Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Embrace the Difficult

Though late, my resolution this year is to embrace the difficult.

My daughter, Katy, is an exceptional piano player.  She enjoys it and it comes easily to her.  She loves music and after bugging me for months, I rewarded her for doing well at her piano recital by signing her up for violin lessons.  Little did she know what she was getting herself into.

The violin is a harder instrument to make sound nice than the piano.  On the piano, you can have bad form and still hit the note well enough that it sounds fine.  That is not the case with the violin.  While her instructor keeps telling her that she has talent and the potential to be exceptional at it, she shies away from practicing because of the difficulty.  I have been encouraging her the best I can, emphasizing that what is truly impressive is not doing something that is easy or effortless, but what is hard or takes effort.

After repeating this to her enough, it occurred to me that she was not the only one avoiding hard things.  I see a lot of myself in my daughter; many things come easily to me, but it has made the cases when they do not come easily much tougher to overcome.  So, to be a good example, and to also make the most of my abilities, I decided that I need to embrace difficult things as well.

So, I wrote down all the things that I've been avoiding or not doing.  Little things, big things, life changing things.  After I had a list of these goals, I began right then trying to address them.  What I learned is that many of them are not difficult, only that I tend to be too lazy or have preconceived fears or notions about them.

For example, there were a number of people that I had been meaning to get in contact with, as well as finally ordering some new things for my computer, and taking my car to get the oil changed and tires rotated.  I would get to all of these eventually, but I tried to make a habit out of looking for the quick things that could be done that I was avoiding.  In some cases, I "multi-tasked:" while waiting for someone to give me a ride to lunch while waiting for my tires to be rotated, I called and made an appointment to give blood to the Red Cross, something I had been putting off for too long.  While getting my oil changed, I bought a larger bike for my daughter and did some quick grocery shopping.

Actively looking to do these things has already been making life better.  Finally taking care of "todos" that have been sitting around for too long is very rewarding and makes me hungry for addressing more.  The real payback is going to come from some of the larger goals that I have that I am now actively working to make happen.  Look for an update on my developer blog soon to read about my journey into Android development.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Uncluttering the Soul. Er... House.

Today, I began my adventure with the editor of Unclutterer.com, Erin Doland's book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week.  It is a pleasant read and has some good tips, so I decided to start right at the beginning.  It walks you through a week of uncluttering both work and home, a day at a time.  Since I was ready and anxious to go, I began Monday morning's activity, purging excess clothes from your closet, early.  I am glad I did.

While I think the tips, guidelines and lists are very helpful, I am flabbergasted at the proposed schedule for attempting to unclutter in one week.  It seems like the intent for the closet reorganization was that it would somehow be accomplished in the time you have before work in the morning!  It took me about four hours to gather all my clothes, sort through them and return the remaining items to their rightful spots; there is no way I could have done this Monday before work, lest I had woken up at 4am. 

The good news is that I am happy with the clothes that I have decided to keep.  The styles and quantity are both appropriate, and I am confident that there is nothing left that I would skip over.  The closet looks great and it will be easy to pick clothing to wear each day.

Though the schedule is unrealistic, I think I am going to struggle my way through, keeping up the best that I can, with the idea that I will be done whenever I am done, though I suspect it will be something longer than a week.

Hey, where did all that programming stuff go?

I've been working on a project where I spend 15 minutes to an hour working on video game development each day.  I had been keeping a record of my progress here, but it occurred to me that anyone who might have had any interest in what I had been posting here would be unlikely to care about the intimate details of my software development.

So, I created a new blog that I am using exclusively as my developer journal: developer.stampor.com  Anyone who was interested can still view the updates there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Picnic in the Street

Yesterday, my family had a picnic with the neighbors that live on our cul-de-sac.  Around 2:30, we started setting up a couple of tables to hold the food and a series of chairs just to sit on, as well as dragging a couple of the grills out.  The novel part was that the picnic took place in the middle of the street, in the center of our cul-de-sac.  It was a lot of fun, and we got to meet many of the new neighbors whom we have not had the opportunity to interact with. 

The style was pot-luck, which is always interesting to me.  I always think that we will be short on food, but there is always much, much more than could possibly be eaten  by anyone.  Lots of good food: chicken,  burgers, sausages, chili, potato-fruit salad, seven layer dip, chips and salsa.  I was stuffed, and happy.

Bacci ball was played a couple of times.  I was matched up with one of the new neighbors and we eneded up being a pretty good team, playing two other teams and winning both times, albeit by a small margin.  Regardless, it was a fun time.

The kids rode their bikes around and blew bubbles and played in tents.  It seemed like they were having a fun time, too.

The day was beautiful.  The only downside was that it was very windy outside.  We couldn't leave empty bowls or bowls with just light things like chips in them sitting around.  But, once we learned the steps necessary to prevent a big mess, it wasn't a big deal.

We were outside until about 7, so it was about 4 and 1/2 hours long.  It was a good time and I look forward to doing something like that again next year, or maybe we won't have to wait that long.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Commitments Reviewed

Back in November, I participated in the National Write a Novel Month.  The goal is to write 50,000 in the thirty days allotted, with the hope that the knowledge that thousands of others across the world were also participating would urge the writer on to completion.  I have tried in previous years to accomplish this, but have always fallen short.  Either I didn't put enough effort into thinking about it and didn't ever start, or I started but would hit a roadblock and would give up early into the contest.  2008, however, was different: this time I muddled my way through, fought through the roadblocks and finished triumphantly.  Finishing the 50k words is only the beginning, however.

It is now April, about four and a half months later and I haven't really taken another look at my "novel."  It is 50k words, sure, but it is far from being anything worth sharing.  In March, there was a NaNoEdMo, with the same idea of a group of people doing this together would accomplish what they could never get around to doing on their own.  I tried, but my heart still wasn't into it.

I remember too much of what I don't like about my novel.  I know that there are scenes that need to be cut, areas that need to be rewritten and entire concepts redeveloped.  It will be a lot of work, maybe as much or more than actually writing it in the first place.  I've said all along that it is easier to fix something than create something new, but I think that only applies if I can get myself started.

Fortunately one of the friends I made during the NaNoWriMo event via one of the forums I frequent had also finished his novel.  Ted has succeeded several times doing the NaNoWriMo and had a more finished product than I did when he was done.  I volunteered to edit/proofread for him and it was a great experience for me.  I was thrilled to see how another person handled certain situations that I found I was having trouble writing.  It was also an interesting story and I am very pleased that I was able to critique it. 

In doing this for my friend, it turned on my editing-mind.  Though I still expect it to be a lot of work, I am "in the zone" when it comes to proofreading.  My plan is to detail my efforts here, recording my planned processes and also the eventual reality of attempting those processes.

My first step is going to be to read through my novel, just as I had for Ted.  Even though I know there are huge areas that I don't like, I am going to treat the whole thing as being completed and take notes.  When I am complete, I will go through and make the edits I suggested.

The other task I will be attempting to undertake is to create a timeline of events.  I created my novel in a haphazzard way: I jumped around, writing pieces and scenes that were interesting to me and filling in the details and connections later.  In doing so, I lost track of certain details and am pretty sure that there are things that don't make sense.  Though, I would definitely like to try writing this way again; it was very interesting to discover things about the characters and the world my characters lived in, as things were revealed in a way similar to actually reading a novel.

My goal is to accomplish my read-through and timeline by the end of April.  We'll see what the next step is when I am done with those.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Which I Ramble About Personal Projects and Such

This is a fairly stream-of-consciousness post where I ponder how to fit all the things I want to do into my day.  Enjoy it for what it is.

I spend most of my evenings doing "free-time" activities, mostly consisting of browsing the Internet, playing computer games and watching TV.  On occasion, I have been known to read a book.  Of course, there are times when something needs to be addressed and I take care of it.  But, for the most part, it leads to an evening that, while enjoyable, is devoid of any other benefit than entertainment.

I have things I plan and dream about, but don't take the time to implement.  Special events are good for addressing those times, like when I was able to leverage NaNoWriMo during November last year and wrote 50k words in a month.  But, that rough draft of a novel is in desperate need of editing, and I just cannot seem to find the time to even look at it again.  I have ideas for video games I'd like to write, but am not writing them.

Important things are being neglected: I don't exercise at all.  Really, I should be doing some sort of minimal exercising daily, but just cannot find the time.

I think I need to schedule things a little better.  If I can create a routine that I follow, it might make it easier.  Fortunately, since I have a daughter and have a routine for her, it might be easier to leverage her routine and plug my elements in as needed.

The first thing to address is my neglect of exercise.  While I have time to do this in the evening, it isn't normally considered a good idea to workout so close to bedtime.  So, that leaves me with the options of working out at lunch, or getting up earlier and working out before work.  Lunchtime is pretty limited with regard to how much time I can spend, and I would definitely need a shower if I did a full-fledged workout at lunchtime.  So, that leaves the morning. 

For me, the holy grail of getting more things done seems to be getting up an hour early, in that it is the solution to all my problems, while also being completely unattainable.  We have a fairly decent routine of the whole household waking up at 7am because of a shared alarm.  However, we are all still dragging our feet when it comes to getting up at that time.  If I was, somehow, able to follow through with my mythical "get up early and do x, y or z" plan, I would have every goal I ever set for myself accomplished before I even really began the day.  Whether or not it is attainable, this is really the ideal time for exercise for me.  I think I will have to just keep trying to get up early until it finally "sticks."

The other things I want to take care of are easy to place time wise, at least in theory.  Really, after Katy goes to bed, I should spend x amount of time on editing my book and y amount of time working on my video game development.  Problem with that is, Katy is in bed at 8:15: if I assume a minimum of an hour for each task, it is suddenly 10:15, not leaving much time for other things.  I tend to either give something all or nothing, and I switch between the modes.  When I was writing my novel in November, I really didn't spend time doing anything else.  Now, I am spending no time the novel at all.  Finding a happy medium and maintaining it I think would be a preferable strategy.

I come home for lunch nearly every day.  If I spent my lunch hour editing my novel, that would give about 30-45 minutes a day.  That would free up time after work for also making progress on my video game development.

Something that I have been doing at work is closely tracking my time.  Not only which projects I am spending time on, but also which tasks on those projects.  The very act of recording the time makes me aware of how I am spending it and makes it easier for me to look for other, smaller tasks to fill in gaps.  I am considering trying to log my non-work hours in a similar way, just to see how I am spending my free time.  It might become obvious how I can fit other things more easily into my day, or what I can cut out or reduce.



Friday, January 30, 2009

First Hide and Seek

Last night, Katy wanted to play "Hide and Seek" with me.  This isn't the first time we've ever hidden from each other, but it was the first time that she requested it by name, and the first time that we had a formal counting period for one person.

The hiding was the hard part for her.  She tended to run upstairs into her bedroom and bury her face in her little arm-chair.  When I was done counting, she would giggle audibly and call to me, "Daddy, I'm in my bedroom."  I think she still misses some of the point.  I would laugh and suggest that maybe she should try to be quiet so I can't find her so fast, but she said she didn't want it to be too hard.

When it was my turn to hide, I would look for obvious places: behind a table or desk, inside her playhouse, in the corner of the bathroom with the door open.  Then, I'd watch her walk the circle of the house, calling to me, "Daddy, where are you?  I can't find you."  When she wasn't right next to me, I'd call out hints like, "I'm downstairs," and "You keep walking by me, look harder!"  It would sometimes take her quite a while, but I think she really liked it; when she had found me, she often wanted to take another turn as the seeker.

When Mom came home, the two of them hid while I looked.  I pretended to have a hard time finding them, and Katy actually did a decent job of keeping the giggling to a minimum.  I eventually gave up and decided to take a nap; boy was I surprised to find that they were in bed, under the covers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Love of a Daughter

Yesterday, I went to Katy's class' "winter holiday" party at her Young Five's class.  She was so excited to see me, that once she noticed me, she had a hard time listening to the rest of the story being told by one of the older brothers of one of the kids.  She was waving, and calling out to me: "Daddy!  That's my daddy!"  I smiled, waved and put a finger to my lips.  When they were lining up to go to the different table stations (holiday bingo, reindeer ornament making and a "go to the colored square" game) she was having such trouble not calling out that she resorted to putting her hands over her mouth to help contain her excitement.

She wanted me to be by her the whole time.  I helped her make the reindeer (and then helped a bunch of other kids... sometimes these creative projects are maybe a little overzealous) and then served her a special soy icecream while the other kids had their icecream.  She wanted me to stay with her while she ate and didn't want me to leave, even when it was time for her to get on the bus.

I love that she loves me so.  Will she always be so excited to have me around?  I'd like to think so, and it is hard to imagine otherwise.  But, I know how kids are.  At some point, she'll be a little less excited to have me there.  And, probably will start to be embarrassed, at least a little.  But, I am pretty sure that we will always be pals, and that she will always love me, even if she isn't always excited to show it in front of her friends.