Archive for July, 2006

Work, exercise, family, sleep.

July 30, 2006

One would think life would be simple. After a person has finished where he or she wants to be with schooling, life is just managing these four things. Get up in the morning and go to work, whether it’s working for someone or working for yourself. One just has to get up and work for 8, 10 or 12 hours. Exercise is pretty much essential to good health and fitness, so getting on a bike or lifting weights or running or doing yoga should be a natural thing at the end of the day (or in the morning even). Family is most important of all and that should be life’s greatest joy. We should love our kin and enjoy spending time with them, for they are closest to us, right? Sleep should be a gift. After perfectly sailing through each day, one should just reach somnolence the moment one arrives on the sheets.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it. Work for a lot of people is not something to love or least of all something to which one looks forward. Few people leap from bed on Monday morning smiling at the prospect of the beginning of a work week. Even those who love their jobs can be overwhelmed. Moreover, there are those among us who avoid work like a sickness! Exercise is easier for some. It can provide escape from work and even a mild euphoria if it’s done with vigor. Yet, who among us fails to exercise enough? Almost all of us who have a routine break it and many people would not exercise if you paid them to do it. Family? It’s important, but, sadly, people don’t always get along. I’ve written enough about insomnia for you to get the idea where I stand on sleep.

We’re not perfect. Should we just give up? Should we stop trying so hard? Should we let entropy and age have their way with us?

Nope. Can’t do it. Why not? Because it’s even worse than the alternative! Only the wealthy or disabled don’t have to work and people who are wealthy often work too. Waking hours have to be filled with something. A person can at least try to pick something he or she really likes doing. Not being fit really leads to bad things. Yes, we’ll all die anyway, but it can be more painful if a person doesn’t exercise. It might mean the difference of staving off diabetes and having decent later years instead of horrific ones. No one wants to be incontinent, incompetent and in a wheelchair in a nursing home. Family is a person’s pleasure and cross to bear. Enjoy your family members and help them when you can. As far as sleep is concerned, even I have to admit that the days where I hit work, exercise, family successfully (and maybe throw in some hobbies as well) are days I sleep the best. If not, there’s always drugs.

Just for Joris.

July 29, 2006

This is for Joris who has patiently waited while I procrastinated in posting HD files taken from my Xacti HD-1 video camera. I did a detailed review of the camera here. Months later, I still love it. I really like being able to quickly switch between taking stills and video. Without further ado, here’s the link to the mpg4 file.

Windows Media Player 11 plays the mpg4 HD files beautifully on my Pentium D. It really matters what player you use. The last time I used Quick Time, it butchered them. You need a fast machine too. Doing anything with HD is processor intensive.

If I had to nitpick the camera, it would have to be on the lighting requirements. Daylight is best. If you are doing indoor shots, turn on all the lights. If you are staging shots, use extra lighting. Otherwise, this camera has completely changed the way I shoot video. One of the best things? No more tapes.

Shameless YouTube Links: Fishing Videos!

July 26, 2006

Since my good friend Kelly paid me such a high complement on my writing recently, I felt the need to return to some real high-brow stuff: Fishing Videos! Yes, friends and neighbors, you finally get to see the one that got away! But wait, that’s not all! You get sharks eating tarpon, strange squid and of course, people being hit where it counts with flying fish. Who could ask for anything more? If you’ve every held a rod in your hand, you’ll love these craptastic, er, fantastic, fun filled fish stories! Enjoy!

Daniel Schorr is a Great American.

July 25, 2006

Daniel Schorr turns 90 next month.  This is a man who has been in the news business since the 1950s.  He’s written books, won Emmys and lifetime achievement awards.  His only living peer as far as I know is Walter Cronkite (another great American).  As a senior news analyst for NPR, he’s still delivering information to the world on a national level.  Most people don’t live to be 90.  Fewer still work to 90.  No one keeps active in the news media at 90.  He’s only a few months older than Cronkite (I’ll blog about him in November).

My point is that Mr. Schorr is a unique individual to retain his abilities into his advanced age.  He also retains his desire to produce, which is just as remarkable.  His perspective is that of a living time machine.  When he was born, World War I was in full swing.  It’s impossible to list all the things he’s seen in his time.  Yet you don’t hear any of that in his voice.  He just reports things as he sees them.  You would expect to hear an echo of how things were back then.  You would think he would yearn for the old days.  As far as I can tell, he doesn’t; he seems relatively positive about the future while being critical of that with which he disagrees.

Mr. Schorr has been blessed with both long life and a youthful mind.  Those are tremendous gifts that most of us would covet. What impresses me is that he has taken these gifts and he has used them in an active and admirable working life.  He continues to work and do what he loves.  We can all learn from that.

Porsche: Call 911 for Stress Relief.

July 23, 2006

Sitting in it’s bay in my garage for two weeks, the car defined patience. Tonight, I walked into the garage intending not to drive it, rather to put my trickle charger on the battery instead. With the garage door open, the sunlight glanced off the Targa’s glossy black sheet metal. In the cool, breezy evening air, I swear the car spoke to me. One word: drive.

I fetched my keys and off we went. Immediately I could not believe that I had not driven my car in two weeks. Even driving through my neighborhood at 30 mph, the stress began to leave my body, slowly being exchanged for the seductive pleasure that is driving a 911.

I exited my development picking up speed to 45. I would rarely go faster than 50 mph for the entire drive. Tonight I just wanted to cruise with the windows down and enjoy the unusual July coolness. I headed for the park. I always baby the car. It’s 18 years old, after all. Yet, with only 58,000 miles, it doesn’t know its age. Still, I’ve never had it over 100 mph. While I take it to PCA shows, I don’t do autocross or any of the other driving activities. Even though I’ve had the car for two years, I just want to take care of it.

I cut a sharp corner as I drove to the park. There are winding roads, no cops and few stop signs. Were I still a kid, I’d probably be tempted to open it up. But there are deer, cyclists & pedestrians, though not tonight. I mostly kept it at 50.

The car turns heads. It’s black on black. Very glossy. You can see the world reflected in it’s blackness. I kept the top on tonight, out of laziness. Lately, I’ve been playing 80s music on the Blaupunkt as when I drive. The car, after all, is a child of the 80s. It seems appropriate.

My favorite part of the park drive is a series of turns at the end of a long road. Unfortunately tonight, that part of the road flooded recently and I have to turn around. It’s been an amazingly wet summer with lots of flooding. I turned around and headed for more civilized road. I passed a Starbucks but I didn’t stop. I just don’t need the calories. At the grocery store today, I could not believe at how big people are generally and I have to try hard not to become like that.

Dog walkers seemed to be everywhere tonight. Many other car aficionados also took advantage of the break in the rain. I saw a Honda NSX and what must have been a Ford Cobra kit. You can’t get original Cobras. I’m not talking about the Mustang Cobra, I mean the Cobra, Cobra. There were no other Porsches, though. There is a guy in my development with my same car almost. The only difference that I can tell is that he has stock wheels; mine are BBS.

I had to fly to St. Louis to get mine. I looked at over 400 911s before I found the one I wanted. Two years later, I am still a happy man. Thankfully, I have not had to do much by way of repairs. That’s a good thing. Everything associated with the good cars from Stuttgart cost money. An oil change is $150. Then again, the Targa takes 12 quarts of synthetic oil.

My trip only took 30 minutes, but it’s hard to imagine how I could spend 30 minutes in this life in any better way. Before, I was lying on the couch gruffly thinking about the work I had to do. Now I’m energized, reinvigorated, yet relaxed. Going for a drive with my baby made me feel better. There’s something to this No Substitute thing, I think.

Nintendo DS and my upcoming long flight.

July 21, 2006

In 12 days, I’m going to be on a very long plane ride.  It will be 13 hours or so.  I am going to take work and I’m going to take books but I’m also taking my DS Lite!  Now I already have Tetris, Bomberman & Mario Kart.  I’ve been told to pick up Advance Wars DS, Mario & Luigi:  Partners in Time and several others.  Since the DS plays GBA games, I may also pick up Golden Sun, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga and several others (Thanks Scott!).  Anything I else I should bring to pass the time?

Shameless YouTube Links: Funny Wedding Videos.

July 19, 2006

I was reading someone’s blog or watching a news bit or a commercial or something that talked about wedding videos.  Being the YouTube freak that I am, this engendered a search.  If you’re a fan of America’s Funniest Home Videos (I am not) you’ll enjoy this stuff.  I should apologize in advance for including the Britney Spears wedding footage.  That was just mean.

Upbeat Even When You Don’t Want To Be.

July 18, 2006

Have you ever had a day when you come home and crash on the bed before you’ve even had a chance to change into your house clothes?  (What’s that?  You don’t change into house clothes?  Only Mr. Rogers and I do that?  Well fine then!).  This is the test of being positive.  When black and dark potentialities loom and you are physically exhausted, this is the test of whether you can look inward and say:  “no matter what happens, I will make it through.”  And frankly, this should always be the response.

We “what if” ourselves into oblivion.  We create more stress worrying about something bad than the actual event itself.  Sure, bad things can happen in life: you can get fatal incurable diseases, you can get arrested, you can see loved ones die.  But the worst thing that can happen rarely does.  And when it does there are ways out.  And if there’s no way out, we all have to die sometime.  Why let it bother you?  If it bothers you, you suffer twice: once from the event and again from all the worrying you’ve given yourself.

Believe it or not, this is a positive message.  It may be on par with the last paragraph of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata:

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

But it is still a positive message.  Face your problems with all your strength, don’t collapse under self-created what ifs and you’ll make it through.  The less you let the world bother you, the more you win.  And when you’re tired, get some sleep for God’s sake.

The Stress/Relaxation Continuum.

July 16, 2006

I admit it. I’ve been a leisure glutton this weekend. Now, finally at 3:37 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, reality is knocking on my forehead and I have to get to work. I tell myself if I relax on the weekend by playing Oblivion most of Saturday afternoon, napping and drinking a beer in the hot tub, then I am better off because I am happy. Indeed, I am happy and relaxed. This, in theory, will help me face the horrors of the coming week. If nothing else, I’ve been having a grand old time.

Yet there is a cost to this. I blew off stuff that needed doing. That stuff still needs doing. That stuff will have to be done. In the stress/relaxation continuum, the time you take to relax creates more stress. So you have to do a relaxation dance for short periods of time and then jump back on the deadline treadmill so that you don’t get so far behind that only the end of civilization can save you (of course that would cause its own stress). As long as you aren’t gormandic about your relaxation, this seems to work.

Really, when we get rid of one stress, we only trade it for something else. If we hate our jobs, we quit. This ends the work stress but creates no money stress (and maybe homeless stress or live-with-the-parents stress). If we kill the person who causes us stress, we get jail stress (and unwanted same-sex relationship stress). If we get fed up with politics here and move to France, we get French stress (perhaps the worst kind of all).

So I’m making excuses for my laziness yesterday and my half-heartedness today. But I’m back at it now and all will be better.

Microsoft Rebooted My Computer While I Was Away.

July 13, 2006

Before my trip this week, I wanted to do some work on my computer that required overnight processing.  Before I set everything up, I clicked on install updates because it was flashing.  It did its thing and then told me it needed a restart.  I put it off because it was late at night.  I figured I would restart it the next day.  Normally, it just pesters me until I click ok, but it’s always required my assent to reboot.

The next morning, I came downstairs to find that my project was trashed.  There was a little message on the bottom right of my screen that said that an installation had taken place that required that my computer be rebooted.  In other words, it did it by itself.  I’ve never had that happen before and it really irritated me.

Like most computer users, I want to have 100% control over my computer.  In hindsight, I wished I’d taken the time to reboot the machine, but again, it was late and I wanted to go to bed.  Microsoft seems to be trying exercise more control over the machines that run it’s operating system.  It’s had a lot of scrutiny recently with it’s verification program that frequently calls home.  This is heavy handed.

It’s not going to take much of a heavy hand from Microsoft for me to switch to other operating systems.  I have an iMac and I have a machine running Ubuntu.  I’ll grant you that neither of those operating systems do everything I need them to do right now.  But it’s things like this that gives me the incentive to learn how to make the other operating systems do what I need to do.  I own many copies of Windows, but I’ll migrate away from it if it starts getting in the way of the work I need to do.