Showing posts from 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 alon

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 alwa

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 wha

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 p

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

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

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

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

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

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 lb

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

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.

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 yea

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 m

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 indistingu

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.

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 potent

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

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

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: 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: 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 de

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 J

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. Se

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. B

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

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, i

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 s

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: 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.

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

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 bi

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. 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.

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 significantl

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: 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.

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: . I invi

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

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

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 hard

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: 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 appreci

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

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 soldie

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,

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.

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

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 f

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