Tuesday, December 29, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #40: No More Resolutions

Back in January, I resolved to try to average at least one New Year's Resolution for every week of this year. I fell short of my goal. However, I did get three quarters of the way there. I figure that's reasonably respectable and something I can extract some pride from. Now that my Year of Many Resolutions is coming to a close, I am going to make one final resolution that should carry me through 02010:

I resolve to make no New Year's Resolutions in the coming year.

I've enjoyed making all these resolutions. It's been good to have real goals to try to meet. And I've been pleasantly surprised at just how successful I've managed to be. But I've had enough for now. From now on, instead of making straightforward resolutions, I'm just going to try doing those things that make sense. I'll try to behave well, to do as little harm as possible, to improve where I see that it would be good to do so. That's generally been my approach to life all along, and I'm pretty comfortable with it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #39: Backwards Progress is Progress

Our lovely town (Newport, NH) has one of the largest town commons in the state. So the promotional material says. It does not specify whether that's one of the five largest, one of the ten largest, or one of the fifty largest. Anyway, I guess the implication is that it's pretty big and that should be a point of civic pride.

What's more interesting to me is what the town does with this asset. Specifically, the northern end, and specifically during winter: Every year, after some snow has fallen, they bring in a plow and push back the snow so that there is a cleared area surrounded by a low containing wall of snow. Then they turn a hose on and flood the cleared area with water. The water then freezes to become a public outdoor ice skating rink. At the northwestern corner of the rink, they bring in a wooden shed with lots of ice skates. These skates are available for the public to "rent", free of charge.

This is our fifth winter living in Newport. While I had always intended to take advantage of this wonderful amenity, I hadn't ever gotten around to doing so until today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Latest Evidence (It's All in My Head)

I present here argument number 5,279 (approx.) in favor of having a solipsistic worldview. What follows is, of course, a completely true story. I promise, plus I can't make this stuff up (unless I am making everything up).

A few nights ago, I decided to watch Love Actually on DVD. A fine motion picture. I highly recommend it, in case you haven't seen it. Anyway, I've watched it a bunch of times and I don't get tired of it.

However, I do get tired, and so I did not make it all the way through this viewing on Thursday night. I fell asleep.

On Friday night, I resumed my viewing when I went to bed. Again, I fell asleep.

Yesterday, I watched a bit more while I was hanging laundry in the early afternoon. Again, I didn't get all the way through to the end of the movie, as I stopped watching when the laundry was all hung.

At some point a little later in the afternoon, Beth was watching the teevee and a commercial for Aciphex came on. Without really paying attention to what the drug is designed to treat, Beth asked me whether I wanted some Aciphex. [This was asked solely for the comedic value, as somehow this drug company decided that it made sense to give a drug a name that sounds like "ass effects".]

I, of course, declined, but this did provide me with a golden opportunity to tell Beth that I had been thinking about the following idea recently: Shouldn't there be some sort of food that you could eat that would color your burps and farts? That would be worthy of the "ass effects" name! You could have green ass effects and pink ass effects and swirly ass effects.

So this was yesterday.

Last night, I went to bed and finished watching Love Actually. When it was over, I was still not quite sleepy. So, I decided to watch the Deleted Scenes section of the DVD. Despite having watched the movie a bunch of times, I had never before watched any of the deleted scenes on the disc.

Lo and behold, what do I discover in the deleted scenes?

You guessed it: There's a kid who gets in trouble at school because he wrote an essay about what he wants for Christmas, and what he wants is for farts to become visible! There's this whole funny sequence of showing how great it would be if people's farts were visible, including Queen Elizabeth II's farts.

Again, I repeat, I had never seen these deleted scenes before. I can also assure you that I had never heard these scenes described. I had never read about them. And there is absolutely nothing in the final cut of the movie that would suggest in any way that this scene was ever shot. In the final version of the movie, the kid was close to a nonentity. Emma Thompson's character made a brief reference to "my horrid son, Bernard". He might've had a line or two otherwise, but really he amounted to no more than an extra.

If this story suggests anything at all about the nature of the universe, here it is: It's all in my head.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #38: Learn Something

After making my last New Year's Resolution, I decided to get to work on formatting for the printed version of my novella. I figured the most reliable way to ensure that it ends up looking like I want it to is to make a PDF to upload to Lulu. I figured I might as well try doing it in InDesign. A good idea, in theory. In practice, I was unable to get anywhere in my first half hour (or thereabouts) of trying. It turns out that my desktop publishing skills have really deteriorated in the last couple of years. Either that or InDesign (which, truth be told, is an application that I never really did use very much) is much less intuitive than I expected.

I'm fine with defining and applying styles. I'm not really quite as impressed with how Adobe has set up their styles as I would like to be, but it's a tolerable system and overall I think the software is terrific. But I can't figure out what should be the most basic and completely intuitive part of the process: making new pages appear automatically (with the proper formatting) when the text overflows the last page of the document.

This is horribly frustrating!

Which brings me to my thirty-eighth New Year's Resolution of the year:

I resolve to learn how to operate comfortably and competently in the InDesign environment.

Just typing that makes me feel like a bit of an imbecile. Oh well! I suppose that's good for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #37: Swallow the Self-Publishing Pill

I spent some time today doing a bit of research on various tools for self-publishing. The reason: My thirty-seventh New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to get around to formatting and self-publishing my 02005 novella, in hopes that it might find an audience.

I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 02005. I was not a "winner" because instead of ending up with a 50,000 word "short novel", I only managed to write a 40,000 word novella.

I suppose it's fair to say that I didn't really fully embrace the "reckless abandon" aspect of the activity. Instead of throwing in a random plot line to continue my story (and thus increase my word count) beyond what felt like a reasonable stopping point, I stopped typing. The result was a cohesive piece of fiction that I am proud to have written. Had I gone the other route, I might've gotten a certain satisfaction from "winning" NaNoWriMo, but I am sure that it would not have really compared to the satisfaction I got from "being true to my vision". I am sure of this because I am familiar with my own nature.

Being familiar with my own nature, I am also quite sure that I'm terribly unlikely ever to seek out a literary agent or to go to the trouble (and through the inevitable frustration) of submitting my manuscript to publisher after publisher in hopes that one of them might like my story enough to want to publish it.

Nonetheless, I do think that it's a decent (if not great) piece of fiction. I think that it's the sort of thing that can likely find an appreciative audience if given an opportunity. (My sister liked it plenty, anyway.)

When I wrote the thing, just over four years ago, self publishing was about the last thing I would have expected to ever consider doing with it. "Self publishing" was, in my mind, exactly the same as "vanity publishing" and it carried an immense stigma. If I were to try to explain this stigma, it would probably come across as arrogant and mean spirited. Perhaps it's best to avoid that.

Anyway, over the course of these four years, my mind has changed (I think in response to a change in the publishing universe) and now I am at the point of being mentally prepared to do it without any reservations.

I expect I'll probably go with Lulu for making hard copies available (partly because they'll give me a free copy and partly because they throw in a free ISBN and a listing on Amazon). As for e-book distribution, I'm thinking I'll likely go through Feedbooks. If you have self-published or if you have looked into it yourself, I'd be happy to entertain suggestions for alternatives, particularly if you can make compelling arguments in favor of some other outlet or in opposition to these.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #36: Exercise My Demons, Exorcise My Muscles, Something…

Yesterday, before I got into the shower, I did 20 push ups. I don't know why, exactly, I decided to do so. I guess I looked in the mirror and saw that my gut is smaller than it used to be and it really struck me that the loss of 27 lbs. this year is a substantial reduction in my weight. Ergo, doing push ups should be significantly easier than it would have been if I had tried it a year ago.

It was fairly easy. I didn't feel any pain. I didn't get winded. I didn't feel like I put any undue strain on my cardiovascular system. It seemed like an okay thing to do. And intellectually, I know that it's better to get exercise than to not.

I did not choose 20 because that's all I could manage. I didn't push myself to the limit. I just decided that 20 was what I would do, so I did 20.

This morning, before I got into the shower, I did 21 push ups. It felt not unlike yesterday's exercise. Good for me.

I'm not necessarily aiming to add one push up every day until I end up at this time next year doing 385 push ups in a day. But I am making my thirty-sixth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to exercise much more regularly than I ever have before.

Ideally, I will fit in some exercise every day so that it becomes a habit. I'm not sure whether push ups will be an everyday exercise. I suppose that might get kind of tiresome. But maybe not. I might add in some sit ups. And I really want to be able to keep up with Beth on a bike when springtime comes around, so I'll probably put in more time on the exercise bike as we get into the winter months than I have done through the end of the summer and into the fall.

The simple truth about me is that I am not at all predisposed to being a health nut. This is the reason why so many of my resolutions have had something to do with improving aspects of my health. I have, for too many years, relied on a functioning metabolism and a fair amount of luck to keep me from falling into a high risk group for cardiac failure or diabetes. Well, I'm approximately at the midpoint of my life expectancy (based on actuarial tables). I figure it's about time to start putting a little effort into staying reasonably healthy for the second half.

I do have a coupon on the refrigerator for a free trial membership at a health club. I will have to check, but I don't believe it has an expiration date. Who knows, maybe I'll get around to taking advantage of that offer sometime in the next year. What could it hurt?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #35: The Non-Resolutions

This particular resolution isn't really a resolution at all. Instead, it is a way for me to sort of take credit for some "positive" things that I've been doing without having really ever resolved to do them. They're the sorts of things that could have been resolutions on their own merits. In fact, I could have just declared them to be resolutions and nobody would have been any wiser. However, I would have felt (in some strange way) as if I were cheating. So, I've decided to let the group count together as a single "Non-Resolution" New Year's Resolution.

Here they are:

I have largely stopped eating potatoes. My doctor told me that they are "empty calories". I'm not sure what that means, exactly. But he said in such a way as to indicate that he thinks that I get no benefit from eating them. I'm not completely off potatoes, but I'm eating a whole lot less of them. I haven't had a single potato chip in months (and I am a big big fan of potato chips!). I miss them sometimes, especially after eating a peanut butter sandwich. But I'm doing fine without them, and I figure that there's some chance that their disappearance from my diet has been a contributing factor to my weight loss.

I have largely stopped eating fast food. Again, not cold turkey, but significant. This has been partly a financial decision and partly a matter of wanting to increase my chances of continued enjoyment of reasonably good health and the benefits of weight loss.

Generally speaking, I have curtailed my ingestion of "junk food". I haven't bought a package of cookies in I don't know how long. I haven't been eating candy (except the little bit of chocolate that Beth gave me as a gift). Ice cream has become an occasional treat instead of a regular snack. (Although I must admit that I firmly believe that calling ice cream "junk food" is really quite unfair. Ice cream is nutritious and you'll not convince me otherwise!) When I have splurged on ice cream in recent months, it's almost always been light ice cream instead of full fat.

I have been eating yogurt. This is not exactly an ice cream replacement, as such. It's something that my doctor recommended for my health. I started eating the yogurt before I cut out so much of the junk food and ice cream. But I've learned to start thinking of the yogurt as a yummy treat instead of as a nasty necessity. My ability to do so is, I am sure, entirely thanks to having found a particular flavor of yogurt that tastes a lot like a dreamsicle. After trying a variety of different yogurt flavors by a variety of manufacturers, and finding most of them unpleasant (especially the goat's milk one (YUCK!)), I settled on one that I really like and I generally eat 1-2 cups per day.

I have lately been trimming my finger nails with a tool designed for the purpose instead of using my teeth. I can't explain why I have finally made such strides in breaking this lifelong "bad habit". Whatever the reason, I figure it's a good thing (or at least not a bad one).

There may be a few other such "good" non-resolutions that I've implemented in my life recently, but none that I can think of now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #34: Feed the Vampires

I used to donate blood very frequently. I went in for apheresis donations (platelets) quite regularly. I have lost count of how many pints of blood product I have donated over the course of my lifetime, but I know that it's somewhere well north of ten gallons. The skin in the crooks of my elbows is a mess of scar tissue from all of those Red Cross needles.

I view blood donation as my civic duty. I have all of this extra blood that I'm not using and I know that there are people who can benefit from it. I have never done anything to put my blood at risk for causing anyone harm. And I am somehow a member of the minority of people who are not infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), which makes my blood products particularly valuable for certain types of recipients.

Sadly, I have not been quite as diligent in my donation schedule in recent days as I used to be. I donated whole blood last week and 9 weeks before that and I think about 8 or 9 weeks before that. But I have not been in for a platelet donation since December of 02007.

In January of 02008, I started a job that made it impossible to spend very many waking hours with my darling wife. I was working evenings while she was working days. So basically, we saw each other on weekends and during her 1/2 hour lunch breaks during the work week. I missed her desperately. Because her lunch breaks were about the only time we got to spend together (awake) during the week, that was my priority rather than devoting 4-5 hours to making the trip to Manchester and getting hooked up to the apheresis machine.

In July, I was laid off from that job. My work schedule is now much kinder, as Beth and I now get to spend every evening together. Plus, my current schedule has me off from work on Tuesdays and Fridays. Which means that I can now make my thirty-fourth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to fit regular visits to the American Red Cross into my schedule. I will not merely wait for a blood drive to come conveniently close to home on a day when I don't have to work. Instead, I will make a point of scheduling appointments and making the trip to Manchester to give away my platelets.

This may end up meaning that I will essentially give up on whole blood donations in favor of the apheresis appointments. That may not be quite so good for the whole blood supply. But because I won't have to wait 8 weeks between donations, I will be able to greatly increase the total amount of blood product that I put into the system. I may not make the maximum of 24 platelet donations per year, but I'm certainly aiming to donate a whole lot more often than I have done in the last year (which I think probably amounts to a pitiful 5 or 6 donations).

If I can help save more lives, that's generally good, right?

Friday, October 30, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #33: Join the Coupon Moms of the World

Money is scarce. There, I said it.

I have always looked at myself (at least from a frugality standpoint) as a millionaire who doesn't have his millions. That is, I have never been particularly thrifty.

These two things are at odds, and something must change.

Hence, New Year's Resolution #33:

I resolve to become a coupon clipper, a comparison shopper, an anti-spendthrift (at least as far as grocery shopping is concerned).

I have recently discovered the Coupon Mom web site. If you join the site (which is free), you get access to an 8-page PDF that contains useful advice for how to get the most out of your grocery store dollar. I am going to follow the advice given (at least a good amount of it, if not all of it). I have confidence that this will result in me spending less money than I otherwise would if left to my own tendencies. If nothing else, it will teach me which stores offer better deals on which of the products I regularly buy and will improve my dollars per goods ratio based solely on that. I have never been a comparison shopper and have instead shopped either wherever is most convenient or wherever I like the atmosphere rather than based on where I can get the best bargain. This is stupid, and should end. Likewise, the "buy it when you run out" approach that I have always used is wasteful, compared to the "buy it when it's on sale" approach. The latter takes some planning, but is definitely worth the little bit of effort it requires.

So there.

02009 New Year's Resolution #32: Failure Is Not An Option

Here we are in the 44th week of the year and I'm just now typing up my 32nd New Year's Resolution. At this point, there is no longer anything optional about failing to live up to my goal for New Year's Resolution #5. ["I resolve to try to make at least one New Year's Resolution for every week this year."] I have made an effort, so in that sense I have succeeded in satisfying the "try" aspect of the resolution. But it is now clear that failure to get to 52 is an inevitability.

There are other resolutions that I will also surely not succeed at. However, there are also those that I have succeeded at or that I am sure to succeed at.

For example, I am making steady progress in my attempt to learn to touch type (resolution #30), and I don't intend to give up until I have done it. Likewise, I have dropped more than 20 lbs. so far this year, putting me squarely into the "healthy" range on the BMI chart. In fact, as of this morning, I was 10 lbs. lighter than the target weight I set for myself in resolution #6. As far as I'm concerned, the weight loss is going to continue for the foreseeable future, as I'm still not quite as slender as I would like to be. I'm flossing daily (with only very rare exceptions) for the first time in my life. I've succeeded in training myself to clean the litter box every day (or very nearly so). I hardly ever drink soda any more.

All in all, I've been surprisingly successful in setting achievable goals that are (to varying degrees) meaningful to me. Likewise, I have been surprisingly successful in achieving those goals.

Have any of these things made me a better person? I doubt it. Even all added together, I don't really think that they make me a better person. However, they have made me more the person I would like to be, and that's what counts. There's still lots of room for improvement, but that's part of the opportunity afforded by the experience of living. Which brings me to New Year's Resolution #32:

I resolve to not wallow in my failures, but instead to take pride in my successes.

This applies specifically to my Year of Many Resolutions project. But it also applies more generally to life. I'm tired of being down on myself for not accomplishing anything noteworthy in this life. I'd rather just accept that while I may be an overall failure, at least I am one who has enough positive attributes to have not driven my darling wife away. That's success enough, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #31: Grow My Own (Or Try, Anyway)

I carved a jack-o'-lantern last week to bring to the Keene Pumpkin Festival. I did my carving about three days earlier than I should have done. As a result, my pumpkin was starting to look a bit pathetic by the time it made its way to Keene.

Nonetheless, it got some compliments. Plus, it earned me a little certificate saying that I had contributed to this year's effort. The initial count said that we beat the city's previous record, with over 29,000 lit jack-o'-lanterns, but that we missed out on regaining the world record from Boston. However, it seems that there were some log sheets that had been skipped and were discovered after the initial count was done. So a recount is in the works, apparently scheduled for today. I tend to doubt that the world record will return to Keene. But I'll be sure to pay attention to the news, just to satisfy my curiosity.

Anyway, it occurred to me as I was about to buy my pumpkin that I could throw my seeds away, eat my seeds, or use my seeds. This year, I have decided to use them. More specifically, I have decided to save them for next year and try to use them next year to grow my own pumpkins. Which brings me to my thirty-first new year's resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to grow my own pumpkin(s) in the following year so that I can carve a jack-o'-lantern in 02010 without having to pay for it.

If successful, I may try to do the same year after year. If unsuccessful, I think I will likely take this as evidence that cultivating plants simply is not my bag.

As of now, I have extracted something like 300 seeds. I have washed them. And I currently have them drying on a screen. In a few weeks (when I'm fairly confident that they have dried thoroughly), I will stash them away in a secure location to wait until next spring or summer, when it'll be time to try to get [at least some of] them to become fruiting plants.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #30: Be More Like Everyone Else

So far, every one of the tens of thousands of words that I've typed in this blog has been typed using the old tried and true method of hunting and pecking. That's right, folks: I am likely the last of the non-touch typists. This means that I have reason to feel inferior to everyone else in the world. (You are all touch typists, right?) Well, with my thirtieth new year's resolution of 02009, I aim to finally play catch up!

I resolve to make a serious effort to become a fairly proficient touch typist within a year.

That ought to level the playing field a bit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #29: Why I Aughtta…!

Suddenly, it has become clear that my lawn mowing hours are not reliably my best thinking hours. This afternoon, as I was mowing the lawn, here's what occurred to me:

In 02001, I did not once say "twenty aught one".
In 02002, I did not once say "twenty aught two".
In 02003, I did not once say "twenty aught three".
In 02008, I did not once say "twenty aught eight".

Here we are, nearly at the end of the year, nearly at the end of the aughts, and I have largely squandered a golden opportunity. How very sad!

This leads me to my twenty-ninth New Year's Resolution of the year:

I resolve to try to remember to use "aught" in speaking the name of this year (or any year since 02001), should the opportunity arise.

Frankly, I don't remember when the last time I uttered "two thousand nine" was. It occurs to me that I rarely ever find myself needing to say the year. Would it surprise me to make it through the rest of the year without having to say what year it is? No. But if I find myself in such a position, I intend to make a point of saying "twenty aught nine".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #28: Add to My Circus Arts Repertoire

A few years ago, I received a unicycle as a birthday present from Libbets. She knew that I juggle and I guess she figured this would get me that much closer to running off and joining the circus. I don't think that's really going to happen, and I don't have any real aspirations of becoming a clown or any other sort of professional or semi-professional entertainer. I don't even seriously hope to ever be able to juggle while riding on a unicycle. However, I do really want to learn to ride my unicycle. I have not gotten around to putting in the effort yet, but that's going to change, with my 28th New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve that I will learn to ride a unicycle by this time next year.

My goal is to be able to cleanly, confidently, and comfortably mount and dismount without aid of people or other supporting devices; to ride in a controlled manner, turn in either direction, and maintain my balance without feeling like I'm at constant risk of losing my balance. I am not aiming to do any super fancy tricks. I'm not aiming to go up or down stairs, to ride off-road, to do jumps, etc. I just want to be a proficient basic unicyclist.

02009 New Year's Resolution #27: Floss My Cochleae

This resolution is (roughly) to my ears what #25 was to my teeth. I aim to keep them and I'm trying to protect them.

A couple of years ago, Beth and I went to get our hearing checked. We each sat in a "soundproof" booth and had a series of beeps piped into our ears through a set of headphones. We indicated when we heard the beeps and in which ear. When we were done, the technician told us that she wished that everyone's hearing was as good as ours.

Beth, of course, thinks that I have hearing problems — or at least that I have listening problems. I think, instead, that I suffer from a bit of a delayed perceptual response.*

That is, I frequently miss the first one to three syllables when a silence is broken, as my mind needs at least a fraction of a second to boot up and go into listening mode. As such, I frequently miss the exact point of Beth's questions, and end up frustrating her with too many utterances of "what?" Inquiries and requests are indistinguishable without clarification. For example, "did you turn the oven off?" and "will you turn the oven off?" both come to me as "[cue to start listening] you turn the oven off?"

There is one obvious solution to this problem. It would be greatly amusing, but something tells me it's not going to happen: Beth could more completely embrace a manner of speaking that resembles that of Foghorn Leghorn. That is, she could start saying things like "would, I say, would you please run the dishwasher?"

Anyway, while my hearing is still good, even if my listening is more suspect, I've made my twenty-seventh New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to consistently wear protective ear plugs whenever I am running either the lawnmower or the snow thrower.

* I was going to use the phrase "slow brain syndrome", but I checked Google and discovered that SBS is an actual disorder, and [believe it or not] actually has something to do with tinnitus. I don't believe that I truly suffer from that particular disorder, so I chose to go with "delayed perceptual response", which is just a vague substitute, designed to not cause any confusion.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #26: Take a Lot of Crap (Right Quick)

Usually, when I make these resolutions, I try to provide a nice little story that somehow ties in. This one's going to be short and dull. Sorry.

I am guilty of not being the most conscientious scooper of kitty litter boxes. This is not especially good. So I'm making this, my twenty-sixth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to train myself to scoop the clumps from Willow's litter boxes on a daily basis instead of just when I remember to get around to it.

That's it. Short, simple, and years overdue.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

02009 New Years Resolution #25: Keep My Teeth

A few months ago, I visited a dentist for the first time in way too many years. Among the things I learned is that I had developed some periodontitis. Treatment (scaling and root planing, followed by the injection of Arestin into several sites in my mouth) was not painful or even genuinely unpleasant. However, it was inconvenient (inasmuch as the dental office is quite a long drive from home) and extremely expensive. Well, I'm not interested in having to go through that (or worse) again. Which brings me to my twenty-fifth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I have resolved to make flossing a regular, lifelong, habitual part of my daily routine.

The truth is that until this most recent visit to the dentist, I had really never been much of a flosser. I always considered it to be a hassle. It was uncomfortable and generally unpleasant. Besides that, it was always easier to simply forget to floss than it was to remember to floss. Well, now that I'm faced with the prospect of potentially losing my teeth to gum disease, flossing has suddenly taken on much more of the feeling of a necessity rather than merely an inconvenient good idea.

So I'm flossing every day. It's not fun, but it's not awful. The bleeding stopped after the first few days. I'm not finding it difficult to remember to do it. I should have made this a habit decades ago. I didn't. Shame on me. Now I just have to maintain the practice and hope that it does the trick. I really don't want my teeth falling out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #24: Be More Affectionate

Okay, so this one is a bit old and I'm just very late in reporting it.

We have three dogs. The border terrier is pedigreed and from championship stock. She's the one that we did lots of breed research on. We found a breeder and visited on multiple occasions before she was born and during the eight weeks between birth and being able to bring her home. We got to know her biological mother and her biological father. We got to know her litter mates and got to decide which one we were going to bring home.

The chihuahua was Beth's little side project. She bought him on a whim when he was a puppy. It was against my strenuous objections. However, he's cute as a button and that makes it hard not to fall in love with him.

The third dog is a mongrel. He was found on the side of the road in Cumberland, Maryland by some clients of the vet's office where Beth used to work. They temporarily named him Sponge Bob. They didn't want to keep him and they also didn't want to put him in the shelter. So they brought him to the vet's office in hopes that someone there would be able to find a home for him. Well, Beth did. I simply couldn't resist when I saw how handsome he was, and I especially couldn't resist when I discovered how amazingly well-behaved he was. He was a frightened fellow who was way too timid and unreasonably quiet at first. (We've changed him since and now he barks much more and much louder than I would like, but in those early days he wouldn't make a peep.) Anyway, we took him in and renamed him Sherman.

Some time ago, it occurred to me that I have always treated Sherman differently from how I treat the other dogs. The other dogs have always been "our babies" and I've treated them as such. Lots of attention paid, lots of cuddling, lots of affection. Sherman, on the other hand, never seemed like the "baby" type. I have never been able to imagine Sherman as a puppy. I'm convinced he was born old. So I always treated him more as a guy who happens to live with us rather than as a true member of the family. I got to thinking about this inequity and I got to thinking that it really wasn't very fair at all.

Hence, New Year's Resolution #24:

I have resolved to treat Sherman more as one of our children than as a long-term house guest. This is probably for the better, as far as Sherman is concerned. He's the only one who seems to be as attached (possibly more so) to me as to Beth. I believe he appreciates the additional affection. At least I like to think he does.

Friday, August 28, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #23: Buy More Shoes

There are some people who would get more out of resolving to stop buying shoes for a year. Some people have too many shoes and buy shoes way too frequently. This is good for the economy, of course. Otherwise, it's really pretty silly.

I am closer to the other end of the spectrum. I have a few pair of dressy shoes, rarely worn. The super-fancy Stacy Adams faux-snake skin shoes were bought specifically for our wedding to go with my zoot tux. And the only reason why I have a second pair of "normal dressy" shoes is that I needed to quickly acquire a funeral-worthy outfit in the middle of a vacation.

I pretty much have three pair of shoes that I wear on a regular basis. Of those three, my darling wife bought one and it was at her insistence that I bought another. That last pair was bought at least a year ago (probably two) and has in recent months become the pair I wear to work. The remaining pair, which is my "wear around the house and in everyday casual life" pair was bought some years ago and is wearing out. The soles are in miserable shape and the foot bed is too.

Well, here's New Year's Resolution #23 for the year:

I resolve to buy a pair of shoes to replace those. In fact, I'm going to swallow my pride and buy a pair of Crocs (in one of the vaguely respectable colors). They're cheaper than what I would otherwise buy (probably another pair of Merrells to replace the worn out pair) and they're supposed to be super-comfortable and potentially good for me ergonomically.

Oh, I almost forgot: I also have a pair of soccer cleats that I use when I go out to throw boomerangs. I keep them in the trunk of my car and I expect that I won't wear them out for a decade or more.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The End of the Hair Project

I am extremely late with this post. You, dear reader, have my apologies.

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which was better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). Well, I finally reached 8 inches in June!

Here are the May 2, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
Three days after those photos were taken, Beth could live with my long hair no longer. She decided it was haircut day, and she gave me my shearing. The next day, I stopped in for a visit to my barber for a bit of a cleaning up. These photos show the results:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
Now I feel very much less like a total doofus!

Last week, I received a letter of thanks from Beautiful Lengths. So I know that my hair reached its destination. Mission accomplished!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Musical Discovery

One of my coworkers decided a few days ago that she was sick of the music on her iPod. (She used the word "hate", but I don't think it was entirely accurate.) So she proposed an iPod swap. I went for it, and we've spent a few hours on each of the last few days listening to each others' collections.

This is a wonderful exercise, which I highly recommend to anyone who is in a position to do it.

My greatest joy of the exercise, so far, has been the discovery of a singer/songwriter named Joanna Newsom. I am absolutely hooked, and intend to buy her albums when funds become available. She has this magnificently unconventional singing voice which she uses to great effect with a unique delivery. Plus, the woman is a rhyme machine!

My favorite lyric goes like this:

I killed my dinner with karate -
kick 'em in the face, taste the body;

This artist is definitely my musical discovery of the year, and I can make no stronger suggestion to you, reader, than this: Listen to Joanna Newsom!

You can find a page of her fantastic rhymes here.

You can get a sample of her sound by checking out the video here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolutions #21 and #22: Optimism and Gratitude

I recently found out that I am scheduled to be part of a big round of layoffs from my full-time job. My scheduled date of termination is July 3.

This is the sort of news that could be fairly devastating. (In this case, it is not.)

I am being uncharacteristically optimistic. In fact, I have generally been keeping on the optimistic end of the scale for the last few months.

This is a strange sensation.

I, as you may or may not already know, am a world-class pessimist (despite my "be positive" blood type). This is not a point of pride. It is simply a statement of truth. My longstanding habit has been to always believe that things will go badly. To some degree, this acts as a bit of a built-in cushion. Rarely do things go as badly as I anticipate, and I'm therefore generally pleased with outcomes. However, when outcomes do turn out to be awful, at least they don't come as a shock.

When I was in college, I took an Abnormal Psychology course. My professor was Martin E. P. Seligman, a guy who (a) had the most soothing male voice in the world and (b) wrote a book entitled Learned Optimism. I did not ever get around to reading the whole book. But I read enough to grasp that the basic premises were (a) that it's possible to train oneself to be optimistic and (b) that being optimistic has definite benefits.

Which leads me to my twenty-first New Year's Resolution of the year (and no, it does not involve reading the aforementioned book):

I resolve to be more optimistic than is my natural tendency.


As it happens, just four days before I learned that I am being laid off, I was hired to a new part-time job. This is a job that I had wanted for over ten months, ever since I first heard of it. The way I heard of it is that Beth told me about it. She had heard about it from a former coworker who had started working for this company a few months earlier and told Beth about it when he stopped in to visit her workplace. So I contacted him in early June of 02008 and then bugged him every few months to ensure that he would not forget to let me know when an opening occurred.

Well, he e-mailed me in April and let me know that an opening was available for a part-time position. I wanted the job to be full-time, but at least this was a chance to get my foot in the door. So I contacted the appropriate people, had an interview, and got hired. I still hope that it becomes my next full-time job. Clearly, with the impending loss of my current full-time job, the ideal timing for the switch would be sometime in July. (See above re: my new optimistic attitude.)

Anyway, this contact apparently stopped in to Beth's workplace yesterday to chat with her about how things are going. As they were talking, he apparently mentioned to her that they (my new employers) are afraid that they won't be able to hold on to me. Apparently, the fear is that I'm "too smart". The implication is that intelligent people need serious mental stimulation in order to stay satisfied in their jobs. Without said stimulation, I guess smart folks are supposed to get restless and feel the need for something more.

Note: I take this "too smart" comment as a great compliment. What I take away from it is that perhaps I comport myself in such a way as to not come across as a dolt. That's nice to know.

Well, the truth is that I have a pretty good sense of what keeps me happy. As far as work goes, it's largely a matter of (a) doing rather than delegating and (b) feeling as if I have actually done something at the end of the day — even if that something needs to be redone the next day. This job definitely satisfies both of those desires.

Beyond that, this new job provides me with lots of additional benefits. Among them:
  • No longer spending all that time at work staring at a computer screen. (I've been doing that for over 15 years and I'm tired of it.)
  • Getting some fresh air.
  • Getting some exercise.
  • Getting to see some pretty scenery.
  • Having a schedule that allows me to see my darling wife for a significant portion of every day instead of basically having to live for the weekends.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that I am part of the supply chain for ice cream — which I am convinced is the happiest food there is.
  • The knowledge that my job simply can not be outsourced to China or India or Vietnam (which I understand is the new "hot" market for taking American jobs).
You might expect from my long and ever-growing list of New Year's Resolutions that I am the sort of person who likes to set goals for himself. This is simply not the case. I like to get through each day as it comes. Beyond that, my long term goals are pretty simple: 1) I want to spend a larger percentage of my time with Beth. 2) I hope to someday retire. That's pretty much it.

Shorter term goals tend to be merely steps along the way. And in a very real way, this new job will move me closer to both of those goals. The first is obvious, as I will soon no longer be on an opposite work schedule to Beth's. The second is a bit more abstract, but basically it boils down to this: For me, retirement is a situation that brings with it the idea of no longer exhausting my mental capacities as someone else's employee. Which brings me to my twenty-second New Year's Resolution of the year:

I resolve that if/when it becomes a reality, I will be filled with gratitude for something that may seem strange to others: The blessed opportunity to have serious thought be strictly a leisure activity.

I love to engage in serious thought. I always have interesting ideas kicking around my head, and they provide me with a great source of amusement. When my mental energy is assigned to someone else's priorities, this is more a drain than it is an inspiration. To my way of thinking, work should not be what we live for. Interesting thought, on the other hand, is not at all a bad thing to live for. If my mind were not capable of providing me with intellectual stimulation, then I might welcome an intellectually challenging work environment, just to keep me from going batty. I am thankful that I am not in such a situation. My mind does not seem at all in danger of leaving me in a state of endless boredom, thank you very much!

[And no, I am not suggesting that the new job allows me to simply show up and check out. It does require attention. It just doesn't require what might be termed "advanced thinking".]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #20: Something About Turning the Self-Deprecation Down a Notch

I should probably make this New Year's Resolutions 20 through 23. There's so much here that it probably deserves to be counted as at least four separate Resolutions. However, I'm going to just combine it all into one big one, so as not to unreasonably inflate my count.

My great tragic secret (which I've never really kept secret at all) is that for the last 20 years I have thought of myself as ugly, stupid, boring, undeserving of praise, and generally unworthy of love. Think of Stuart Smalley's Daily Affirmations and turn them on their head. That's essentially been my internal monologue for the last two decades. [I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. And gosh darn it, there's no conceivable reason why people should like me.]

I am constantly astonished that my darling wife ever fell for me, let alone that every day she's still here, still in love with me. This I have never been able to comprehend. Why me?

Well, 20 years is probably enough.

Being so down on one's place in the world does, I think, tend to skew one's world view, probably in a not-so-healthy way. For one thing, it tends to stifle ambition. Besides that, it probably has some significant social consequences. (When one assumes that others would not want to befriend someone as lowly as I have considered myself to be, that probably becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Somehow, I have managed to make some wonderful friends over the years, but this was probably despite myself.)

My twentieth New Year's Resolution of 02009 involves trying to work on my attitude towards myself.

I resolve to...
  • try to keep in mind that I am probably not always the ugliest guy in the room.

  • try to remind myself that the IQ tests and SAT scores and school grades, while no guarantee, have been consistently high enough that "stupid" very likely does not truly apply.

  • try to be encouraged (by the friends I have and by Beth's persistence in sticking around) that I may not be as boring as I have for so long believed. Perhaps there is something interesting about me after all.

  • try to be less dismissive of compliments; try to accept them at face value as being sincere instead of questioning the motives behind them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #19: Be More Prepared

I was driving home today after visiting Beth on her lunch break, when suddenly I saw this bird flying out there ahead of me. It was a jet black bird with an alarming red spot. My first thought was "red winged black bird". I was then immediately and simultaneously struck by two adjustments: 1) Way too big! and 2) The red spot is in the wrong place.

Soon I realised that I was behind a spectacular woodpecker. The red spot was its head. Before I overtook it, it veered to the left and perched on the side of a tree. There was my confirmation: A gorgeous woodpecker, indeed!

Alas, I did not have my camera with me.

So, when I arrived home, I grabbed my tripod and my camera, which already had my longest lens on it, and I drove back out in hopes of getting a shot of the bird. I parked about 1/8 mile down the road and started walking back to where the bird had landed. The bird was gone, of course.

I stood around for a little while and listened for the telltale pecking. I heard it off in the woods, and I started heading in that general direction. But I soon realised that the sound was coming from farther away than I was really prepared to go. I stood there in the woods for a while, listening and observing, hoping that the bird might come closer. No luck there, but I did spot something in the woods that I thought would make an interesting composition. So I set up my tripod, focused the lens, turned the camera on and went to take the shot. It was then that I remembered that my battery was cradled in its charger, safely back at home. "Curses! Foiled again!"

Well, this leads to my nineteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to be better prepared for spontaneity!

That's it. Pretty simple. Sorry if you were hoping for something more substantial.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recent photos. I've mostly been posting photos recently to Facebook. These have already appeared there. But I understand that not all of my readers are on Facebook, so I'm posting these for those. Enjoy!

Flowers, Flower, Lupine, Purple, Nature

Flowers, Flower, Lupine, Purple, Nature

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Dragon, Dragons

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Carousel, Horse, Horses, Carousel Horses

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Bee, Peace

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Bee, Peace, Jail, Imprisonment, Prisoner

Beaver, Tail, Fur, Nature

Saturday, April 18, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #18: Cogito Ergo Possum, But Accept That I Probably Won't

A longtime friend (who also recently said something that made me think that "longtime friend" is sometimes more politic than "old friend") recently reminded me of an idea that has been amusing me (in a low simmer sort of way) for the last couple of years: Cogito ergo possum.

I'm sure my dear readers are all familiar with Descartes' famous assertion: Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am.) Likewise, I'm sure that most of you are familiar with Watty Piper's The Little Engine Who Could, who famously asserted, "I think I can."

By mixing the two together, I came up with the following hybrid: Cogito ergo possum. [Note: I'm not fluent in Latin and I am not a qualified translator. But I managed to cobble this together, and I don't think it's ineptly worded.] The resulting phrase translates to: "I think; therefore I can."

Searching the internet, I quickly learned that I was not the first to devise the phrase. In fact, it has been cleverly and humorously translated as "I think; therefore I play dead." (Which I think is genius!) Turns out that Cogito ergo possum is also apparently the motto of Walt Kelly's Pogo.

(I haven't yet taken the time to seek evidence of this in the volumes of Pogo strips that are on the bookcase next to our front door. But I intend to. If I can find said evidence, I'll probably post a scan of the appropriate frame. Walt Kelly was a genius and it seems to me that if I can play some small part in spreading his gospel, that would be a noble act.)

Anyway, Cogito ergo possum is sort of a reasonable credo for my interior mental life. It suggests a kind of belief in the power of thought: If one can think it, then doing it becomes a mere matter of will overcoming sloth. If you accept this idea and embrace it, there comes a certain confidence in your capacity for achieving something important. That's a nice idea. Frankly, it's sort of intoxicating in its ego-boosting capacity.

The problem with me is that while I possess this knowledge and am confident in my own thought processes, I am extremely bad about actually translating the thought into action. That is, my sloth generally overcomes my will.

So I have lots of bright ideas kicking around in my head. But rarely do I make any real effort at turning them into anything tangible. My habit has long been to jealously guard my bright ideas and to keep them secret. This is a bad habit! But until very recently I had not really recognised what a bad habit it is.

This has something to do with intellectual property rights, which I am a big fan of. I like the idea that inventors should be able to profit from their inventions. I believe that theft of intellectual property is every bit as wrong as theft of physical property. However, I must admit that I am unlikely to ever get around to dealing with most of my bright ideas. If I won't see them to fruition, and if I also keep them all as secrets, not only do I not benefit from them but neither does anyone else. That's where the bad habit comes in.

If, for example, I am not ever going to perform the world's first meaningful time travel experiment (and surely I am not), is there some good reason why I shouldn't at least toss the experiment's design out there in case it might inspire someone else to actually perform the experiment? Of course not! There's really no benefit to myself or to anyone else or to society at large if I keep the experiment's design a secret. But if I set it free, there's some slight chance that someone less slothful than myself might take up the baton and run with it. Where's the harm in that?

So, having achieved this new wisdom, I hereby make my eighteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to not be so senselessly protective of my bright ideas.

I will be less apt to keep them from public scrutiny, finally acknowledging that there is more value in the potential of inspiring others than there is in the smugness of knowing that I possess some special idea that could result in something really cool if only I would get around to acting on it.

I suppose this resolution is at least as much about honestly assessing my own sloth as it is about honestly assessing the brilliance of my best thoughts. Anyway, as with Cogito ergo possum, it generally turns out that my brightest ideas are not uniquely mine. Usually, someone else has already had the same thoughts (or similar enough to qualify). In such cases especially, there is a very compelling reason to add a reinforcing voice to the chorus rather than to keep it under my hat.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #17: Support the Arts

I suppose in some sense, one could argue (if one were so inclined) that my photography constitutes a sort of ongoing art project. I would not.

Likewise, I suppose my monthly documenting of my hair's growth could be described as a sort of art project. I would not describe it so.

One might (as a stretch) claim that my t-shirt designs from last summer (none of which sold, sadly enough) could be considered a sort of an art project. Again, I would make no such claim.

Instead, I would assert that I haven't really made any efforts in terms of starting an art project in a very, very long time. This is sad, as I used to think I might try to make a profession of art. Pessimism, lack of self-confidence, laziness, the need to pay the bills...all of these things ended up putting the goal of producing something artistic on the back burner.

I intend to finally get around to changing that, at least a little. Presenting my seventeenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to undertake some sort of new art project.

I'll now describe my current dream project. [Note: I very much doubt that this is what I'll end up starting. Something tells me that it's more likely to be something much less involved, less ambitious, more modest. Perhaps a series of oil pastel or charcoal drawings.]

I would call this current dream project "The Domicile Project". I would like to either build or repurpose an old library card catalog. In it, I would catalog everything in our house, filing it all in alphabetical order, cross-referencing everything by country of origin, name, description, color, ingredients, etc. Each card would include the appropriate "home" location for the item described. So, by necessity, I would come up with a system which assigned a code to each shelf, each drawer, each cabinet, each room, etc. And that code would act as my personal Dewey Decimal System.

Each card would include a printed photograph of the item in question, but the description would be written by hand. Each card would have on its back a place for from and to addresses, and a rectangle for a postage stamp. Visitors to the installation (assuming someone would be willing to exhibit the project) would be encouraged to browse through the catalog and would further be encouraged to find a favorite card and take it with them as a souvenir, and also to take one to send as a postcard to a friend or loved one. The original hand written cards that had been removed would periodically be replaced by computer-printed facsimile cards (without the postcard formatting on the back). The facsimile cards would be somehow clearly marked as copies, with a watermark or a cancellation line through the face or perhaps a hole in the middle. Visitors would be discouraged from taking these, and encouraged instead to try to find a suitable original, until all such originals had been distributed.

And in case you're wondering, I am not obsessively well-organized. To some degree, I think just the opposite is true: that I am obsessively disorganized — at least as regards my personal stuff. But something about the potential for this exercise appeals very deeply to me. Perhaps it's a connection with the outmoded furniture. (I have recently come to understand that card catalogs are largely a thing of the past and that there's a whole generation of folks who don't know what they are.) Perhaps it's the alphabetization aspect. (While I am not organizationally minded, I am profoundly entranced by the invention of alphabetical order and its application.) Perhaps it's the idea of freezing a moment in time. (At some point, the cataloging would be complete. I expect that the final day of cataloging would necessarily involve going through the kitchen to document the perishables.)


A general note on the nature of my New Year's Resolutions: In case this was unclear, and in case anyone was wondering, I think it's worth mentioning that I do not necessarily intend to perform all of my 02009 New Year's Resolutions during the calendar year of 02009. Instead, I intend to give myself one year from whatever date I make each resolution. If I end up making my last Resolution on December 31st, it would be unfair to expect it to be completed by midnight that night.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Hair Photos

Happy April Fool's Day!

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which is better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). I am eager to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I switched allegiance.

Here are the April 1, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
I did end up getting a slight trim on Monday, after Beth told me that I had split ends. This may set me back a bit, but not as much as I expected. I think I may still be on pace for a May or June shearing. I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolutions #15 and #16: Write Nicely and Write Nicely

Horrible handwriting sample

My handwriting is terrible. I know this. I have known it for a very long time. IN FACT, I USUALLY WRITE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN AN EFFORT TO INCREASE LEGIBILITY. But as anyone who knows about typography will happily tell you, legibility is actually increased by not using ALL CAPS. This is because with ALL CAPS the words tend not to have a very distinctive shape. Lowercase letters have tall parts and short parts and parts that dip below the baseline, which tends to give words distinctive shapes. I almost never use cursive. So rarely, in fact that it feels completely unnatural.

Here's my fifteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to improve my handwriting.

I am increasingly impressed with decent handwriting. This is particularly true of lovely cursive. My mother's handwriting is terrific. And the lady who writes out the appointment cards at my doctor's office has really beautiful cursive. Beth's handwriting is vastly better than my own, and I am a bit jealous. So I'm going to try to improve my handwriting over the course of the next year. Beth tells me that this won't work. She thinks my handwriting is fixed, beyond my control. We shall see. I don't hold out much hope for success, but I choose to go into this with uncharacteristic optimism.


My sixteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009 is somewhat related, at least inasmuch as it will provide me with an opportunity to work on my handwriting:

I resolve to start writing letters again.

Long ago, I used to write letters. Pretty regularly, in fact. I wrote these great rambling things, sometimes 20 pages or more, to dear friends — to people who then meant the world to me and, frankly, all these years later, still do. Somewhere along the way, I simply stopped doing such. I miss it (and I have gotten a report from one such friend that she misses my letters, which is encouraging). Although the simple truth is that it's been so long that I'm not altogether sure what really went into a lot of those letters, so it's entirely possible that my new letters will be entirely different in both tone and content from what my old letters were. So what?!?

Honestly, given that we're all in such a rush and all so overburdened with "responsibilities" nowadays, isn't it the thought that counts? And what better expression of thought than taking/making the time to commit words to paper, with a specifically targeted audience of one (with no expectation/intention of having anyone else ever read those words, and with no capacity to cut-and-paste the contents to be repurposed into some other document), using a time-consuming and hand-cramping technique?

There's something very intimate and personal about sitting down and writing a letter longhand that is just not matched by typing an e-mail. I miss that. And while I greatly appreciate a good e-mail from an old friend, I do also miss receiving actual letters in the mail. I think sending letters tends to encourage getting letters. So while the blame is wholly mine for discontinuing my own writing of letters, I think it's also fair to say that I am somewhat to blame for the fact that somewhere along the line I also stopped receiving letters.

I'm going to try to break the cycle, at least a little. I'm not setting any real goals for myself. I don't necessarily intend to resume letter-writing correspondence with everyone who I used to write to. I'm not aiming to write, for example, twelve letters in the next twelve months. I'm just aiming to start.

If I manage two real letters in the next year [personal letters (not business), hand-written (not typed), on sheets of paper (not crammed into the confines of a birthday card or holiday card)], I believe that will be more than I have accomplished in the last several years combined. The last real letter I can recall writing was probably in 01998, to an old friend, who (as a result of that letter) figured out before I did that Beth and I should end up as more than just friends.

Note: Do not infer from my mentioning of "two real letters" that I intend to write two and call it a day. I don't. I really want to make letter writing a habit, as it once was. But I do at least have in mind my first two intended recipients. So I'm ready to get going. All I need now is the spark of inspiration, and some time to get rolling.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A New Photograph

One of my New Year's Resolutions this year involves trying to produce five photographs that fill me with unjustifiable pride. Here's my first. I shot this on Thursday.

Trees, Snow, Clouds, Sky, Nature

I rarely title my photographs, but in this case I've made an exception. The title of the photograph: Concerning the Transience of Rainbows.

The rainbows reference has to do with the two arched trees that are central in the image. I don't know why, but up here in New Hampshire there are lots of these thin trees that have bent over into beautiful arcs. I noticed this particular pair a while ago. On Thursday I decided to trek out into the snow and shoot them from the opposite direction. I love how they parallel each other.

I'm truly proud of this shot, so that's 1/5 of the way to fulfilling this particular resolution.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #14: Cut Back on the Soda

It seems to me that a fairly good number of my New Year's Resolutions have been aimed, in some way, towards "self improvement" — whether that's in terms of how I view the world (1, 2, 7), in terms of taking more responsibility for my share of the stewardship of the planet (8, 13), in terms of trying to improve my odds of living a long healthy life (6), in terms of trying to improve my lot in life or feel better about my value in it (3, 4, 12), or just in terms of trying to be more accommodating of others (1, 10).

Perhaps the "self improvement" aspect of things is just part of the nature of the exercise. I don't remember ever hearing of anyone making a New Year's Resolution to contract AIDS or to take up crack or to make lots of people cry.

Anyway, I suppose that my 14th New Year's Resolution of 02009 hits on at least a couple of these ideas (stewardship of the planet and working towards improving my own health):

I resolve that I will significantly cut back on my own consumption of soda and opt for water instead, most of the time.

We have perfectly potable well water here at our house. I have a reusable Nalgene-type bottle that I can use to carry about 35 oz. of said well water with me. (It's a rare day when I really feel the need to drink more than 35 oz. of water while I'm out of the house at work, for example). Every time I buy another 2 liter bottle of Tropicana Twister (lately my soda of choice), that's yet another 2 liter bottle that didn't need to be manufactured and that now needs to go through the recycling process. Why not just stop demanding it?

I've been trying to cut back already, with some success. I'm no longer going through two liters every couple of days. I want to get to the point where I just completely stop bringing soda into the house for my own consumption.

I still like a soda (Tropicana Twister, Coke Classic, Mountain Dew, Sunkist), and there's simply no denying that I enjoy drinking it more than I enjoy drinking water. I'm not aiming to go cold turkey. If I'm offered a soda while I'm out, I'll probably continue to accept it. And when I'm out on the road and find myself in need of a fresh drink, given that a disposable bottle is a disposable bottle (no matter what comes in it), I'm likely still to opt for bottled soda instead of bottled water. When we go to the movies, I suppose I'll still go for a big cup of Coke. But there's just no denying that, historically, most of what I've been drinking over the last many years has been in the form of soda that I brought into the house in 2 liter plastic bottles. While it may be yummy, it's also wasteful. So I'm going to try to curtail it.

From what I hear, water is better for me anyway. (Who'd've thunk it?)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March Hair Photos

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which is better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). I am eager to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I switched allegiance.

Here are the March 2, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
I'm still desperately hoping to be able to get this all chopped off no later than May, although I'm just not certain that it will all have hit that 8 inch minimum by then.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #13: Recycle Less

If you read my post from January 27, you already know that I'm a big fan of recycling. I think it's our responsibility to try to damage our environment not so much. However, while recycling is a good thing to do with what's already in the cycle, we're even better served if we combine "recycle" with "reduce" and "reuse". I'm pretty lousy about these latter two. (Of course, we also need to be better about buying recycled products using as much post-consumer content as possible. I guess that falls roughly under the "reuse" umbrella.) But I'm going to try to be better. So, here's my 13th New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to reduce the amount of junk mail that ends up coming in our door, which eventually ends up going to the recyclers. Specifically, I am going to make an effort to get all of the unwanted catalogs to stop visiting our mailbox.

To that end, next stop: http://www.catalogchoice.org/. I invite you all to play along.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Using Real-World Algebra to Establish a Real-World Delusion

Well, I filled my fuel tank for the second time since replacing the engine. The first fill-up was right after I took delivery, so it really doesn't count. Now that I have driven the new engine around for nearly a week, I finally have my first inkling of how it's doing on fuel economy.

The result? A fantastic 38 mpg!

Well, given how much the repair cost, I've been looking for the bright side, and here's how I found it:

I took the initial mileage with the new engine and compared it to the recent mileage of the old engine, and assumed (falsely, of course) that the difference will be constant. Then I built an algebraic equation to suit my whims, and determined that the new engine will pay for itself. Specifically, if we assume that the average price of gas will be $2 per gallon, it will pay for itself over the course of 194,746 miles. At an average of $3 per gallon, it will pay for itself over the course of 129,831 miles. And if we assume that the average price of a gallon of gas over the next several years will be $4, it will pay for itself in just 97,373 miles.

Hooray for algebra!

In case you're wondering, here's the equation:

price per gallon(x/old mpg)-price per gallon(x/new mpg)=installed price of replacement engine

Solve for x and suddenly I feel like a winner!

So, to all of you who've said "algebra is useless in the real world", I say "HA!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #12: Shoot to Kill

A few years ago, Beth got me a fancy Canon digital SLR and some lenses for it. For some reason, she saw me as having the potential to be a pretty good photographer. Well, I really enjoy using my camera, but I tend to be pretty lazy about actually getting it out and shooting. As a result, I don't really take nearly as many photographs as I probably ought to. The downside of that is that the number of especially good images that I produce tends to be pretty small.

For my twelfth New Year's Resolution of 02009, I'm aiming to work on that. (Modestly.)

I resolve to try to produce at least 5 photographs, in the next year, of which I am unjustifiably proud.

Unjustifiable pride is really my only measuring stick. I never have a clue as to whether my pictures are genuinely good or not. All I know is whether I am proud of them. If so, I consider them a success, even if nobody else sees them as worth the effort.

Five in a year may not seem like a lot, but that would be a pretty darned good year for me, photographically.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #11: Get Religion (Not Really)

I'm currently in the middle of reading The Troll Circle, By Sigurd Hoel. I have multiple Hoel books in my collection, but I haven't yet read them all. Despite not having read The Troll Circle or Meeting at the Milestone or Sinners in Summertime all the way through even once, I did get around to reading The Road to the World's End for a second time recently. It's really a beautiful book. Beautiful in the way I think of poetry in its most idealized state. Maybe the most beautiful book I've ever read. If you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, as the receipt that's tucked in the book can attest, I have been in possession of The Troll Circle for over 12 years. I bought it as a special order (with a fairly steep $35 price) on January 13, 01997. And I'm just now getting around to reading it.

I am also rereading The Catcher in the Rye for the first time since high school.

On top of that, I am very lazily making my way through my hardcover copy of Blindness (purchased before Saramago won the Nobel). (I also have several other Saramago novels, long in my possession, just waiting to be read).

Given all of this information, you might guess that my next New Year's Resolution would be something along the lines of "I resolve to buy no more books until I have caught up on those I already own." No such luck.

Instead, I have told you all of the above about what I'm reading merely to establish (a) that I have fallen far behind on my reading list and (b) that I have no objection to reading old books, even when newer ones are available. If something about a book interests me, I'm happy to put it on my list, although I am fully aware that I will die with a large collection if books that I have simply never found the time to read.

So, now you may wonder what my next New Year's Resolution really will be. Well, I'll tell you. My eleventh New Year's Resolution of 02009 is as follows:

I resolve to take a genuine stab at reading Holy Bible, by assorted dead guys.

From what I've seen of it so far (during multiple halfhearted starts and the occasional leafing through), this will not be easy. The thing seems unwieldy and just plain dull as dirt. Nonetheless, I'm really going to make an effort this time. I've owned a copy for a very long time (much longer than I've owned my copy of The Troll Circle), and I figure I might as well try to discover for myself whether it has any literary merit.

I'm not really expecting to get through the whole thing within the next year. But I am, at the very least, aiming to get through the first few books. Let's say from Genesis through Deuteronomy. If I can get even farther, great! And if my King James version proves to be too unpleasant, I'm even willing to commit to switching to a different translation in hopes that it will be more penetrable.

Note: I will begin this little endeavor after I've completed The Troll Circle, not before.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February Hair Photos

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which is better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). I am eager to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I switched allegiance.

Here are the February 2, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
There should be just a few more of the self portraits before this series reaches its conclusion. I fear that my hair growth may have slowed its pace. Nonetheless, I'm still desperately hoping to be able to get this all chopped off no later than May.

02009 New Year's Resolution #10: Allow You To Steal My Soul

Long, long ago, I used to pay little to no attention to the cameras that were out in the world, stalking unwary souls.

Then one day I came to believe that there was no good reason why my image should be captured for posterity, and I began to shy away from cameras. My strong preference, for quite a lot of years, was to avoid being photographed. When film was in, I was convinced that there were better uses for it than to freeze my ugly mug in time. So, not including surveillance photographs, it's probably true that over the course of the last two decades, more photographs of my hand were taken than were clean shots of my face (as I made a habit of thrusting my hand up in front of my face whenever someone pointed a lens my way for a "candid" shot).

Well, it's a new age. Film is dead and pixels are free. And in my advanced age, I have come to realize that I possess very few photographs of the people who have meant something to me during my life, and suddenly I can appreciate why someone might want to collect images of their loved ones. Jogging the memory of good times, for example.

Do I think there's any particularly strong reason why possessing my image would hold any appeal for someone else? Not really. However, I've had an epiphany: It's really not up to me to determine the value of such things. One man's trash is another man's treasure. So, in response to this epiphany, here's my tenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to stop putting up resistance to having my face photographed.

From now on, if you want to shoot me, all you have to do is to track me down and have a camera ready. I'm no longer going to make efforts to block the sight lines between your camera lens and my face. I don't know whether this will make anyone any happier or not. I kind of doubt it. But if it does, great! I'm a big fan of the idea of increasing the amount of happiness in the world.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #9: A Social Networking Policy

This is dumb, but with such a high target for the number of resolutions I plan to make this year, some of them are bound to be duds.

I joined Facebook several months ago. I find that it's much too much of a time-suck. But I keep going back every day. There's something nice about the idea (even if it is only an idea) that there's a place where I can go to find out if anything important has happened in the lives of old friends and that if anything important happens in my life, I can let my old friends know in case it matters to them (and where they can guiltlessly ignore it in case it doesn't).

In practice, at least in my experience so far, Facebook is just a collection of mild amusements, where you get to daily see the faces and names of people you know or used to know. Thats fine. It's still pleasant, even if it's largely devoid of any real substance.

Anyway, so far I have not asked anyone to be my Facebook friend. All of the "friends" I have gathered are people who have invited me to be their "friends". I'm half tempted to resolve to maintain that pattern. But I won't. There are people out there with whom I would like to "reconnect" and I'm sure that some of them (who have not already sought me out) are on Facebook. So, I'm going with a more "genuine" policy towards gathering Facebook friends. Here's my ninth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve that I will not make efforts to become a shameless "friend accumulator" on Facebook. Anyone I invite to be my Facebook friend will be someone who I remember and for whom I have sincerely fond feelings. I won't indiscriminately invite random people who just happened to be in my high school class, or who just happen to live in my town, or who just happen to work for the same company as me.

Note: I'm not saying that those are invalid approaches to Facebook. I have no objection to people doing those things, if that's the way they want to conduct themselves. In fact, I think that such "openness" is sort of admirable. Why not reach out to people you were too shy to approach in high school? Why not show those who you used to exclude that you've grown past the cliquishness of the old days? Why not reach out to a jock if you were a nerd (or vice versa) and discover that you really aren't all that different after all? Why not just try to expand your social circle?

All admirable.

Hence, I will not refuse an offer of friendship from someone I don't remember or someone I barely remember or someone I never really seemed to have much in common with in the past.

But I am not going to be the one to make that first step. If you receive a friendship request from me, it will be because I remember you and I have genuinely fond feelings for you. That's all. However, if you want to be my Facebook friend, you shouldn't wait for me to invite you. And if you don't get an invitation from me, you should not consider it a slight. Know that I have a terrible memory, and know that I will probably not spend lots of time searching for people to be friends. If you want to be friends, great. Go ahead and ask. (But if I really can't remember you, and if you can't establish that we have some link -- even as tenuous as merely having attended the same elementary school, I probably won't accept that invitation.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 (vaguely) Random Things About Me

I got invited by some Facebook friends to participate in this sharing exercise. To participate, you make a list of 25 random facts about yourself and share the list, inviting 25 friends to do the same. I found it an entertaining and challenging exercise. Just for fun, I figured I might as well also post my list to my blog. Here's what I came up with:

1) I tend to think in long, rambling sentences or even paragraphs, rather than simple declarative statements.

2) I have an astonishingly bad memory. This is especially true when it comes to remembering people's names, but that's certainly not the end of it.

3) I have started in the last few years to remember certain things about my childhood that I had thought were lost. For example, I now remember that at various times I thought I might like to become a stuntman, a lawyer, and a philosopher. These were never dreams, rather just ideas.

4) I am quite certain that I never had any desire to be a fireman, police officer, or soldier.

5) When I was young, I was interested in/fascinated by the following ideas (listed in no particular order): vampires, sasquatch, werewolves, wolfmen, the Loch Ness monster, time travel, immortality, aliens (specifically, those who would visit the Earth in their spaceships), ghosts, the dangers of the Bermuda Triangle, whirlpools that could swallow boats, underground habitable worlds in which there was an ever present danger of being burnt to a crisp by lava, ESP, telekinesis, pyrokinesis.

6) I understand (and probably pretty much always understood) that the vast majority of these ideas are unlikely to the point of absurdity.

7) Nonetheless, I have a sentimental soft spot in my heart for at least a few of these ideas even to this day, and would generally prefer to listen to someone discussing these things at length than have to spend even a few minutes listening to someone prattle on in earnest about God or Jesus or Allah or any other deity that he or she thinks is worthy of worship. In fact, . . .

8) I have very little to no patience/tolerance/appreciation for much of anything that's religiously motivated.

9) However, I love religious tracts. (If you send me one, you're sure to be on my good side.)

10) If I ever told you that I never smile, never laugh, or have no sense of humor, you should know that that was a bit of a joke.

11) My favorite color is pink, and I am secure enough in my masculinity that I'm not embarrassed to say so.

12) I find it difficult to compile this list. The reason is that something in my nature demands that I try to come up with something more interesting (to my way of thinking) than that my eyes are brown or that I have one sister and no brothers. However, . . .

13) My feet are really quite small relative to my height, as has been the case for as long as I can recall.

14) While I am extremely comfortable expressing myself in writing, I am considerably less so in person, and even less so on the phone. I get nervous when speaking before an audience. This nervousness manifests itself in the primary symptom of shaking. I do not tend to put myself into such situations very frequently, although I have for years been considering joining Toastmasters, because I think it would be genuinely good for me.

15) Not only am I nervous in front of an audience, I am also generally uncomfortable in a crowd. I have no fondness for parties because this discomfort tends to make them less than enjoyable for me.

16) The discomfort in a crowd is selective, however, depending (I think) on the size of the crowd and its purpose. I can be fully at ease as an audience member at sporting events, and I used to comfortably participate in enormous rallies (pro-choice, housing now) on The Mall in DC. I think the vastness of these gatherings makes for a kind of anonymity that is very soothing to me.

17) If I live long enough, I will be the last unapologetic carnivore on Earth.

18) It's fair to say that I am a man without ambition. I'm simply not interested in career advancement, I'm not looking to start or lead a movement. At this point, what I wish for more than anything else is to spend my remaining years with my darling wife.

19) This is not to say that I have no unfulfilled dreams. Surely, I have dreams. Right? Right!

20) My greatest fear in life is, as it has been for decades, becoming homeless.

21) Still, sometimes I think it might be nice to just get rid of all material possessions and become nomadic.

22) I used never to sing within earshot of anyone else. This was policy. Beth has changed me, to the point where I actually enjoyed taking the microphone at a (small) party a few months ago for several songs playing Guitar Hero World Tour on the Wii. This was in the presence of some people I have known for a quite a while and some people I barely know at all. That's progress.

23) If I have a hero, that hero is Erno Rubik.

24) I have competed in boomerang tournaments, not because I like competition, but because I like throwing boomerangs.

25) My eyes are brown and I have one sister and no brothers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #8: Not So Lazy With the Saving of the Planet

I find that the recycling has become a bit more of a chore since we moved to Newport, NH. We have no curbside recycling pickup here. [I'm still peeved that the voters here turned down a brilliant proposal at town meeting a couple of years ago for a pay as you throw (PAYT) plan that would have encouraged recycling, in a town that ought to be deeply ashamed of itself for its embarrassingly low recycling rate.]

In Maryland, we used to have curbside recycling pickup, and we lived in a county that achieved and maintained 50% recycling rates a few years ago. (However that's calculated, it's obviously better than the <15% recycling rate that's cited for this town.) Carrying the blue bin out to the curb once a week as I walked to my car before heading off to work was much more convenient than loading up the car for a special trip between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on a Saturday. Without that convenience, I allowed myself to get lazy about getting the recyclables out of the house. So, here's my eighth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to get more on top and to stay more on top of our household recycling. Specifically, I will make the trip to drop our recyclables off at least once a month.

Note: This will not result in an increased amount or an increased percentage of household waste being recycled. I already recycle what I can, and I'm confident that it's a much higher percentage than is achieved by my fellow citizens. What it does mean is that our recyclables will be less prone to gathering into great collections awaiting transport. Our kitchen will be littered by fewer empty bottles and cans, and the junk mail bin next to our front door will not continue to overflow onto the floor nearby.

This will surely result in a happier Beth, which is a universal good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #7: Learning From Past Mistakes

My seventh New Year's Resolution of 02009 is pretty basic:

I resolve that no matter how sensible they may seem at the time, I will keep in mind that certain "experiments" ought never to be repeated. [Cinnamon and steak are two great tastes that do not go great together! Lemon Pledge is not, even in a pinch, suitable for cleaning spills on the Pergo floor!]

There are people in this world who would innately know ahead of time that these experiments are unwise. Not being blessed with such foresight, the best I can do is to avoid trying them again.

I'm still trying to figure out why it is that kitchens don't ever seem to explode when people are experimenting with new recipes. (Mix stuff together, apply heat, shouldn't there be the occasional explosive reaction?) Perhaps it's best for me to stick to recipes that other people have already tried. As for that Pledge thing, trust me. Unless you want your own little indoor ice rink, don't try it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #6: A Cliche, You Say?

I've never really been one to judge myself on my physique. I think perhaps that's at least partly because for most of my life, I was fairly trim (if not downright skinny) without investing any effort in it at all. I ate food and I stayed thin.

Well, in recent years, I've become somewhat more pudgy than I used to be. It's not really all that bad, but what bugged me was when I looked at a BMI chart in the doctor's office and realised that I qualify as "overweight". BMI is really a meaningless number because it doesn't take into account whether a person is muscular or just fat. It's basically just a ratio between height and weight, without regard to the different densities of various tissue types, and without regard to whether someone is broad shouldered or not, etc. Nonetheless, "overweight" isn't fun to think about, because it carries with it some increased risk of bad health. My cholesterol is all out of whack (way too little good, a wee bit too much bad), so improving at least one small aspect of my health might be a good goal for the year. I figured "why not go for the banal?" for my sixth New Year's Resolution of 02009. So, here it is:

I resolve to get my weight down at least as low as 175 lbs. and to try to keep it that low.

I started the year at around 186.5 and got sick a couple of weeks ago. The sickness knocked me down from 186.5 to 181 in about 3 days. So I'm off to a pretty good start. (Granted: that's really not the ideal approach to losing weight!) As of this morning, I was at 180.

Anyway, if I get down to 175, and if (as I have long believed and asserted) I am 5' 11" tall, then a weight of 175 will put me right on the edge between normal and overweight, according to that chart. That'll be a bit better than where I have been. And maybe I'll be able to fit comfortably into my 34 x 32 jeans, instead of having to use the 36" waists.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #5: More Resolutions Than Reasonable

In 02007, I made exactly one New Year's Resolution: To be more willing to try new foods. That was the first year in recent memory during which I made a resolution. I kept that resolution. Sadly, in that year during which Beth and I took to calling me "Super Mr. Adventure Eater", there was only one new food that I tried that really knocked my socks off. It was some Indian food. Chicken Korma, perhaps? (I don't think it was Lamb Biryani, although given my longstanding love for the flavor of lamb, that would have been a more predictable choice.) I have continued my willingness to try different foods since then. This week, for example, I have started eating yogurt. It's not great, but I think I can get used to it.

Anyway, the thing about that resolution is that I didn't get around to making my New Year's Resolution until June. I'm not sure that it happened exactly on the summer solstice, but I am quite certain that it wasn't more that a week removed from it. So, that establishes that I have absolutely no objection to the idea of making New Year's Resolutions at what may seem like inappropriate times.

So, here's my fifth New Year's Resolution for 02009:

I resolve to try to make at least one New Year's Resolution for every week this year.

That means that if I'm successful, I will end the year having made at least 52 New Year's Resolutions! Can you imagine? I'm off to a great pace so far, and up till now all have been fairly serious resolutions that have some meaning for me. [This one ranking lowest by those measures.] I expect that some will be interesting and some will be profound in some way. I also expect that lots of them will be very silly. It's an experiment, and we'll see how it goes.

Keep reading this blog to monitor my progress. And wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #4: A Positive Step Forward

The fourth in my series of 02009 New Year's Resolutions is one that will be very easy to measure my success at. It's a binary proposition. Either I will fulfill it or I won't. There's no grey area here. So, here's my fourth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I will finish typing and formatting my non-fiction book proposal and I will try to get at least one suitable publisher to entertain it. [The first publisher on my list is Oxford University Press.]

My idea is a stroke of genius. I'm confident in that.

However, there's some possibility that I arrived at it a few years too late. Not, as has happened with some of my best ideas, because somebody else beat me to the punch. Rather, because it is actually starting to look like there's some real chance that the age of the printed book is coming to a close. (Emphasis on "chance".) If "dead tree technology" is on its way out, then my book proposal has a very limited window of time to be of any value whatsoever. My odds of selling the idea to an appropriate publisher is, in my view, highly dependent on that publisher's confidence in the longevity of the book as we know it (printed paper pages bound together). If the publisher is willing to concede defeat to electronic media, then the fight is lost before it begins.

Ah, but there's my famous pessimism creeping in. New Year's Resolutions are about looking forward, full of hope for the future. So, I'm not going to let my pessimism deter me from fulfilling this resolution.