Goals for 2013

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Jan 142013

Rather than resolutions, which strike me as unrealistically rigid, I opted instead to set a few goals to strive for in 2013. Here’s that list, for those curious.

  • Write (at least) two books. This is the biggest and most ambitious of the goals. Seeing as how it took three years to get Ashes done, shooting for writing two books in a single year is an enormous leap. I set an aggressive timetable for the New Book and my success at adhering to that timetable will go a long way toward the success or failure of this goal.
  • Get to and stay at 170 pounds. Holiday fooding is not kind to one’s experiences with the scale. While I haven’t breached 190, I came damn close. My objective is to get to and stay at 170, which is slightly more lean than my exact “optimal” weight.
  • Do 20 consecutive pull-ups. I can currently do somewhere between six and ten, so I don’t anticipate this will actually take much doing.
  • Complete my Ambassador model and complete at least one more model. I’ve been working on the Ambassador model since August 2012, which has included a great deal of re-learning of skills that atrophied while not in use when working as a tech artist in the game industry. A lot of that time went into doing and re-doing the same thing over and over, which while frustrating also ended up informative. It’s my hope that, like writing Ashes, the stumbling blocks and pitfalls of this “first” experience will result in a substantially faster second one.
  • Learn to play (at least) two songs reasonably well on the guitar. I haven’t picked up my guitar in months and that’s a tragedy. Two songs strikes me as a small-scope, attainable goal.

These are my personal goals, as opposed to larger goals that involve other people/family things. I think they’re all attainable, so long as I keep my eye on the ball.

What do you think? What are your goals?

Success and Shaking

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Aug 232011

Apparently, that worked.

After taking Cody out for dinner, we came home and not only did I manage to sit down and pound out a couple thousand words in about an hour, but I also made time to play some guitar and work on a painting. The trick now will be keeping it up. Setting a consistent time to write will probably be the best tool in the box to make that happen. I started at 9pm yesterday. That’s late enough in the evening that I don’t feel like I have to do it right when I get home, but it’s also early enough that if I spend an hour or two writing, I still have a little time afterwards to do other stuff, too.

Of course, I did all of that stuff and then ran into the realization that I still hadn’t made any progress on my basement stairs. Sigh. Perhaps tonight I shall try to make some headway on that.

In other news, we just felt an earthquake that evidently originated out in Virginia. 5.9 out there, though only a very mild rocking here. Many people didn’t even notice it. Those of us that did weren’t sure what we were feeling and it wasn’t until news of the VA quake exploded that it made sense. It seems that such intraplate earthquakes are rare, but not unheard of. I got a kick out of the fact that this quake was mentioned on the Wikipedia article about intraplate quakes not an hour after it happened. Oh, Internet, you are delightful.

Aug 222011

Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This…is wrong tool.

I have many, many projects that capture my interest. Writing is foremost among them, but so too are home improvement projects, costuming, digital art, web development, programming, learning to play the guitar, and so on. I often lament that I simply don’t have enough time to do all of that and my job and spend time with my wife and spend time with friends.

But that’s really a load of crap, isn’t it?
Continue reading »

Aug 172011

A great deal has happened since my last post. I’m 27 now, had the best birthday party of my life, have been married for over a year, went on a cruise with my wife (Port Canaveral, FL and the Bahamas, leaving out of NYC), and have been doing some intense self-introspection. I’ve also been working on the second draft of The Novel (which I have now identified as the third of a four-book arc), have resumed playing guitar, and have even been working on my digital painting. Some of the stair pieces have been stained (thanks, Dad!) and more will progress in the coming weeks. Alas, as a result, still no progress on the vacuform table beyond the last update. October is not far, though, and I’ve had a new fire lit under my ass about getting it done (you know who you are).

I had an absurd amount of energy when I got home last night. I decided I should try and bleed some of it off by exercising, so I hopped on the elliptical and jogged 1.11 miles in 15 minutes. That’s not terribly impressive in and of itself, until you factor in the fact that I haven’t exercised in any serious way in months. Not sufficiently exhausted by that, I proceeded to do some weight-lifting. Still not really exhausted, but very sweaty, I showered and then rather than heating something up quick in the microwave for dinner, I decided I really wanted some eggs, so I scrambled those up. At them and still had too much energy, so I sat down to play some Rock Band on expert drums for about an hour. All of that combined finally wore me out enough to be a little more low-key. Very weird, but honestly…I could get used to having that kind of energy.

The lawn desperately needs to be mowed. It needed to be mowed before Cody and I went on our cruise. We returned this past Saturday, to find it looking like a minor rainforest. I should have mowed it then, but had just spent an hour and a half driving with my parents from NYC to CT, and then another three hours driving from CT back to MA, so I was a little tired. Sunday, it rained. Monday, it rained. Tuesday, it didn’t rain, but it was still wet. The minor rainforest is now more of a mid-tier rainforest. I am mowing tonight, the wetness of the grass notwithstanding. It’s embarrassing. Unfortunately, this probably puts the kibosh on any stair work happening this evening. Sigh.

Jan 032011

I saw a lot of people glad to be done with 2010. The general feeling seems to have been that 2010 was a less-than-satisfactory year. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree: in March, I got a new job at an awesome company working with awesome people on an awesome project; in July, my groomsmen took me to Atlantic City; in August, I got married and then went on my very first cruise; in October, Cody and I went as a very convincing Rose and the 10th Doctor for Halloween; in November, my parents finally came down to Maryland for Thanksgiving; December featured one of our best New Year’s Eve parties ever.

So, y’know, go 2010. May 2011 be as good or better.

To that end as is custom this time of year, I have a list of goals that I’m planning to work toward this year. They’re not “resolutions” and they’re not carved in stone; either notion is folly. But they’re things I care about and want to get better at, which I think carries more weight.

  • Devote some time each evening to writing or playing guitar. The main thing here is taking care of my “daily chores” in WoW, and then setting it aside while I spend some time doing either of the above activities. Once I’ve put some good effort in toward either, I’ll allow myself to go back to playing more WoW. I love my WoW hobby, but I can’t continue neglecting my others!
  • Get better about watching my diet again. I’ve slipped a bit since the wedding, which is probably entirely unsurprising to anyone who’s gotten married. I haven’t backslid irrevocably or anything drastic, but it’s noticeable enough to me that I want to do something about it. So, I plan to. Having a Droid will, I hope, make keeping track of my food intake a little easier.
  • Finish unpacking the house. This includes getting some additional furniture (bookshelves) and also tidying up the pantry shelves so that we can actually start making use of the damn thing.
  • Build the vacuform machine I’m always talking about. I intend to for Halloween to be very interesting this year.

That seems like an ambitious-enough list to start with.

Sep 172010

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, we do things that provoke a predictable response that we then use to galvanize further action? Yeah, that’s a little vague. Let me clarify: the other day, Scalzi posted this. For the TL;DR crowd, the short version is:

Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

I shared this article with Cody; that’s the “doing something to provoke” part. This morning, Cody asks me, “So, do you want to be a writer, or not?” Enter: “a predictable response” part. I knew, on seeing that article, she would needle me about the fact that I haven’t really exhibited much in the way of writer’s ambition since I finished the zeroth draft of the novel back in November. I’ve poked at the idea of editing it ever since, but haven’t really done much.

Anyway, this exchange dovetailed nicely with a growing urge to try to actually write something here every day, if for no other reason than to practice the work of stringing sentences together. I’ve entertained the idea of actually having a readership for this blog, and enjoy that notion. The trouble is that whole ‘building a readership’ part that has to come first. When the desired end state starts taking more time than my patience allots, I slack off on actually getting to that end state, thereby never attaining it. This has been true in my for-fun modeling (oh, Star Destroyer project, I shall one day finish you!), in the notion of getting more into costuming and crafting-type things, in learning to play guitar, drawing, and writing. It’s a bad habit and needs to die a horrible, painful death.

So, pursuant to that, I’m going to start trying to write something here every day, at least 250 meaningful words in length. Meaningful, mind you, does not get to be in the eye of the beholder!

Oct 122009

No, really.

This weekend, I decided to put some extra work into mowing the lawn. The first change was bagging the grass, which was a mixed blessing. While the lawn looks better for it, bagging works out best when your clippings are small. I hadn’t mowed in a couple of weeks. My clippings were not small. I have an awesome pile of grass behind my shed that must weigh in excess of 200 pounds.

Anyway. Our front yard has a pair of maple trees spaced about 15′ apart. Instead of the usual up-down pattern, I moved the mower to the base of the tree and mowed in growing spiral pattern. Once I hit the half-way point between the two trees, I moved to the base of the other tree and repeated. The result was a nice water ripple effect on the lawn, with the trees acting as the ripple source. I’m pleased with it.

In other news, I need to start devoting time every day to the various skills I want to improve—writing, drawing, and playing guitar. I haven’t drawn in ages. I last picked up my guitar weeks ago. I don’t know how to get into a good pattern with it. Any ideas?

Great Big Sea

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Aug 212009

Until last night, I had never attended a professional concert. I had seen high school/college bands play, but never a pro, touring band. That all changed yesterday, when I popped my concert cherry with my favorite band, Great Big Sea. I could not have asked for better.

They played at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, which is essentially a bunch of food kiosks surrounding a large circus tent with a stage in the middle. We had amazing seats, not 10 feet from the stage. The show opened with another Canadian musician, Chris Velan. Cody and I were both surprised by Velan; he was an excellent musician, and did some great stuff using a recording/playback box controlled by his feet. He’d use it to drum on his guitar, keep that drum beat going throughout the song, and then mix in guitar licks. The effect was five or six musicians’ worth of music, all played by one guy with an acoustic guitar.

After a 20 minute intermission, Great Big Sea took the stage with Donkey Riding, and followed with a playlist that included several songs I hadn’t yet heard (and which I have yet to identify), as well as: A Boat Like Gideon Brown (also new to me), Beat the Drum (also new to me, and a new favorite), Captain Kidd, Consequence Free, Everything Shines, General Taylor, I’m a Rover, Jack Hinks, Mari-Mac, The Night Pat Murphy Died, Ordinary Day, and When I’m Up.

They modified the chorus for Pat Murphy from “Some of the girls got loaded drunk, and they ain’t been sober yet” to “The Massachusetts girls got loaded drunk, but what can you expect?” At one point, Sean—whose hair is getting longer—randomly broke into My Way, as well. After they left the stage, the crowd started chanting “Great Big Sea!” and they encored (surely pre-planned) with The Old Black Rum.

There were a couple of really young girls there (couldn’t have been more than 5 years old) and throughout the show, Alan—now sporting a mighty beard, presumably from his role as Allan A’Dayle in Ridley Scott‘s upcoming Robin Hood film, starring Russell Crowe—would give them guitar picks. It was very cute. They bantered quite a bit, much to the entertainment of the audience. Alan lamented that they were the only band to have played at the South Shore Music Circus that hadn’t been on Letterman, which prompted much of the audience to shout that Conan was better anyway. At one point, Sean noticed that his beater finger (Alan: “Is that a euphemism I should know about?”) had a blister since it had been so long since they’d last played. An audience member supplied him with a band-aid, which he made a great show of putting on. He then held out the now-bandaged middle finger to Alan, demanding that he kiss it.  He also claimed that the lozenges(?) he was eating throughout the show were pure methamphetamine.

Later, Alan and Sean were discussing in what direction the band would go next, raising the possibility of folk music. They didn’t know how to define folk music, though, so they asked Bob, who responded, “I play folk music.” We were in the section closest to Bob, and it was fantastic watching him play the accordion and fiddle. The man is a master. During one song, while Sean was singing, Alan came over to our section and asked everyone in the first few rows “Are you having fun? Are you having fun?” It’s great how much they really care that their audience has a good time.

All in all, they played for close to two hours, without a break (except the pre-encore interlude of perhaps two minutes). Absolutely phenomenal.

Play Guitar!

 Posted by at 12:21  No Responses »
Oct 232008

One drunken night, I proposed to a friend of mine — while playing Rock Band — that we should form a real band.  He plays bass, Cody can sing quite well, and I would teach myself to play guitar.  While that latter notion might sound preposterous, it’s not quite as outlandish as it first seems because my dad’s been playing for well over 40 years.  I also have a number of friends who play, so the base for training is pretty large.

After recovering from my drunkenness over the weekend, I decided that it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.  Why not learn how to play guitar and then form a band?  I spent some time reading up on guitars, learning guitar, what guitars were best for beginners, and so on.  I also got a list of things to look for when buying a guitar from my dad. I then grabbed the aforementioned friend and dragged him, along with Cody, to Daddy’s Junky Music in Burlington.  

We spent two hours there, my intent being to look, see what they had, and do some more research.  They had a number of very nice guitars, including a Seagull S6 — universally recommended as one of the best-sounding beginner guitars, though the most expensive of the lot. I decided it was more than I wanted to pay. Most of my deliberations were over a $200 Epiphone. We discussed a lot of things with the sales guy there, going back and forth on deals and so forth.

And then one of the stock guys, who had been coming in and out putting guitars on the wall the whole time, brought in a used Seagull S6, marked for less than $200. It was pretty much a done deal at that point. I bought the guitar.

I’ve spent every day since then practicing. The internet has a ridiculous treasure trove of resources for a novice guitarist, including several excellent learn-to-play sites that focus on developing in stages. YouTube is another great resource. In just three days, I’ve gone from knowing literally nothing about playing guitar to being able to play the five common major chords (CAGED), though not without still glancing at the neck to ensure my fingering is correct. My calluses are well on their way, accelerated by using the Eric Clapton trick of applying rubbing alcohol to them three times a day. And my dad is overjoyed. My original plan was to go down this weekend and surprise him for his birthday (he turns 65 on the 30th), but my allergies have more or less destroyed that idea. So instead, he’s coming up to visit. He’s also bringing his Martin.

After this weekend, which I hope will be very fruitful for my guitar-learning endeavors, I plan to take up regular lessons. I’m not sure where, yet. The salesman who sold me the guitar mentioned that he provides lessons, though he had also often emphasized that he wasn’t much of a guitar player. Of course, his definition of “much” and my definition are quite different; he had a pretty good set of licks he was able to play for demonstration purposes. There’s also a fairly well-regarded music school located here on Main St. that I’m considering.

One of the biggest regrets I have in my life is not pursuing my piano lessons when I was young (really young). Once I left Montessori, I stopped playing, and never really progressed beyond my ability level from that age. Learning to play something like guitar, so radically different from the piano I was at least marginally familiar with, always seemed out of reach. That drunken idea of forming a band, coupled with a quote from Babylon 5, made me realize I had nothing stopping me from learning guitar but myself.

Marcus: I could teach you [to speak Minbari] if you like.
Ivanova: No. I don’t have the time; it would take me a year.
Marcus: And assuming we survive this; how old will you be in a year if you don’t learn to speak Minbari?
Ivanova: The same.
Marcus: Exactly.

So, I decided to take Marcus’s, and John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp’s advice, and learn how to play guitar.

You may drive around your town
In a brand new shiny car
Your face in the wind and your haircut’s in
Your friends think you’re bizarre
You may find a cushy job and I hope that you go far
But if you really want to taste some cool success
You better learn to play guitar