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 :).