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.

Friday, January 9, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #3: A Conditional Resolution

My third New Year's Resolution of the year 02009 is conditional:

If I get a new full time job in 02009, my new employer's main phone number will not end in "0330".

Two in a row is strangely coincidental. [And it took me about 10 months at the current job to even realise it.] Three in a row would be downright creepy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #2: A Charity of Thought

My second New Year's Resolution of the year 02009 is similar to my first, inasmuch as there is really no measurable action to be taken as a direct result. It is again a resolution to try to improve my attitude towards the world. Unlike the first, this one would probably not be the sort of resolution that could reasonably be undertaken with any sincerity by most people. I think instead that it is applicable only to those of us who recognise our own snobbishness. If there is any real benefit to come from this resolution, it will be merely that I end up a little less of a sourpuss. So, here's my second New Year's Resolution for 02009:

No matter how insipid I may think someone's music is [here I am thinking of acts ranging from Creed, Live, and Smashing Pumpkins (and The Smashing Pumpkins (why the nonsensical addition of "The", I will likely never comprehend)) to Steely Dan, Britney Spears and Celine Dion], I resolve that I will try to keep in mind that everyone who has ever been signed to a recording contract [even William Hung and Wesley Willis (don't get me wrong: I love what I've heard from Wesley Willis)] has a kind of talent that I simply do not possess and has developed a skill that I would likely never be able to achieve.

My own lack of rhythm is profound. I may not appreciate all music, but I should certainly be more respectful of those who produce music that is capable of appealing to an audience, no matter what audience it may be.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #1: A Change of Mindset

For the first in my series of 02009 New Year's Resolutions, I'm going with something not very tangible. It's about trying to be a better person in a vague sort of way. I think it's the sort of thing that most anyone could resolve to try, and might make just about anyone feel a little bit better as a result. So, here's my first New Year's Resolution for 02009:

Whenever somebody makes a request of me, particularly if it is something that will cost me nothing but perhaps a little bit of time and effort, I resolve to try to ask myself the following question: "How would I respond to this request if it were being asked by a woman who told me that her son had been killed before his time and that this was his dying wish?"

This is a thought exercise, and to my mind there's a series of questions that then follow quite directly from the initial one: "Does this change my attitude towards the request?" "Does this perspective conflict with my natural tendency?" "If so, how?" "Which response is the better response?"

Note: I am not resolving to respond positively to every request that comes my way. Ultimately, my resolution is to merely think about whether I am treating every request with the respect that it deserves. If this means occasionally inconveniencing myself a little bit more than I otherwise would be willing to do, and the result is that someone has a little bit better of a time of things, then great! The world is a better place. And if it turns out that I don't end up changing my behavior or attitude one bit as a result of this exercise, then at least I will have thought about my place in the world a bit more (perhaps with a bit more empathy or sympathy). And I can live with that.

Friday, January 2, 2009

January Hair Photos

Welcome to 02009!

Well, I made it through all of 02008 without [much] breaking my New Year's Resolution. Sadly, a full year was not enough time to hit the target!

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, which has an 8 inch requirement, rather than a 10 inch requirement. I've made no secret of my eagerness to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I have switched allegiance. I have no qualms about this, for at least two reasons:
  • In my view, women with cancer are at least as deserving as are children with alopecia.
  • I have heard that Locks of Love charges the kids for the wigs. Pantene, on the other hand, gives the wigs away.
Here are the January 2, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths

Now it's time to come up with my New Year's Resolutions for 02009. (Yes, there will be more than one. Keep watching this space for details.)

And Happy New Year!