the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Cinco de Mojo

Another month has passed since my last check-in, so let's see how I'm doing...

Physical Health

  1. Exercise 3 times weekly

    The daily walk break has become pretty irregular over the past couple of weeks as Chris's work stress level has ratcheted up. We need to add stairs to the walk (or outdoors now that the weather is occasionally decent). But I also need to start doing something independent as well if I'm really going to do this for real.

  2. Weight: 175 pounds

    Stalled around 186, largely due to the poor results above.

  3. Floss daily

    I'm on a winning streak since March; I think I've got this one licked. Vigilance, of course, is key.

  4. Fix my sleep cycle

    I still seem to stay up until I hit the wall (and sometimes even beyond), but where that wall is seems to be in a bit of flux. Disappointed by my lack of change here.

Mental Health: Professional, Nerd, and Hobby Goals

  1. Speak at PyCon -- done!

  2. Catch up on photo uploads

    Slowly making some progress here. The next big obstacle is the backlog of Disney cruise photos.

  3. Restart From Python Import Podcast

    We failed to record in April, so we need to schedule something this month. Need to. Need, need, need to.

  4. Figure out what my job is

    This seems to actually be happening, albeit in a somewhat organic and not always planned way--but that's probably okay since it's working out well enough.

  5. Read Clean Code

    Turns out there was less of this left to finish than I thought there was. Done! I can't recommend it enough--I can already tell that it's one of those "formative experiences" that will shape my approach to programming for the rest of my life. If I had a time machine, I'd send this back to the me of 1995 and save myself a lot of hard lessons.

  6. Read at least one book per month

    I need to double down on The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and then find some lighter/faster reading that I can catch up with. And maybe play Dragon Age a little less.

  7. Blog twice monthly

    Five posts in April. This is a new record for the resurrected blog (discounting the daily posts from last November's Disney cruise). Woot.

  8. Launch at least one personal code project

    Done! Of course, I've racked up at least three other things that I want to start, as well as having a number of features that I want to add to How Old Is My Kid. Frankly, I'm ready for a Thunderbolt port in the back of my head so that I can just dream all these other things into existence without them having to come out of my fingers.

Social

  1. Attend Clepy six times

    Total fail so far--three missed opportunities. I'm totally going next week, though, and I did attend the first of the Cleveland Mobile Monday meetups in April...

  2. Monthly game night

    Total scheduling fail continues. Amid Liz's travel schedule and all the other things going on, this just isn't getting prioritized. Maybe in May...?

  3. Monthly photo walk

    Kind of back on track. Chris and I got in a good [three-mile walk in downtown Cleveland(/2011/04/24/april-photo-walk-downtown-cleveland/) last month. Hopefully we can make something happen in May.

Financial/Capital

  1. Car

    I got 46.2 mpg on my drive home tonight. Loving the TDI. Still, I really dislike having a car payment again.

  2. New camera body

    Keeping my eyes out for any sales as we get close to Memorial Day or Father's Day--I'm thinking about a Canon T2i or T3i, but might be convinced to do something else... I like the 7D but in fairness to my wife (and random strangers who I might have to hand the camera to and say "take our picture, please!") I feel like the automatic/cheater modes are really useful (or at least polite).

  3. Fireplace

    No progress. Probably won't be any until Autumn.

  4. Computers

    Nope, still haven't wiped the old computers. Missed our "Old Computer Round-Up". Sigh.

  5. Mailbox

    The wind and weather over the past couple weeks have pretty much killed the old mailbox. The good news is that a replacement is lined up and will be properly, professionally installed soon--maybe even tomorrow if the weather holds up long enough!

  6. Mattress

    No progress. Sigh.

  7. Budget

    No progress. Probably won't be any until after Liz's exam in June. Sigh.

Doing okay, I suppose, and starting to crack a couple of the long-standing issues like the mailbox, but I'd like to be doing better. Harrumph.

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April is the Cruellest Mojo

It's hard to believe it's already been another month since my last check-in on my plans to take 2011 by storm!

Physical Health

  1. Exercise 3 times weekly

    Chris and I continue the daily walk breaks (more often than not), and we've added a semi-regular third person to the group, which helps motivate me to walk when Chris has to bail. It's April, so I think it's time to add stairs (and then try not to get too lost in the unfamiliar parts of the building).

  2. Weight: 175 pounds

    After ignoring the scale for a month, I hit 186. It's not jaw-droppingly amazing progress, but it's lower than last month, and it's not like I've really upped the exercise or altered my calorie intake, so I'll take any progress as a win. And it means I'm down almost ten pounds since I started trying to turn this around, so that's not terrible either.

  3. Floss daily

    Now that I've got a winning streak going, I'm doing quite well here. The timely visibility seems to once again be doing the trick, and printing up a full-year calendar breezed me through the March/April barrier without a hitch.

  4. Fix my sleep cycle

    Dragon Age 2 has thrown me for a bit of a loop here, but I've actually gone to bed at midnight for the past couple of days, so maybe there's hope.

Mental Health: Professional, Nerd, and Hobby Goals

  1. Speak at PyCon

    Done! I won't mention this again until I either feel a need to reminisce or panic about submitting another talk for next year.

  2. Catch up on photo uploads

    Starting to un-stall again now that PyCon and Mass Effect are behind me; I finally uploaded photos from our awesome day at Cedar Point back in October, so now I'm only five months behind instead of six.

  3. Restart From Python Import Podcast

    We managed to crank out a new episode in March, so we may be settling into a bi-monthly cadence (unless a scheduling miracle occurs in the next week or so).

  4. Figure out what my job is

    Yeah, I'll get back to you on that.

  5. Read Clean Code

    I stalled out here because I've been trying to get some work done during the kiddo's ballet class time. And The Making of The Empire Strikes Back has absorbed my other reading time. I'm so close, though, I must push through!

  6. Read at least one book per month

    Hah. No. Though I'm making serious headway on The Making of The Empire Strikes Back (a gigantic book with hundreds of oversized pages stuffed with minuscule type), so there's hope that I'll finish that at some point.

  7. Blog twice monthly

    Four posts in March, now up to two in April, and I've got two already prepared that I just need to publish (when the time feels right). Doing well here.

  8. Launch at least one personal code project

    Done! I was delighted to be able to introduce How Old Is My Kid? live on stage at the PyCon lightning talks. I'm still trying to process the applause of 1400 people. (I can tell you this--it feels good.)

Social

  1. Attend Clepy six times

    I'm going to use the excuse that since there was no March meeting, I can't feel too bad about not attending in March. Hopefully I'll be able to make it on Monday... (Fingers crossed!)

  2. Monthly game night

    Post-PyCon scheduling has been insane, but I at least got in one really good Rock Band night once Liz got back from France. Her upcoming trip to Hungary will probably put a damper on any further progress in April.

  3. Monthly photo walk

    More scheduling difficulties due to PyCon, travel, illness, life... But we've got something on the calendar for April, so things are looking up here.

Financial/Capital

  1. Car

    Making car payments, like a bawse! On the plus side, I'm getting such good mileage out of the TDI engine that I'm only fueling up about once a month so far.

  2. New camera body

    Yeah, still not happening.

  3. Fireplace

    No progress.

  4. Computers

    Still need to wipe the old computers before the city's "Old Computer Round-Up" comes along.

  5. Mailbox

    Now that the seasons are getting serious about shifting, it's time to get serious about fixing this. Probably won't happen until Liz is back from Hungary.

  6. Mattress

    No progress; recent back troubles may be making this into a more urgent priority though. Sigh.

  7. Budget

    No progress, and fundamentally off the table until Liz's travel and study schedule calms down a bit.

So, a couple of major things checked off the list, progress on most things, and at least a little sense of timeline (or at least of how long I'm going to procrastinate) on the others. All in all, not bad.

How's your 2011 going?

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Get on a Winning Streak

There are things I want to do, that I need to do, that I should do, but that are so very, very easy to postpone. Oh, I'm so tired, I'll just floss tomorrow. Oh, I don't feel like working out today, I'll start up again next week. Before I know it, months have passed and I have to deal with the fallout from my continuing procrastination.

The best way I've found to combat this is to change the rules of the game. I put up a calendar in a place that I'm going to have no choice but to see every day, and every day that I do what I ought to, I put a mark on the calendar. Now the game isn't about "omg floss or die", it's about making the largest unbroken run of marks on the calendar that I can. The longer the streak, the better--and the more pressure there is to not break the streak.

The first time I tried this, I printed out a blank month from Google Calendar and taped it up to the wall by my bathroom sink. It worked great until the end of the month--at which point I started procrastinating about printing the next month's calendar. Oh, it just takes a minute, I'll deal with it tomorrow. So this time, I've made myself a one-page calendar for the whole year, so I have no excuse as March flips over into April--I can just keep on building an epic winning streak.

So here's my advice:

  1. Keep it simple--your criteria for success on any given day should be straightforward and easy to achieve. "I flossed today."
  2. Put it somewhere visible--you should not be able to evade a daily confrontation with how you're doing. After just a few days in a row, this will be something you're excited to see.
  3. Keep a pen or marker nearby and don't let it get out of range--if you don't mark your wins, you won't have the visual reinforcement.
  4. Have lots of extra calendar available--you don't want your streak to die just because it's a new month.

You can download my 2011 one-page calendar and start your winning streak today.

What are you waiting for?

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March Mojo Madness

It's been a little over a month since I publicly declared my intent to accomplish some things in 2011, and I figure I'm slightly overdue for a checkup to see how my mojo's doing.

Physical Health

  1. Exercise 3 times weekly

    Chris and I have established a daily walk break, which we are mostly being good about sticking to, though less so as work pressures and schedules ebb and flow. But we're walking more often than not, so that's a start, and we'll be adding stairs soon. I need to make time for something more strenuous, though--at the very least so I'll have something more to report on Heia Heia.

  2. Weight: 175 pounds

    I'm under 190 again (woohoo!), thanks largely to the daily walks. Now to make sure I keep heading the right direction.

  3. Floss daily

    Not doing as well as I'd like, but I printed up a one-page, full-year calendar that I can mark every day to build and visually reinforce a "winning streak" that I will be innately motivated not to break. It's posted right next to my sink, so I see it at the right times. Where this approach failed me in the past was that I'd printed just a single month and quickly lost the winning streak motivation when I failed to get a replacement month printed and posted; switching to the full year should, I hope, correct this.

  4. Fix my sleep cycle

    Improving, but still not perfect. I'm rarely up until 3 any more, and even the 0200 bedtimes are increasingly infrequent. I'm still going past 1 AM more than I'd like, though.

Mental Health: Professional, Nerd, and Hobby Goals

  1. Speak at PyCon

    I'm in the process of fine-tuning my talk now, and in less than a week this goal will be behind me (woot!). I won't lie to you, Marge, I'm still going to be pretty stressed about it for the next couple of days.

  2. Catch up on photo uploads

    Stalled out due to work schedule, conference schedule, personal life, and PyCon prep. And Mass Effect. Meh.

  3. Restart From Python Import Podcast

    We recorded and released a new episode in January! Unfortunately due to scheduling and technical difficulties, our February session failed to happen, and we probably won't be recording until after PyCon. I hope, though, that this will give us a chance to compare and contrast our PyCon and CodeMash experiences. From there we can hopefully settle into either a bi-monthly or monthly cadence that has some predictability to it.

  4. Figure out what my job is

    Working on it a little bit. In my "copious spare time".

  5. Read Clean Code

    It's been living in my daughter's ballet bag so that I can read a chapter or two every week. I'm into the "Code Smells and Heuristics" chapter, so I feel good overall here.

  6. Read at least one book per month

    Between Clean Code and The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, I'm doing pretty good at making progress on books and modeling reading behaviors for my daughter, but I'm not doing so great on finishing things. Hopefully when I'm spending less of my evenings refactoring wiki documentation or tinkering on slides in Keynote I will have the mental energy to do better at this.

  7. Blog twice monthly

    Thrice in January, twice in February, and here's 50% of my self-imposed obligation for March. Check!

  8. Launch at least one personal code project

    I've got my smaller project in pretty good, nearly launchable state. My plan is to do some final spiffing up and then use the PyCon lightning talks to formally announce it to the world. Exciting!

    Chris and I continue to have high-level discussion about the larger project, which now has a private repository on Github, as well as a manifesto to describe its goals.

Social

  1. Attend Clepy six times

    Scheduling continues to be a problem. I'm naught for two here.

  2. Monthly game night

    Have done a little bit of Rock Band but no non-videogame night yet. Admittedly I've been holding off until after PyCon so that I could attempt to focus on that.

  3. Monthly photo walk

    Scheduling difficulties prevented this from working out in February; hopefully I can get something on the calendar for post-PyCon.

Financial/Capital

  1. Car

    I suddenly found myself in the market for a new car in late January, when on a routine inspection, we discovered that my Jetta had three bent tires, a bent tie rod, and various other multi-hundred-dollar issues. All told, it would have basically been a respectable down payment worth of fixes. So, I traded it in and got a 2011 Golf TDI. It's a little tricky to find stations with diesel fuel, but I'm loving the mileage--I'm routinely getting close to 40 mpg in the city, and my best commute averaged just over 44 mpg.

    As a result, though, a lot of my other goals here have been derailed.

  2. New camera body

    Yeah, just bought a car. Not happening for a few months at least.

  3. Fireplace

    No progress.

  4. Computers

    Replaced Liz's laptop with a shiny new iMac about a week before all the car stuff hit. When it rains, it pours... I still need to wipe the old computers.

  5. Mailbox

    Really looking bad now, thanks to all the great winter weather (and consequent plowing) we've had this year. No progress yet, other than a profound sense that we have to do something once spring comes.

  6. Mattress

    No progress.

  7. Budget

    No progress. Going to need to now that I've added a car payment to the mix. After PyCon (yeah, that's the ticket).

I'm not completely satisfied with myself, but I'm encouraged to see some progress on a lot of fronts. In light of my work and conference schedule and my wife's MW travel schedule, I'm pretty happy that anything is happening at all. I think the public retrospective has been helpful too, so I plan to keep this up for a while and see how things go.

Now the question is, how's your mojo doing?

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Storming the Bastille of My Life

The only New Year's resolution I was ever any good at keeping was when I resolved to drink more sparkling wine, and let me tell you, that was a pretty great year as a result. (Feeling down? Bubbles will lift you up! Things are going well? Perfect--celebrate!) Thus do I excuse my belated blogging by vague hand-waving and mumbling that it's all part of the plan. I'm not making resolutions, damn it, I'm laying out a plan. (Yes, Blackadder fans, it's a cunning plan. Now shush.)

I found Chris Miller's call to arms particularly inspirational, and I've read more than once that the only way to really commit to a goal is to be public about it, to strike a bargain between support and accountability.

So, here's what I want out of 2011. Prepare, possibly, for TMI, but mostly the honesty that I think I have to employ if I'm going to make changes.

Physical Health

  1. Exercise 3 times weekly

    I am ridiculously terrible at this, and it shows--in my posture, in my physical stamina, in my aches and pains, in my energy level. I'll go six months or more between any kind of serious exertion, and that's just not sustainable. I want to be an embarassing pain to my daughter for many, many years to come! I've started taking daily walk breaks at work, but I'd like to do more. (Cheer/yell at me on Heia Heia...)

  2. Weight: 175 pounds (lose 15-20, depending on the week)

    Closely related to item 1. I'm closer to 200 than I should be without having an athletic build, and while the trajectory is gradual, it's still not in the right direction. It's time to change course while I can.

  3. Floss daily

    I go through phases of being awesome at this, and phases of totally failing. I'd like to stabilize that into solid win territory.

  4. Fix my sleep cycle

    After a trip to Colorado last summer, my bedtime never shifted back from Mountain to Eastern time. I've come to think of anything more than 5 hours of sleep as a luxury, and that's probably not good. Given that I'm up late blogging instead of sleeping, it's safe to say that I've got a lot of room for progress here.

Mental Health: Professional, Nerd, and Hobby Goals

  1. Speak at PyCon

    Step 1 is accomplished--my talk proposal was accepted. Now I need to deliver by putting together the ass-kicking talk that I want to give. Hopefully the fear of epic public failure will whip my perfectionist ass into shape on this front shortly.

  2. Catch up/stay current on photo uploads

    I'm months behind, but slowly clawing my way back. The dam appears to be breaking, though more slowly than I'd like.

  3. Restart From Python Import Podcast

    After a six-month hiatus, I finally bullied everyone enough to actually record an episode, so early progress is looking good. And we've got a February recording date on the calendar, so fingers are crossed that we can build a sustainable cadence here.

  4. Figure out what my job is

    It's been almost four years since I got laterally shifted into a "wandering samurai"/"ninja strike team leader" solo role, with lots of autonomy, no direct reports, and little more direction beyond "do bigger, harder projects". Now that I've gotten a title promotion to match, it's really important to me to figure out exactly what my job is supposed to be.

  5. Read Clean Code

    Seriously, I'm giving a PyCon talk about how not to make pretty code; I'm going to feel like the biggest fucking hypocrite if I haven't got through Clean Code by then.

  6. Read at least one book per month

    I used to devour books at frightening speeds, but ever since the kiddo came along, my reading has taken a sharp dive; lately it's been almost completely replaced by comics and graphic novels, which were easy to get into because I could fit them comfortably into her nap times. Now that she's three, I want to set a better example for her and model good reading behaviors--not to mention I miss the mental stimulation of longer reads.

  7. Blog twice monthly

    Now that I've switched over to Blogofile, I seem to be doing all right on this front. Time, of course, will tell, but I can definitely say that it's nice to have a non-microblogging outlet and form larger thoughts again.

  8. Launch at least one personal code project

    I have a couple of things that have been on the back burner for so long that it's getting embarrassing. I floated a couple of them by Chris, and it looks like he may be interested in helping me with the larger one, so there's hope for some external motivation here.

Social

  1. Attend Clepy six times

    I still hate that it's on Monday nights, which never, ever, ever seem to be any good for me. But I need to get out of the office and be part of the Python community here, damn it. A 50% attendance rate seems like a good place to start.

  2. Monthly game night

    We did a non-video-game game night a month so ago, and everyone had a ton of fun. I'd like to make this a regular thing. Don't get me wrong--Rock Band is still my one true love!--but it's nice to be face-to-face around a table.

  3. Monthly photo walk

    This is off to a good start, and February's walk is scheduled. I have high hopes here. I rarely have the motivation to go shooting by myself, and when I do, I don't learn nearly as much or have as much fun as I do when I'm with friends.

Financial/Capital

  1. New camera body

    New toys are good. After four years of solid use on my Digital Rebel XT, I think it's time to move up a little bit.

  2. Fireplace

    Liz and I have been talking about replacing the fireplace doors (which no longer fully latch closed) for years. Time to bite the bullet and do it.

  3. Computers

    Liz's laptop is four, going on five, has come to the end of life on another battery, and is so full of data that she has to delete things to do software updates. It's time to end-of-life it and our early-2002 G4 iMac and replace them with something that will hold for another three or four years.

  4. Mailbox

    Our mailbox--a cheap plastic thing from Home Depot--is in really sad shape, sorely bent by years of snow plowing. We're gaining the upper hand on most of our yard, so having a box that's so far askew is really setting off my entropy alarms. I want to figure out a more solid solution that won't take quite as much of a beating every winter.

  5. Mattress

    Our mattress was awesome in 2000, but it sucks now, and is probably the source of or a contributing factor to our perceived poor-quality sleep.

  6. Budget

    Ha! Hahaha! Yeah. Right. Like that's going to happen. I've been flirting with this for years, but it never fully materializes. I think this may be the main thing separating me from feeling like a fully-fledged adult. So that probably means it needs attention.

Sometimes I look at that list and it seems overwhelming. Other times--like now--I think to myself that it's all pretty doable. After all, it's not like I've got anything silly like "world peace" on there (and a good thing too, or else what would I do in 2012?).

And I think if you can help to hold me accountable, I just might do it.

Aux armes citoyens!

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Validate (or Exterminate) My PyCon Talk

Let me tell you a secret: I'm terrified that my PyCon talk proposal hasn't been rejected yet.

It's not the idea of public speaking--I've spoken twice before at PyCon (more if you count lightning talks and the testing BoF), as well as presenting fairly regularly for our local user group and actually quite often on the job. Sure, I get butterflies before I go on, but I've gotten so used to them that if we aren't friends by now, we're at least colleagues.

I think what I'm most worried about is having the time and focus to put the talk together at all. Or at least in a way that doesn't suck. Between now and PyCon, I'll be juggling work, attending CodeMash, family, helping run our annual Hack Day event, work, my wife's travel schedule, work, trying to revive From Python Import Podcast, and more work... And I'm trying to fix my goofy sleep schedule. And I need to get back on an exercise plan. And I really only proposed the talk at all because of Jesse Noller's tweeted laments about the low numbers of talk submissions (and now there are too many). And probably a million other excuses...

I want to make sure I can do justice to the idea--an exhibition of sinfully bad code (my own, as well as any volunteered samples) to serve as a negative example. But if I'm not careful it could turn into 45 minutes of saying "Go read Clean Code". And I'd be a hypocrite if it did, since I'm only halfway through the book myself. I want this talk to be valuable.

And I really don't want to take away someone else's opportunity to shine. I'd rather have someone give their first PyCon talk than have a third turn myself. I'd rather go to someone else's kick-ass presentation than waste my audience's time.

So, if there's anybody out there, talk me down from the ledge. Convince me to either hit this out of the park or gracefully bow out and let somebody else have a shot.

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1000 Days of Claire

It's almost impossible for me to believe, but Claire's now one thousand days old.

In that time, she's transformed our lives in countless ways, amazed us at every turn, and given me a whole new perspective on the world. It's been simply astounding to watch her develop into her own beautiful little person, by turns loving, funny, and fierce.

When she first arrived and became our focus, the most important rule we had was that any day that ends with all of us still alive was a victory.

So here's to a thousand consecutive victories... and hopefully many, many more to come.

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On My Way to a Better Mii

Back in the summer of 2007, I was doing an okay job of getting back into a decent exercise habit, motivated largely by the impending arrival of our first child--knowing that once she arrived, I was going to have to massively reprioritize my time. Between the day-to-day parenting existence and my wildly see-sawing work schedule, I pretty much haven't worked out at all in almost two years. The effects are written all over my body, and to my chagrin I have to confront them every day. I could really stand to lose 20 (okay, fine, 25) pounds, if only I could figure out how to get off my lazy ass and get moving.

I thought I might break out of my "need to work out/don't want to work out" spiral with the arrival of Wii Fit in our house. Hooray, I thought, this will give us a fun way to get some physical activity throughout the long, dark Cleveland winter! While that was a nice idea, it quickly fizzled out (for reasons I'll rant about in a moment), and the Fit board mostly gathered dust.

What might actually do the trick for me is the new EA Sports Active, which I bought for Liz as a belated Mother's Day present once I realized that enough hints had been dropped about it. After watching her go through her first workout with it, I figured I would give it a try; I'm now three workouts in and am overall much more optimistic about it than I ever was about Wii Fit.

Wii Fit, Wii Fit... Where to begin? It had such noble intentions, but was a dismal failure in our house. Maybe it was the vast array of tedious mini-games that I got worse at the more I tried them (oh boy, I get to pick between so many things I hate to do!). Maybe it's the mini-game structure, where minor slip-ups terminate the game and cut short your physical activity. Maybe it was the physical discomfort of many of the "exercise" mini-games; really, I am a lot happier doing push-ups when my hands aren't pressed into the pointy, textured surface of the Fit board. Maybe it's the unhealthy obsession with BMI, which is surely not a one-size-fits-all metric of health.

More than anything else, though, I think it's Wii Fit's attitude, its saccharine-coated condescension. After inviting you to step on, it emits a gasp of shock and dismay, a cutesy little "oh!" that is silently followed by "my gosh you're uncomfortably heavy." If you play in the evening it'll scold you about your sleep habits. If you don't play for a while, it mockingly chides you for your inattention--or worse, asks other, more regular players if you're still there. And if you do try to get back into the habit after a period of being away, Wii Fit will ask with sneering faux-innocence if maybe you shouldn't "set a goal that's easier to achieve." Fuck you, Wii Fit, I don't need that shit.

EA Sports Active, by stark contrast, is all about blowing sunshine up your ass. It's hard to go more than five seconds without it spouting compliments like "you're showing me great dedication today," "you're grace in motion," and "work it!" I'm trying the 30-day challenge, in which the game crafts workouts of escalating intensity and challenge for me, and during each workout there's already a fixed set of exercises you'll be doing, so there's no wasting time figuring out which mini-game to do next--your virtual trainer is going to give you what it's going to give you, and you'd better learn to like it. (This may also be why the iTunes Genius feature is so appealing to me--I have too many choices in life, so it's nice for something else to make the trivial ones for me.) It's smart about working different parts of your body, so you'll come away from each workout feeling like you've done something. The leg strap for the nunchuck, though not perfect, is a welcome relief from having to just "put the controllers in your pockets" as Wii Fit suggests for many of its exercises. I really like that you can work out with a buddy--an impossibility with Wii Fit. And in the trophy system, EA's done a great job mimicking the Xbox 360's achievements; they're strangely motivating in a way that getting high scores or star ratings on Wii Fit never was.

But EA Sports Active isn't without frustration. The resistance band that comes with the game doesn't offer nearly enough tension for an effective workout, and using a real resistance band (ours have their own rubber handles to grip) means that you'll have a hard time holding on to it and the Wii controllers at the same time. And that effusive praise is quickly replaced with polite but annoying reminders to "slow down and watch how I do it" or concerns that "you don't seem to be doing it right" whenever one of the controllers isn't held exactly right. Tonight it stopped me in mid-curl for two minutes while it lost track of the controllers and kept insisting that I needed to hold the nunchuck perfectly still. Timing in general seems to be a problem--it won't recognize a move until the trainer avatar starts to do it, and then your personal onscreen avatar lags noticeably behind your own motions, never quite exactly matching up with what you're doing. It's like watching yourself on tape delay. These minor timing problems add up too, as the start of your next rep is delayed by your onscreen persona's laggy completion (plus some fudge factor while the game decides if you've actually completed the rep correctly); I got pretty steamed at my virtual trainer when she scolded me for not keeping the correct rhythm, when the game itself was altering that rhythm by taking too long to realize I'd finished a rep. I think most of the blame can be laid on the Wii hardware itself, which for me has always had some severe weakness when it comes to figuring out the controller position and orientation; I think EA Sports Active pushes the envelope a little too far and exposes how imperfect the Wii controls really are. If Microsoft is able to really deliver on the promise of the (admittedly horribly-named, OMG what were they thinking?!) Project Natal, they'll be poised to annihilate the Wii in this space. (Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can tolerate that pesky nunchuck cord.)

With only three workouts down, I've got quite a ways to go before I know if this will really get me over my motivation problems and help shrink my "computer science tummy," but so far I'm a lot more optimistic about EA Sports Active than I ever was with Wii Fit. Given my similar lack of blogging motivation over the past 24 months or so, it's probably a good sign that it's prompted over a thousand words here. If only typing burned more calories...

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Last Post

...of 2008. (Not that I'm really blogging that much these days.)

Everyone else seems to be doing these big end-of-year posts, summarizing their years, their learning, achievements, setbacks, joys, and sorrows. I'm not sure when it happened, but I've largely lost the patience to go on and on about my life (I guess Twitter kind of takes care of that for me any more), so I'll keep this short (if not sweet).

2008 was a year. We had a miserable few months of illness and sleeplessness, followed by a good long stretch of absolute, utter joy with our daughter, Claire. I read less than I like to, but greatly enjoyed what I did. I wrote far less code for myself than I like to, but I was able to instigate a quantum leap in the level of Javascript written at work, as well as contributing a number of fixes back to the Dojo framework. I played an awful, awful lot of Rock Band. I enjoyed PyCon and Velocity, in spite of their flaws, and I wish that work and family allowed me more time to contribute to the community. I continued to grow as a photographer, though I was frustrated by several months of inaction and lack of inspiration from which I'm still trying to play catch-up. And in these rocky economic times, I'm happy to remain in my position at American Greetings.

I'm overwhelmingly proud of my wife's accomplishments, both academic and parental. I'm ridiculously happy to be my daughter's father--the role of Daddy suits me just fine; she amazes me daily and has truly transformed my emotional well-being.

I am immensely grateful for my friends, for my family, and my good fortune. I hope for a better, more peaceful future in 2009, that we may all heal the hurts of these mad days and enjoy the fruits of the life we're given.

To all who may read this, here's a quick little toast to the passing of the old year and the dawning of the new. Cheers!

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2**8 Days Later

It's hard to believe that Claire is now 256 days old, or just over 0.701 years! It has an oddly familiar way of feeling simultaneously like both an eternity and an eyeblink. We're getting more sleep than in the zombie days of October and January/February, which is a definite plus, although we seem to have just hit one of the "magic" weeks where all the kid wants to do is be fussy. In spite of her stormy disposition this week, she continues to astound and amaze us every day. Just 109 days until cake and candles!

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