After The Sabbatical

So, it is now officially the end of the summer, a time for the season to change and prepare for the cold, dark winter to come. This posting is, in part, an attempt to bring you, dear readers, up to date in the changing circumstances of my life.
Beginning in May, I read a number of books that gave me insight of my ability to make fundamental changes in my life. In particular, The One Thing was pivotal in propelling my life into a different direction. It poses the question: “What is the one thing you can do that, if accomplished, would make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

After some (rather easy) meditation the next step was to WEIGH LESS. I began a systematic program of reducing and tracking my caloric intake (with the assistance of the Ipad application MyFitnessPal). I discussed my intentions with several friends and family members and have lost over 60 pounds (almost 30 kg) in the last four months. I was not successful in reaching my initial goal of weighing under 300 pounds (135 kg) by my birthday in September, but am on track to accomplish this sometime in November, and intend to be below 200 pounds (90 kg) by New Year’s Eve, 2016.

According to the materials I’ve read, it takes about 65 days on average to create a habit, so I am somewhat less intentional about directing my focus on WEIGHING LESS, as it has become mostly habitual. A victory with many side benefits (a substantial reduction in my on-going pain level being a primary driver for the initial decision in the first place).

About six weeks into the process, a chance visit with my sister (and concurrent conversation) suggested an intention to obtain a fitness tracker of some sort after my weight dropped enough to make exercise (read: walking) reasonable. She indicated she had upgraded her primary device and that I could take her old one if I wanted it. I did, and I did.

Thus without fanfare (or even notice at the time) phase two of my realignment with reality began. After consideration, I began another habit calendar driven by a second ONE thing: MOVE MORE. This task did not have as clear cut goals or objectives, and has been somewhat less spectacular in it’s results. The FitBit Ultra automatically measures what I do and both records it within the product tracking software, and links to my food diary, so it is an observable and track-able measure of my progress in moving. I have increased my goals twice since starting in June, and on average meet my daily goals about 4-5 days each week. Other friends also track their activity (including a half-marathoner… nearly an inconceivable task to “aim” at) so I have additional levels of accountability and encouragement (while I have successfully placed last each week in the status report between friends, I am slowly and gently getting closer to the pace set by my betters).
Additionally, I have begun an eight week set of classes in my apartment on improving balance (nominally to help prevent falls; I reside in an age-restricted housing location and am officially the youngest resident here, with only another 25 years to go to reach the mean age of my neighbours…) and am studying Tai Chi on DVD. My objective goal is to begin playing golf again next year and eventually to shoot my age for a round (if history is any indicator, I will have to play and live at least another 60 years to have a reasonable chance).

And so with the passing of time and focusing on various areas of my life, I determined the third (and current) ONE thing to set as the primary compass marker for my life: ACT INTENTIONALLY, which brings us to this posting.

Many (perhaps most) of the previous writing has been stream-of-consciousness dumps, without focus or direction. Regardless of how entertaining they may (or may not!) have been, there was little or no intention behind them. (Technically the “three a week” plan would slightly count as an intent, but it is not what I am looking for.) I have taken eating from an impulsive, mindless activity to an intentional plan for achieving the vision I have created for my life. I have challenged my sedentary lifestyle and with focus am moving towards regaining my life as, perhaps not an athlete in the normal sense of the word, but a participant rather than an observer of life beyond the four walls of my cage. This focus is now being aimed at my writing.

To assist this process, I have just updated my workstation by adding two additional computers (an NAS –Network Accessible Storage– unit to consolidate my files from multiple sources and and an Ubuntu Linux system to expand my knowledge and skill set, and to work as a render station for my animation projects) and sifting through my paperwork (to clear space and streamline my file cabinets). As suggested in some of my books on organization this should make me more productive as the reduction in clutter (more focus!) will lower the distractions around me.

This should provide you with a more thoughtful and consistent product in the future. At the vary least, you should notice more content than what has been produced over the last third of the year…

Phred
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A Century Of Writing (Days)

Well, even though this is late, it is a recognition of a milestone in my writing career. On May the 20th, two monumental events occurred: David Letterman hosted his last show of Late Night with David Letterman, and 100 days had passed since starting this blog.

Of the two, the TV event was certainly the more celebrated and recognized. In my life, however, the passing of time and the point that I am still here, plugging away at the keyboard is significantly more important. Frankly, I had serious doubts about the chances of keeping to a new habitual behavior for more than a couple of weeks. (This is the principle reason that I stopped making “New Year’s Resolutions” half a decade ago. Now I do “New Year’s Intentions” to suggest I already know I will probably fail before the year…quarter…month…week…day…hour passes.)

But now I have kept up for nearly a third of a year. (OK, OK, I confess to having failed in my 3-a-week just now, but I claim extenuating circumstances and the need to assist my kids in a galaxy city far, far away….) What an exciting accomplishment, and a wild ride as well. I crunched the numbers from the stats page (goes back to my days as an analyst and statistician) and found a few interesting things.

So far, I have had 355 visitors to the site and altogether they viewed 704 pages. The bulk of the visitors came from the U.S.A. (which is to be expected) but there were an additional 13 countries listed (in alphabetical order: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia,  Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom). Statistics appear for 64 different pages and posts (there are a few missing, but they may be linked pages that are not counted) and total views range from 1 to 33 each (the home page has 195 views by itself).

Is this significant information, useful, or even relevant? Not to most, for sure, but to me it is a fascinating glimpse of the world at large and my (microscopic) part within it. In many ways it has already exceeded my wildest expectations. It is (at the very least) sufficient to keep going for (at least) another third of a year and see what the numbers show then.

Thanks to all who have participated and keep checking in…

Phred

post 71 of n

Glimpse Of A Vision

I believe I am spending too much time wandering through various addictions within the internet. To my limited frustration, I have discovered looking at some of the pages I check daily are sponsored (or actually made) by Lay’s (the potato chip people). Bets that I can only eat watch just one are all off. The worst two offenders are Facebook (which I really don’t understand) and YouTube.

I don’t do too much on FB as a participant, but will look down the home and news post lists, only to find an hour passes before I am aware of it. Kudos to Travis for posting some of the craziest and funniest links I have seen. (It would be nice, though, if you could limit them to less than 20-30 a day so I can get some actual work done.) Occationally I find something I can relate to too much and add it to my page / wall / whatever it’s called (told you I don’t understand this place).

The addiction to YouTube is somewhat more problematic. I use some of my subscriptions as a learning tool for my Blender education. So I can’t really afford to stop wandering around the site, but some of the links are more practical than others. Some provide useful information while others are simply eye candy, useful for a distraction or to unlax if needed.

One of the less productive sites is my Adult Swim subscription. Or so I thought until today. I don’t watch this channel much, but today it showed up on my “we think you’d like or should see this” list and I started watching an episode of Food|Off the Air and the part with the banana mask (about 15 seconds in) was really funny. I kinda lost interest shortly afterward and started fast forwarding through the rest of the episode until I got to the Western Spagetti segment (at about 4:18). I was totally fascinated by the segment and fast forwarded (after watching it 3 or 4 times) to the credits to find out who made it.

The  PESfilm channel in YouTube has 44 videos involving stop action animation. Since one of my year’s intentions is to become a CG artist, learning animation is a part of the task I am working on. Stop action uses a series of still pictures where items are moved slightly between frames. I ended up watching over a dozen back to back before I needed to leave (late as it was for my meeting, but I didn’t care). When I got back home I continued where I left off.

Spaghetti Western is one of my favorites. It is really well done (as are most of the films archived) and I would highly recommend it for a smile. I’ll link to it on my FB page to share the joy with others.

Later I will post more about my artistic progress so far this year, but I can’t just yet.

There’s still a couple of unread emails and several vid’s to watch….

Phred

post 59 of n

Movie Review: Ex Machina

Yesterday was my son’s birthday (surprising and depressing how quickly 35 years passes… but that’s for another post or ten) and after a nice dinner we went to the movies. This review is in two parts: the theater and the movie.

We went to Celebration! Cinema in Lansing MI, one of the largest multiplex theaters in the area. They have IMAX (the HUGE screen and format movies), D-BOX (a more immersive experience where each seat is on a gimbal mount and can shake and move synchronized with the movie), 3D projectors (for 3D movies, duh), and Reserved Recliner Seating in all of their studios. There are a dozen locations around the state and have been in business at least a decade.

This was the first time in a couple of years we went to this location (the kids having moved out of town and I seldom go to the show anymore) and discovered the challenge of reserve seating when we walked in the door. They started the policy this month that all seats in all theaters were mapped and assigned, sort of what I had experienced in going to live performance theater venues in the (distant) past. I guess this could be a good thing in the right conditions, but for our “spur of the moment” decision to go to the show it was vastly more annoying than helpful.

By adding power reclining chairs they effectively reduced the capacity of the theater by half, so there were fewer places to sit than in the past. Because the seats are physically MUCH larger, they cut the number of rows in the room by nearly 2/3 and raised the height (from ground level) of the back row, so you had to climb 4 stair treads to get to the next row. These changes together made it impossible to find three seats together at ground level. Either our party needed to split (where we would be separated by 3 rows of viewers) or I had to climb to row “G,” the third level above the ground. We got there early enough to make the ascent to Everest in time to see half of the trailers, but it wasn’t pleasant.

Then there was the “recliner” seats. I think they used Lurch (from the Adam’s Family show) for the model of a person to seat, based on the ratio of “butt length” to “leg length.” I’m 186 cm tall (6′ 1″) and the tallest of our party, but when I leaned the seat back I wasn’t tall enough to match the shape and size of the chair. I had to shift back about 6″ to put the bend at the base of my spine where it is supposed to be (or use a watermelon as a lumbar support) and then my knees were not at the front of the seat. Until the lower section raised far enough to provide support it was really uncomfortable. Eventually I was able to find the sweet(est) spot where I was in the least amount of pain and still could see (some of) the screen.

The control for the seat was on the inside edge of the armrest, not immediately obvious (but necessary in a public place, I guess, lest your neighbor adjust your seat for you) but eventually discovered. That is, I discovered mine and my son inadvertently found his when his wallet did the “butt call” thing by changing his seat position at random times throughout the movie.

Overall the experience of “watching” the movie was at best a rating of 13 out of 87 (and I think that is being generous).

The movie itself was better. I had not seen a trailer or heard about it when I was invited to see it (part of the birthday thing) the day before. A quick scan of the IMDB page suggested it would be a movie I’d like to see, as Sci-Fi has always been my genre of choice. Lest I spoil too much of the movie for future viewers, let me just say it was good, not great and not what I expected. It’s a love story (but then 97% or more of all movies are) and there’s a twist at the end, but I guess I expected more. It gets a rating of 64 out of 91. I think I’d rent it to watch it again, but doubt if I’d pay more than the $2 to see it in Grand Ledge (a local theater does second run movies for two dollars, the best value in the area). It is completely certain I won’t go back and see it at Celebration!

SPOILER ALERT: Rosebud is a sled

Phred.

post 53 of n

Scam Alert: Quantum Vision System

OK, I knew better. Nevertheless I wasted nearly 3/4 of an hour watching (or rather, listening while attempting not to hurl) an infomercial on the net about how you can improve your vision to 20/20 in just a week. Guaranteed.

I am far more skeptical than most of the people around me, but I followed a link with a title of how to improve your eyes by using this simple secret. A redirect to a page with minimal information and a video that played without any controls (no pause, volume control, or clue as to how much longer it lasted). It went on with teasers as to why you might want to improve your life (and who would NOT want to, eh?) and veiled hints that this program was going to go corporate shortly, with substantially less “public” access and increased costs.

Eventually you are told it is the “Quantum Vision System” and was going to be patented soon, so watch and act now. There was a claim of a 10 minute sample you could use to prove to yourself it was effective and worth obtaining.

Then 30 more minutes pass. There are “man on the street” interviews where the “doctor” brings people wandering past into his office and shows a 2-4 point improvement in their vision after only 10 minutes. The people are amazed at the results.

Finally you are asked how much would you expect to pay for such a program. He works the price down from thousands to the unbelievable price of $37 (USD). Just press the HUGE “Add To Cart” button that suddenly appears below the video and use one of the dozen or so methods of payment to gain these life changing benefits.

Of course I didn’t. But I was incensed to think I wasted nearly an hour of my time for such a lame presentation. Now, I could have just left anytime (and should of) but after a while, my ire grew and I was becoming more interested to see just how bad it would truly get. Finally the video ended and I found a faint menu at the bottom of the screen that included a “Contact Us” link. I started to send them an e-mail to get more information and the audio on my computer came back on (I had switched to another tab in Firefox to send the e-mail) with the comment “You are still here? What are you waiting for? Just press the button and fill out the form that comes up….” Unbelievable, that a company would be so bold as to press for a close after waiting for nearly 5 minutes of inaction. (I suspect the video was still “running” after appearing to end. There was no way of knowing.)

I finished my rant (including the point that if they really would refund all fees without any explaination and for any reason, why not present product as a try before you buy and bill 30 days after delivery) and sent the message. Then (and only then, to my sorrow) I did a quick Google search. As I pointed out in a prior post (Information Overload, Confidence Underload) any research on the net should involve a fair amount of action on your part. I was not interested in too much details, just to see if the company appeared to be legitimate.

The first result was the company website itself (link to site). Short version was they were offering the program for $27 (ten dollars less than on the video) and included 5 free bonus items (the video only had 3 of them). So if I HAD pushed the button I would have paid more and gotten less. VERY VERY BAD.

The second search result was a scam alert from San Diego. CA giving a scam alert (link to alert). Pretty much what I thought while I was watching the video. I thought the alert link hit the main points fully and was right on the point.

I actually have read the book on the Bates method mentioned in both locations. I did notice some benefits but it was not as easy as would have been expected by the presentation. (I bought the book for less than a dollar at a used book store about 25 years ago).

So, I waited till now to allow the “We received your mail and will respond in the next 48 hours” message to bear fruit. It didn’t. I am not surprised. It was not expected. Now this is a “unhappy” customer posting to warn others of less than expected results from a service provider.

Snake oil sales is still alive and well, apparently… beyond that peddled within politics.

Phred

post 45 of n

A 1 Month Anniversary

It is official, this blog is a month old as of yesterday. I have been writing a whole month consistently and have had a ball. While it may not be important in the overall scheme of things, it is nevertheless a milestone (well, more of a ‘yardstone’ but it is progress) in my career as a writer. Eventually I will be able to add additional markers along the way, the first-quarter, 100th posting, first paycheck, first million likes, first world domination. (Aim small and hit your target.)

I was asked when I was going to quit this whole blog thing. I had to think about it for a while and I think I finally know the answer…

I’ll quit when I can no longer carry the royalties check to the bank because it’s so big…

Phred

posting 37 of n

EOM Progress Reportcard

Turn the calendar page and look back? Seems strange, but sometimes the best way to plan for the future is to take stock of where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

February was the start of this adventure (and not for the whole month) and saw 21 posts viewed by 87 visitors a total of 216 times (some pages viewed more than others, of course). 6 people liked entries, (in WP, others made comments in FB but they don’t show up on the statistics page here), 5 people made comments and 4 people became POP (Phollowers Of Phred). And, perhaps the most interesting (amazing?) stat from the first three weeks of work is there were 2 viewers from other countries (Turkey and Pakistan).

I am blown away. The results greatly exceeded my mildest expectations.(What, you thought I’d say “wildest” expectations? Were I to voice those I would be presented with a new place of lodging where my every need would be attended to, complete with a brand new wardrobe of long-sleeved canvas shirts that tie up the back and monogrammed upside down to assist in remembering who I am supposed to be….) I expected my friends to take a glance a couple of times but the coolest thing was how I would post an entry and often before I could refresh my pages in the browser someone would have already viewed the post.  I am totally in awe of this world I have leaped into.

And what a world it is, indeed. I have spent much more time reading and looking than writing. I find myself reading posts on topics that last year I would never have thought to glance at, and each discovery requires reading several other posts by each author to satisfy my curiosity. Thank you, fellow bloggers, for doing what I am and so, so much more. You are driving me to do more and better this month (and the next, and …)

This month was easier than I had anticipated (though I had intentionally set the bar of 3+ posts a week really low to make it easy to reach. Thanks Leo (of Zen Habits) for the pattern of habit building.

Stay tuned for more.

Phred

post 22 of n