Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

As I start this post there are 40 minutes left in 2008. I looked back earlier this evening at what I hoped I would get out of this year and what I really did. It is keeping me from saying too much about what I want from 2009, that's for sure.

I'll forever remember 2008 as the year I became a father. This was life-changing in ways I have only just begun to explore. I cannot put into words the number of things I have gained, nor the things which I have lost (or at least temporarily misplaced). Change is like that.

The biggest result of this of course is that there is a new person alive today who would never have existed if not for me. This is an incredible responsibility, and I feel humbled by it daily.

2008 wasn't just about becoming a dad, but everything else pales in comparison.

As I said, I'm hesitant to make predictions about 2009. But ...

I think 2009 will be about finding out who we are going to be for the next decade of our lives. We survived the pregnancy, we brought a new life into the world, and we made it through the first six months. Now what? Who are we now, in addition to being parents? How do we reframe ourselves as individuals and as a couple in this new context? Where do my hobbies fall in, which ones are forever gone and which ones can and should I rediscover? How do I reclaim my fitness so I can be there to walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day? Where am I going in my professional life? Where are we headed financially? How do we adapt our friendships, our family relationships?

How do we grow, while helping our daughter grow too? How does everything get rebalanced now that there's a new priority #1?

If there's anything that Eager Feet was meant to be about, it's questions like that. There's still room for this blog in my life. I just have to find time to fit it in.

No promises, no resolutions, just questions and ideas.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Keeping eager feet moving

The last time I talked about a new hobby, it was kayaking. I had gone with some family and really enjoyed it. Fast forward a couple years, and while I've been kayaking a few more times I'd hesitate to call it a new hobby of mine.

Well, these eager feet have found a new way to get moving -- geocaching. I've always thought of geocaching as a pretty niche hobby, for the subset of people who are both hardcore geeks and hardcore hikers. But it's gotten insanely popular over the past few years, and it's easy to be a casual geocacher these days. The price for introductory hiking GPS receivers is pretty reasonable, too.

So, again, after hearing a ton about it from family, my wife and I decided to give it a try. This time, we ended up buying the equipment ourselves and getting more into it.

I'll tell you pieces of three geocaching stories to introduce the various faces of the hobby.
  1. At a state park, with the baby in a stroller and the sun beating down on us, my wife and I searched for a metallic container the size of the eraser at the tip of the pencil. We were pretty sure it was magnetically attached to a guardrail, and after a lengthy sweaty search I finally found it.
  2. We drove through a town, on a two-step journey. The first brought us to a small monument we had never seen before, where we found a piece of wood with coordinates carved into it. We went to those coordinates, and found ourselves at a small park we had never visited, though we had seen it from afar. We explored the park, found a trail, zeroed in on the coordinates, and found a container hidden at the base of a tree.
  3. My brother-in-law asked for my help in solving a puzzle cache, the only clue to which was the name of the cache, a passage from a fantasy novel, and an image of an item from those books. After days of struggling down dead-ends, I ended up figuring out that the clue was hidden inside the image via a simple Steganography technique. I did all this without leaving my desk. He will go to those coordinates and hopefully find the cache (and hopefully give me credit for solving the puzzle!).
I love exploring, I love trails, and I love the geeky roots of the geocaching hobby. Want to do nothing but hit tiny caches people have left in parking lots and roadsides? You can do it. Prefer to do 20-mile deep hikes to find caches only a handful of people have discovered? That option is there too. Want to find something in the middle?

I think this one might be one for the long haul.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What I believe

Some well-meaning extended family member recently sent around a link to an article written by a well-known conservative, listing "what he believed." I found it very hard to read, because I disagreed so strongly with what he said, and it bothered me to think that my own family didn't know what I believed. I became scared that I would never be able to tell them about my beliefs without seeming to be spitting on their values (the same way I felt that the article spit on mine).

I decided to try. What I found is that it's very hard for me to come up with a clean bullet list like he did. And maybe that's for the best.

See, I believe very few things.

Belief is a scary word to me, because it denotes an attachment to something which isn't known for sure. I try to avoid that kind of attachment, as it can create an unnecessary resistance to change and growth.

If I tell you I believe something, I will usually be able to tell you why. There are some exceptions - statements of value which are very difficult to explain. But I can try. If you ask if I believe something, the answer will often be "I don't know," because up until I was asked it wasn't necessary for me to form a belief.

Most things I believe, I believe because I have seen sufficient evidence of their truth. For example, we know that usually introducing diversity into a system makes it hardier. This applies in a trivial way to food sources (a disease which targets a single strain of plant cannot wipe out your civilization's food supply if you eat a variety of foods) and financial investments (a single market's failure cannot ruin your portfolio), among other systems. You can extend this out into many areas. A team can solve a variety of problems if people on that team bring a variety of perspectives to that problem. So, an ideal workforce (of people who are trying to solve diverse problems) is made up of diverse backgrounds. So, I "believe in diversity." Any situation where you want me to believe diversity weakens a system, you must try very hard to convince me.

As such, I "believe" that societies should not restrict human diversity. The USA has benefited in the past from its diverse population, and will benefit more from a more diverse population. If you want to justify a limitation in diversity, you must be able to demonstrate the extraordinary benefit to justify the opportunity cost of eliminating that diversity. For example, it is easy to make a case for limiting the number of languages you print road signs in, once the percentage of people who speak a language drops below a certain number (based on unreasonable cost to create extra signage and a lack of readability). I do not believe the same argument can be made against gay marriage, bilingual education, or ballots printed in a language spoken by a sufficiently sizable minority of a local population.

We also have sufficient evidence for me to "believe" our current understandings of gravity, magnetism, relativity, and evolution. I like to think I have no emotional investment in these beliefs (you could say I believe I have no emotional investment in them!), but until that is tested, it's unclear if it's true.

Some statements I find attractive, perhaps due to their simplicity or some similarity to my own view of the world. I do my best not to hold any attachment to these, but it certainly is tempting to believe them. Mathematically, for example, it's tempting to believe that there are an infinite number of pairs of twin prime numbers. On a similar line, some statements I would like to be true, but that doesn't mean I believe they are true. I hope that societal progress on a grand scale is positive, and that society in five thousand years will be fundamentally "better" than society now, just as our society now is fundamentally "better" (for the average person) than it was five thousand years ago. I tend to say "I like to think," as opposed to "I believe," for things like this. I certainly wouldn't feel like my world had been crushed if we found there were a finite number of twin primes, but it does make me sad to see local regression in standards of living for society (such as the situation in much of Africa today).

I do believe a small number of statements because they align closely with my deeply held values. I believe that it is wrong to hurt someone just because you can, for example. I believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I believe that clarity in chosen words is important in avoiding misunderstandings. I hesitate to even call these beliefs, because I can't picture something which could change my mind on them. I have trouble understanding people who have that same level of clarity about beliefs like "eating meat is immoral" or "homosexuality causes societal collapse," and yet I know they exist.

When I read an article written by a man who has dozens of "beliefs" that he wants to share with me, I find it distasteful, even offensive. And when I realize that politicians are making policy and trying to change the world based on those same beliefs, I find it frightening.

So you'll have to excuse me as I delete your email. Maybe some day I will show you this post and you'll understand why.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Compressing My Interests

Part of being a huge geek is knowing all sorts of up-to-date information on tons of subjects.

Part of being a new Dad is having very little time to get said information.

It provides an interesting conflict, the result of which is that I have to pick and choose what I want to stay up to date with, and what information I'm fine with falling by the wayside. For example, I'm staying current with Rock Band 2 news, but I have no idea what's going on with the Star Wars franchise. Today I made a conscious choice to stop reading forum posts on the PS3, getting condensed news via a couple PS3 blogs instead.

The second part of this story is that I have a new set of interests, relating to parenting. So not only do I have less time to deep-dive into my interests, but I should have more interests competing for my attention as well.

I have a newfound respect for parents of all varieties - athletes, geeks, musicians ... combinations of all the above. Whatever. Kudos to you for being able to balance it all. Looking forward to making it work for me, too.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Please like what I like

Yesterday evening, I downloaded some of the new songs available for Rock Band (two master tracks by my favorite band, Rush). I was eager to try them out, and our daughter was quiet and content after a bath. So my wife and baby sat together and I plugged in my fake plastic guitar.

I wasn't a third of the way through Closer to the Heart before Evelyn was crying and fussing.

I hope this isn't a pattern :).

I want at least a few years of my child enjoying what I enjoy before she turns into a terrible teenager who hates everything I like just to spite me.

Maybe I should give her longer than three weeks, eh?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I'm a Dad ... and my Dad's a grandfather

My daughter Evelyn was born on June 23. She's nearly two weeks old. The hours race by (except when they crawl) and the days all blend together.

Today, my father and my daughter met for the first time. My father was not a big part of my life when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was young. The situation was complicated, and neither he nor I made a big attempt to stay in touch as I grew up.

New lives come into the world, and old lives are thrown into disarray. My Dad and I have a lot of catching up to do.

I hope he makes an excellent grandfather.

And I hope I make an excellent father.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Stop eating so much (oh, wait)

Short post from work today. As I sit in a meeting with some out-of-shape engineers, we have someone visiting from another site who I know is a triathlete. During the course of our two hour meeting she has eaten twice. The rest of us are getting hungrier and hungrier. We'll go gorge at our late lunch because our meeting will run over.

Someone has a better plan than the rest of us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Withering on the vine?

This blog needs an injection of life.

When I started this, I wasn't sure what I was going to write about. Over time, I've had a few periods where the blog has been very focused, and a few where it's been more meandering. More than anything else, it's served as a semi-anonymous diary (while failing to be truly anonymous). As such, it follows the ebbs and flows of my own life and my need to write.

What I need to decide is whether I want to keep this blog for that purpose (knowing that when I blog about something interesting work-related, it goes in a different blog, and when it's family-related and safe for public consumption it goes in yet a third blog), or whether I should focus more aggressively on a more coherent theme. The problem is that my life is pretty consumed by family and work right now, and I'm blogging about those things elsewhere.

Now, if I would just get off my ass and start running regularly again, I'd have a steady theme. But there are other ideas I can focus on here, and might.
  • Running and fitness (obviously)
  • Tracking down and linking good travel writing (eager feet always travel, and I'll be doing less with a baby in the house soon)
  • Following Hobbit movie news (Tolkien inspired the blog name)
  • Writing exercises (A writer friend loaned me some books on writing and I never got past the first few exercises ... perhaps now that I'm writing so many blogs, I should try and improve my skills)
What I'm saying is that I'm not sure what you'll find showing up in your RSS reader if you're subscribed to this blog. But I don't plan to cut the blog off any time soon. So if I go too far off the deep end and you hate the direction I'm going, I apologize.

Friday, April 18, 2008

In which I profess my undying love for Rock Band

I got into rhythm games pretty late. Like "this year" late. But I think I may have waited just long enough to discover the golden age.

I was never a musician. I hung around with a lot of them, though -- I sat in dungy basements as my buddies wrote and practiced metal mayhem, I went to shitty high school band battles and cheered on the losing bands, and I waited outside all-ages nightclubs to get a chance to skirt around the edges of the mosh pit while people screamed into microphones and played heavily distorted guitars. My ears rang, and I kept coming back for more.

It influenced my choice in music for years to come. I fell in love with Rush, often described as musicians' musicians. I bought every Black Sabbath tape my local store carried, knowing they invented what other bands were stumbling over themselves to imitate. I bought blank tapes by the dozen to copy my friends' albums, and picked up new music as often as I could afford it.

I don't honestly know why I never tried to make music, but that ship sailed long ago. But that's okay. Harmonix wants to let me be in a Rock Band anyway. Whether alone or with my friends, in person or over the internet, I can pretend my frenzied mashing of buttons somehow produces the guitar track for Limelight, Tom Sawyer, or Sweet Leaf. Never mind that I can do the same thing with drums and singing when the mood strikes. And you don't just play the music, you customize your musicians, who you watch play the music in time with your actions.

Not only that, Rock Band isn't a game, it's a platform. Millions of dollars are being made selling playable versions of songs from a wide range of decades and genres of rock. Entire albums and possibly entire discographies are going to be made available. Motley Crue has released a single on it!

I may be almost 35, about to become a dad, drive a compact sedan and work in an office ... but whenever I want, I can strap that plastic guitar on and make magic.

I just hope we don't lose a whole generation of real musicians....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring is ... springing!

We had two great days last week, sunny days where the temperature spiked into the 60s and threatened 70. Days where you drive with the windows open, days where the sun sets and you don't instantly shiver, days where the birds sing and the frogs croak and the earth is soft under your feet.

Spring, ladies and gentlemen, may finally be here.

And as I drove past the pond the other day, watching the bright sunlight play off the water, I missed running.

All winter long, my fitness has dropped -- I've eaten worse, my exercise has slowed (as in, working out every 2 weeks), and I've often been down about the results. But having a pregnant wife makes for a great excuse, and so does having lots of work in the house. After all, nailing up bead board for a few hours is exercise, isn't it?

While I've missed feeling healthy, I haven't missed it enough for it to drive me into making lifestyle changes. But I miss running. I don't necessarily miss eating salads for lunch and saying no when someone brings in cookies to work, but I miss knowing that I can run out my front door, past that pond, on a three-mile journey that connects me with nature and reality in a way that nothing else I do can.

I don't need to be a marathoner, but I think I need to be a runner.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Digital Nesting Instinct

While the home gets more and more child-ready (this weekend we painted a ton of bead board, last night we were up late nailing it to the basement walls), my mind is turning to a different kind of nesting. The digital kind.

This blog and my picasa space are great for talking about my generic life and hosting/posting pictures of various things as they come up. But the future isn't that simple. I'm going to be collecting photos at a much higher rate, and taking video as well. I want to put all that in a place where my family and friends can access it safely.

Even better, I want to do it in place where the content is safe for my mother-in-law, online friends, co-workers, bosses, etc. In other words, it's not the same as a semi-anonymous blog. In an earlier post I talked about my "two" identities -- the one that's attached to everyone I work with, and this one. Now I'm looking at a third identity -- the Real Me (is it odd that I find it so easy to think about my life in these weird slices? Do other people?). A domain name based on my actual real name. A blog with pictures of my family and posts about family events, that I wouldn't be freaked out if my boss read.

This is a new world for me. I can accomplish this with a domain name and another google apps install -- hosting the images on, say, flickr, or picasa web, hosting the blog content here on blogger, the web pages on google pages, etc. Or I can pony up the cash to buy some hosting and have full control over it all. I honestly don't know what I am going to do, but I feel this strong urge to get acting on it soon.

Now I know how Jess felt when she was looking at cribs and wall colors. Must NEST! Can't decide how! Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What do I want to do when I grow up?

This year, I turn 35. This year, I will be a Dad. At 20, I could conceive of neither of these things.

In fifteen years, I will be 50. And I will have a 15 year-old daughter, unless the ultrasound tech is seeing a very girly-shaped-boy-part, in which case I will have a 15 year-old son with issues about showering after gym class (sorry son).

I can picture neither of these things either. At first this worried me. But then I realized that this is how reality works. We constantly do things which surprise the hell out of us. Before we bought our home, I could not visualize the everyday life of a homeowner. But now, it's just how we live. I snowblow, mow the grass, worry when a branch falls on the roof in a thunderstorm, paint the rooms wacky colors, and watch movies with the volume cranked up so the walls all vibrate without anybody complaining (except Jess, but that's nothing to do with the house). When I was in college, I couldn't picture going in to work every day and writing software. When I was writing software, I couldn't picture managing a team of developers.

I don't know what I'll be doing in 15 years, or even in 2, when it comes to being a parent. But I know I'll figure it out somehow. I imagine there are people who have their lives all mapped out, visualizing their futures, and are never surprised. I wonder if it's as boring as it sounds :).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Evolution of a (RSS) reader

It used to be, I couldn't understand the appeal of RSS. Now, I can't imagine staying up to date with reality without it.

I don't have to check sites to see when they update -- they tell me. And for many sites, I never have to go there at all. I apologize to all the graphic designers of the world, but sometimes I just enjoy reading the text in plain old black on white.

Anyway, you can see what kind of changes life has brought me by looking at my RSS feeds. The standard geeky fare is still there and always will be, but what's supplemented it over time? Well, the most recent changes are in the area of personal finance and parenting, and the intersection of the two.

When did I go from reading about new user-created maps for online FPSes to researching baby strollers?

And why doesn't it bug me?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First Gygax, now Clarke

Today, a true legend passed away. Arthur C. Clarke, best known for authoring 2001, died at the age of 90.

I was introduced to Clarke in high school, when I went on a classic science fiction kick, starting with some of Heinlein's work. I think I read 2001, 2010, Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End, and one of his short story collections all in the same year. Childhood's End sticks with me the most, all these years later.

Clarke was not just a brilliant writer, he was a scientist and a revolutionary.

I am sad to see him go.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blogging at work and at home

I've written in the past about my "split identities" at work and at home. I caught myself today, while folding laundry, thinking about work. More specifically, I was thinking about my work blog. I am going to be taking a trip to a conference in May, and the prep work for that conference will make a great recurring topic for days when I don't have something fundamentally cool to say at work.

It's odd to make the shift from thinking about "I should totally blog about the movies I watched this weekend" to "I have a great topic for my work blog." But while one or two people might find my movie reviews interesting, a hundred co-workers or more will see my new blog post's headline and I know at least a half-dozen or more will read it. It might not be as fun, but it's reaching a larger audience and from a totally selfish standpoint will get my name mentioned in circles I'd never be in otherwise.

But it eats at the same pool of writing energy. So instead of thinking about a clever way to package up my weekend's activities into a blog post, I'm thinking of a way to stretch 8 weeks of prep for a conference into a series of posts. And as a result, you get to read about, well, why I find that whole process interesting....

Friday, March 07, 2008

Video Game Geek Moments

True video game geeks know what I'm talking about -- a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from battling against a given level/task in a game for a long period of time until it's finally beaten. It is even more fun if it's a cooperative multiplayer game. I have many happy memories of getting past difficult parts of tons of games with various friends through the years.

Tonight, my wife and I finally got a rainbow on the "Special 1" level in Pixeljunk Monsters, a budget "tower defense" game, for the PS3. This means nothing to the vast majority of you, but it was the culmination of daily play for some time, and it was a shared accomplishment. In fact, it was Jess's idea to try a variation on our strategy that I think led to the victory.

It's pretty cool to be able to share that specific geeky feeling of accomplishment with the mother of my future child, I must say :).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

15 weeks to go

Our wonderful baby is still growing and getting stronger and bigger by the day. Jess feels frequent kicks and moves, and today's doctor's appointment and ultrasound showed everything going according to schedule. Here she is trying to call me a loser by making an "L" on her forehead.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Identity Maintenance

The online world is really converging. I hate to get all buzzwordy but the old rules of the web are fading and new ones are really taking hold. When people who make way more money than I do at work are using Twitter to update their blogs, for example, I know things are changing.

It leads to some interesting situations, though. This blog is my little quiet corner of the 'net, and as such is part of my personal identity. But it's not part of my professional identity. But as these identities spread, it becomes more difficult to keep them separate.

My professional identity includes LinkedIn, Facebook, and a behind-the-firewall blog at our corporate social media site. It's all tied to my full name.

My personal identity includes a blog, a domain name, a Picasa web folder, an RSS feed, my netflix queue, numerous online site memberships, and who knows what else. It's all tied to one of three nicknames: the name of this blog, my usual forum handle, and my real first name.

Some people straddle both spheres. I have good friends that I trust with both identities. Some family. But there aren't many of them. (It's actually more complex than this --there are people who get "some" of the picture but not all, family members who browse my photos but would have no idea how to find this blog, for example.)

Someone with a little spare energy could connect all these dots, I'm sure. At some point, it will be more work to keep these identities separate than it's worth. But do I really want my boss poking around my blog? If I were to go job-hunting (note to my boss, I am not job hunting :P), do I want my hiring manager paging through my vacation photos or reading about my struggles with my fitness goals?

It may well be that my only other option will be to let one identify disappear. And that just seems so boring....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Construction Work

So the nesting efforts are increasing daily here at home. Our basement remodel is nearing completion, with recent work on drywalling the bathroom making it look more like a room and less like a plumbing supply store. Yesterday and today were bigger days, though -- last night my father-in-law helped me carry some heavy boxes into the house, and this morning I sat down with my wife and put together a crib, a changing table, and a dresser.

They are antique white, with a green-and-pink bedding set already in place (well, no mattress). She even has curtains up. What's next? Painting, cleaning out closets, good stuff like that.

It's starting to look like a nursery. Give it a few weeks, and it won't be recognizable as a guest room....

Friday, February 08, 2008

20 weeks in

That's right -- my lovely wife is a few days past 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

We just had an ultrasound which shows it's very likely going to be a baby daughter we bring into the world 4 months from now.

Four months seems like a long time. It won't be.
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Superbowl XXX

Superbowl XXX, January 29 1996. Three weeks prior, I had decided to take a job at Data General and let them pay for the rest of my schooling instead of finishing off grad school as a TA. I had been married for just over a year and a half. My good friends, a year behind me in school, were set to graduate in a few short months. Everything was changing. Nobody knew where we'd be in a year's time, but everything seemed possible.

I didn't grow up watching sports -- the Superbowl was a nonevent for me, most of the time. The only Superbowl parties I had been to were quiet during the commercials and talkative during the game.

But everything was changing, as I said. So I crowded into the dorm suite with a bunch of friends and watched the Superbowl. I tried not to ask too many questions (no guy wants to admit he doesn't understand football), and did my best to follow along. It was something new -- people cared about the game. Nobody wanted the Cowboys to win -- even as they mocked the Steelers they rooted against Emmit, Irvin, and Aikman. My wife began cheering on the Cowboys just to be contrary.

Late in the game, Steelers coach Bill Cowher made a ballsy call. Surprise onside kick. It was a momentum changer -- the Steelers had scored ten points in a row and forced the Cowboys to punt with less than seven minutes on the clock.

I didn't know it then, but that was the moment I fell in love with football. Anything was possible, like I said.

The Cowboys won. I learned that ballsy wasn't enough to win a game. And I learned that it's okay to cheer on the underdog even if they don't win.

I watched the next year's games, all the way through Bledsoe's defeat in the next Superbowl against Favre. And I haven't stopped.

This year, things are mixed up. The Pats are the heavily favored dynasty, the Giants the scrappy underdog America wants to see win. But I'm getting together with those same friends, and hoping for the same outcome -- the dominant team to win in a game that reminds us why we love football.

Go Pats.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sanibel Vid

And here's a short video we shot of the birds feeding. Youtube pixelized the water pretty bad, but oh well.

Sanibel Pics

As promised, some Sanibel pics.

These birds were flying all over this slow-moving pool of water in Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, snatching small fish trapped when the tide came in.

The rare (and ugly) Wood Stork.

Gator country!

A nice shot of some mangroves.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Where's Dave?

I'll post some pictures later, but I was away for a week in beautiful Sanibel, Florida. It was a big family trip, with 9 of us (including 3 kids) staying in two condos by the beach. We got in a bunch of quality time, and I caught a killer cold which made me spend a good chunk of it in a drug-induced haze.

Upon my return, I caught some nasty stomach bug, which knocked me on my back for a solid 36 hours and is still leaving me unstable. Since Monday I have eaten very little of nutritional value, and it's really starting to wear on me, but everything I eat of substance sends me back into digestive panic mode. Today's lunch was a slice of bread, a banana, and a yogurt. Hope it sits with me better than the turkey sandwich I ate yesterday did.

Bad times, too much info, etc.

I said I wanted to start eating healthier when I got back from vacation ... not that I wanted to stop eating entirely. Fooey.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Workout snapshot

I'm still struggling to get back into healthy habits after a too-long holiday break. But I have been running and that's a start.

As I plodded along on the treadmill the other day, I realized I really wanted to take a break. I fought this urge, calling back to all the tough-guy mantras about "no pain, no gain" and "pain is weakness leaving the body," and all the things you might repeat to yourself to make sure you can stay on your feet long enough to complete a 10K, for example. I remembered my 30-minute run from just the other day, and how proud I was to complete it after such a long break.

And then I realized how foolish I was being. I slowed down, walked for a few minutes, and then started running again. In the end, I still ran the same amount, but I was exercising for longer because of the walk breaks. I was less physically and mentally beat at the end, and the whole experience seemed more positive to me.

And yet, the next workout, I fought with the exact same urges.

It's just simple pride, wanting to prove I can tough it out. The truth is, right now, it's much more important that I simply stay active than that I "prove" to anyone (especially since nobody is watching me!) that I can run like I was running three to four months ago.

So for a little while at least, walk breaks are going to be a part of my routine.

I just wish they didn't feel like cheating.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Having fun playing video games

Allow me to nerd out a bit about video games. The following are gross simplifications, and I've done exactly zero study on this. In other words I'm blabbing, not researching.

In most games, you provide input to the system, and that input directly corresponds to motion by an avatar of some kind on a screen. Pac-Man moved up/down/right/left, Space Invader shot and moved around, and in Grand Theft Auto you can punch, shoot, run, drive, etc.

There's another kind of game, where the input to the system modifies the experience in different ways, rewarding you for providing the right inputs. For example, the trampoline gymnastics minigame in the Wii Olympics, you press a series of buttons in the order specified during a very short time. Get it right, and your avatar tumbles, flips, and performs a smoothly beautiful routine. The crowd applauds. Get it wrong, and you barely make it back on your feet to jump again, and the crowd registers its disapproval.

Rhythm games definitely fall into this latter category, and the most recent one to get in the public eye would have to be Guitar Hero. I played GH3 for the first time this weekend, and it's difficult to explain how fun it is. The gameplay is fairly simple to describe. Colored markers move towards you, and as they hit a "line" you must press a button corresponding to the marker's color while pressing another button to "strike." It feels very guitar-like -- you're holding down the strings with one hand while strumming with the other.

What makes the game so much fun is the feedback system. Play flawlessly, and you hear the exact song you think you are supposed to hear. Make a mistake, and a note is missed in the song, or worse, an incorrect sound is produced. So you're mentally rocking out to Metallica and instead of hearing what you want, you hear an awkward clanging sound. It throws you out of the groove and makes you flinch. Screw up a few times in a row, and the crowd turns on you, and the pressure grows. Get back on track, or lose the game.

It's a fun game to watch, because you're listening to music and watching the entertaining antics of the fictional band going on in the background as the player focuses solely on the colored dots. And it's a fun game to play, because in a very real way you are creating music by your actions, with immediate positive and negative feedback for every single button press.

I'm far from an expert on rhythm games, having only played Dance Dance Revolution a few times prior to this. But I can say, for me, Guitar Hero is much more fun than DDR. You are producing the music, not just controlling something that moves along with it. It's so much more satisfying when you win.

I can't imagine how much fun Rock Band is.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Blu-Ray Wins?

I can't help but think this latest move by Warner is going to finally spell the end of HD DVD.

I admit to having a soft spot for HD DVD, and not just because I bought one of their players (I did so at the $99 price, knowing if it lost the format war the very next day I'd still get my money's worth before buying a BD player -- no regrets). I'm not even sure why, except perhaps that it felt more consumer-friendly. The players were cheaper, the discs were cheaper (to make, not to buy), and there was no region-encoding.

The war's not over, though. I expect we'll see some more battles going on. But my gut tells me we won't be seeing people buying HD DVD players for Christmas next year.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dave's Dirty Secret

(no, not that secret)

Quick link-and-run -- the newest Best of Bootie CD is out. You can download it here. I can't tell you how many times I've found new energy on a run while listening to a mashup of songs I'd never listen to alone.

(just kidding about that other thing)

Work is tiring

While I was working with my father-in-law on some home improvement efforts, I realized just how exhausting it would be to do his job full-time. Climbing ladders, hanging siding, hammering, sawing, lifting, climbing, bending over to pick things up, getting your hands all calloused and cut up, etc. I was (and am) so thankful that my job is easier.

And yet today, as I work on my seventh performance review (I have 9 to write), I realize that difficult and exhausting come in all flavors. So, yes, I may not be tired like my father-in-law is at the end of the day, but I'm tired in my own special way :).

Got my second run of the year in today, oddly a more difficult run than my first one, which was breaking over a month of time away from it. Still, got it done. It's nice to have a job that leaves me "tired" in a way that I can still run, I guess!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"A nice relaxing day off."

I was describing today to my mother, and said I had a relaxing day off.

And then I thought about what I did.

I got rid of a huge backlog of laundry from when our basement was torn apart and it was difficult to do any.

I dragged the treadmill out from its hiding place where we had to stick it for the Christmas party, set it up, and did my first run in, well, what, four weeks? Six?

I took down all the ornaments, garland, and lights, boxed it all up, then took down the 8.5-foot tree, dragged it outside, and ditched it in the woods.

Finally, I cleared off both cars, shoveled both driveways, and the porch/steps/sidewalks.

Somehow, this was mentally equated with "relaxing" to me. I personally blame the run. Maybe there's a lesson there.