will be dedicated to I don't really know. What I do know is that I have more than 52 ideas for projects related to software development. I certainly have more than 52 books on my "must read" list. I have been talking about getting in the best shape of my life -- for most of my life. And so on with many other possible endeavors.

But it in the end it has boiled down to this. I will create a DEEP queue of tasks/activities in each category of my life where I have goals and work on those more intently, intentionally and intensely than I have in the past. That's it. If I start out doing this I could, at any time, change my mind and work on any one category or any one project. But the goal is the same, to be more intent, intentional and intense than ever before. Don't look for the book or movie though -- I can't imagine anything more boring to anyone else. What I will do is write about the results of some of the projects and the process.

Whether I post any of it here is a different story.

Dec 3, 2009

Interesting Quote

I just saw this in a book review on Amazon:

"It's a sign of maturity when you begin to fall out of love with your own drama."

Aug 9, 2009

Cash for clunkers

Just poking around the government web site to see if my car qualifies as a clunker. In most peoples mind's my car is definitely old enough and rough enough to be called a clunker. Unfortunately, the gas mileage of this car is high enough such that it does not qualify.

On the other hand, for the same model year various Rolls Royce*, Porsche, Mercedes and even Lamborghini* models do qualify as clunkers.

*If you are about to turn in your Rolls or Lamborghini please email me. I can give you a little more than the $4500 the dealer would.

Mar 2, 2009

A Nickle's Worth of Karma

When I was a little boy, a very long time ago, I had a very brief experience that still surprises me when I think of the imprint it has left on me.

I was standing at the counter in a neighborhood grocery/deli and I was just about to pay for a candy bar. Back then most candy bars were 5 cents, and only a few were 10 cents. Anyway, as I was about to pay for the candy an older gentleman who was behind me in line reached over and gave the clerk a nickle and said he was paying for the candy.

He then turned to me and said: "Do you know how you can repay me? When you grow up you have to do something for somebody else." I have no idea who this person was -- I had never seen him before nor have I seen him since. But, I wish I could tell him that since that day when I do a favor for someone, or give something away, I often think of that encounter. His brilliance, intended or not, is that I have never considered the debt repaid. I have never felt that I have lived up to the promise I made with my timid "okay" in response to the gentleman's request.

Feb 8, 2009

He needs more "proof"

While I believe that one shouldn't expend too much energy in responding to nutty and controversial claims in general, but this one has me intrigued.

Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson doesn't believe the Nazi Holocaust took place, and has said, "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against...". The bishop goes on to say "If I find this proof, then I will correct myself".

One wonders what proof he will need to see, and where he has been looking for it.

There are eyewitnesses alive today -- who have been either guards or inmates at concentration camps -- who attest to the facts. Some of the camps still exist, preserved as memorials. Also, both American and Russian armies were firsthand witness to the atrocities when they arrived to liberate the survivors. Photos and film footage exist from before, during, and after the liberation. Nazi records also exist -- which document actions and logistics that took place. At numerous trials since then, enablers at all levels have used the "just following orders" defense.

Bishop Richard Williamson still needs more proof. The irony, of course, is that Bishop Williamson apparently does not require proof of the existence of god, that Jesus walked on water or that the virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful as an image on a tortilla. Actually, rather than being an irony, it is the "tell" that belies the Bishop's agenda. Here is a person who's "being" is based on wholesale acceptance of articles of faith, and yet he is denying overwhelmingly well documented fact as "insufficient proof".

Jan 8, 2009

Stimulus plan - perspective

Although I think a stimulus plan (and a big one) is the right thing to do I am stuck by the numbers being thrown around. Yesterday I heard that the total package could amount to as much as $1.3 Trillion.

A quick search of the net (only looking at a few results) indicates that in recent years there are about 130 million individual tax returns filed annually. That divides into the other figure nicely -- $10,000 per tax return (tax payer/family). Implementation of such a plan is a complex process involving art, science and politics but I can't help thinking about this in terms of sending every tax return filer a $10,000 rebate check!

Jan 6, 2009

Adventures in Loan Sharking

More junk mail from the banks this week. With rates at all time lows, a letter from Bank of America says we're pre-qualified for some huge loan amount. The reality is probably that this is boiler-plate text and if one were to apply they would get a much lower limit.

Anyway, the fun part is that the initial interest rate is 7% (sneaky, they call it 6.99%) but the fine print says that if you miss a payment they can adjust the rate up to 28% (sneaky, they call it 27.99%).

Obviously, if you can't make your payments QUADRUPLING the interest rate will only make it harder, if not impossible. Seems more like the financial equivalent of a mob enforcer breaking your legs if you can't pay up.