Category Archives: Blog Post

Update on Lina the Mazda3, and reflections on What I Learn About Myself via Lina the Mazda3

In the beginning weeks of November… Lina the Mazda3 had two $500 problems that cropped up on Wednesdays.  The first problem was a sort of “Oh, well, she’s an old car”… but the second $500 problem was found to have caused the first and set me off into a small histrionic fit that had me hovering my hand over the big red button that said “TRADE IN”.

I did not trade her in, and two more Wednesday’s have gone by and the Check Engine Light has stayed off.  Also, I seem to be getting slightly better mileage and aside from a few “Some contents have shifted” cold weather rattles, Lina is pooting along as lovely as before.

I realize that had I rushed and traded in Lina it would have been a silly decision. Lina is paid off and still drives well and looks good (she is still getting the “wait… THAT’S A 2004!?” compliments.)  So she doesn’t flag under the “Doesn’t feel safe” or “Looks so old it makes you sad” criteria given to me by my parents.  She also only has one weird issue (“Oh, sometimes the A/C wigs out and turns itself off.  Just turn the fan off and back on and it’ll work again”) so she doesn’t meet the “If you can’t hand the keys over without a lecture or a pamphlet” criteria of my friends (Who I think got it from Car Talk).  Also, the cost of a cheap-ass new car or semi-nice used car would start at around $200 a month.  So financially, since Lina is safe and looks nice and they keys only come with one footnote… she has an unplanned maintenance allowance of $2400 a year.

So, going into my 3-ring binder of service history (Of course I have a 3 ring binder with receipts/service reports from every time maintenance was done.  Why don’t you?)  This year she had a coolant/transmission flush and a new engine mount in June for about $380 extra, new spark plugs in September for about $60 extra, The new fuel system check pump for $518, and the new magic plastic fuel tank disc for $512 in November.  So assuming Lina can hold it together and not have any issues that cost more than $930 to fix between now and Jan 1… it’s cheaper to keep ‘er.  And to be honest, the tune-up stuff (coolant/transmission/spark-plugs) shouldn’t really count.

Granted, it sucks to get suddenly have to pay a $1000 larger-than usual credit card bill… But really, I’ve gotten so on top of my financial game with YNAB that it wasn’t threatening “The Big financial responsibilities (in order of importance:  Taxes, mortgage, insurance, student-loan-and-car-payoff, retirement, groceries, drag-queens, restaurants)  it just meant I had to empty some of my smaller savings buckets (“new fan/chandelier for living room.” “Big, Shiny UPS that can actually tell all my computers to gracefully shut down in the case of a power outage”,  “New computer of some sort in two years or so.” “Fund to take down humongous pine trees sometime in the future”) and leave an IOU in them for the next 3 paycheck month (In January).

As an aside, I noticed a bunch of people sassing Eric for essentially doing what I’ve asked him to do very early-on in our relationship, which is help me on willpower saving throws against the shiny.

[A]s writer Charles Stross would put it, the ability to make a saving throw against the shiny; i.e., internalizing the idea that you don’t need every new thing just because it’s nice and pretty and can do one thing that thing you have like it can’t do. This is a tough one for me, I admit. I do so love the shiny, and sometimes I give in when I shouldn’t (as long as I have the money for it). But most of the time, I buy well, and buy to last — and then use it until it begs me to let it die. And then I use it for a year after that! Grandpa would be proud.  – Scalzi, whatever blog

I have a low genetic and imbued resistance to the shiny.  I grew up upper middle class and have a birthday right-opposite from Christmas.  Thus I grew up with the notion that I could get Whatever I Want about Twice A Year and would scan television trying to figure out what the best candidate for what that semi-annual shiny thing would be.  I’m also very smart and have amazing rationalization powers.  Luckily growing up I also had My Brother… who basically played bad-cop and warned me away from the dangers of bad-money-management right around the time I was getting to drive:

“Okay, we have Internet.  Get on the computer and research how much it is to Insure a 16-year-old male in North Carolina with a brand new car like that Dodge Neon you want.  Oh look!  It’s $300 a month!  That’s the same payment as the neon itself.  It’s like they’re expecting you to immediately run it into something! Now, look at how much it is to insure a 1988 Camry like the one mom is planning to give you… Oh look, $180 a month… way more reasonable… and if you keep it going… you can save up and get whatever car you want at a better rate”

He also warned me about credit cards.  And told me I would despite his warnings run up a huge bill and have to deal with it right after college, and he was completely right.  He is also the one who bought me YNAB for my birthday a few years ago.

Eric is my new bad cop.  He agreed to fight with me and shoot each of my rationalizations in the kneecaps and make me sleep on things to consider my want vs need of a thing.   I have been able to talk him into stuff (Miata, Wood Flooring, Cairo) but it took about a month per $3000 of discussion (two months per $4000 if it wasn’t something he really wanted as well).  Hence we’re always bickering about things I want and whether I really need them or whether it’s just another flight of fancy with whatever shiny thing that caught my fancy.  And we both sort of enjoy the bickering more than we let on.  And the bickering is directly proportional to how fascinated/mesmerized/immediate my fascination is.

So yeah, it wasn’t Lina’s time… and Eric was monumental in talking me away from the Candy-Apple-Red Trade-In button… and the fact that neither of us died wrongful deaths during that process is no small testament to our esteem for each other.

Socially Speaking…

So, Facebook did something sort of silly around the beginning of September.  No, not the usual “Giving a bit too much of your info to people who would use it to try and sell you stuff” gaffe (they’ll continue to do that anyways, they are a public company now and every decision they make has to justify growth and profit to a bunch of shareholders who can be easily stereotyped as that rich great uncle nobody likes who tries to manipulate the family by rewriting the will every other week.)

No, they started going after people making fake profiles.  Worse, they started using really good algorithms to determine which profiles were fake and ended up nailing a good chunk of them rapidly over the span of a couple of weeks.

Now, as a programmer and a fan of social networks… I completely understand why Facebook did this.  They get two very important wins:  Real Profiles don’t grief other people (and if they are dumb enough to do so, they can be censored/censured much easier) and Real Profiles generate much more accurate marketing data (which is very important to that *ist rich uncle stockowner hoping to see Facebook stock value increase).

Unfortunately, they are alienating a subset of people who live mostly by their alias, the ones spoken-of the most are those who legitimately need to maintain a high degree of anonymity (seeking refuge from icky guardians, awful bosses, crazy exes and what-not) and persons undergoing transitions of gender or other aspects of their identity. The ones I HEAR from the most are a gaggle of drag queens whose names got caught in the really good fake-name finding algorithms.  Facebook pretty much whacked the hornets nest.

I am disappointed in Facebook and it’s programmers/planners for being so lazy.  Their answer to the fact that several folks legitimately want to have fake names or be sort-of-anonymous was to freak out and threaten drag queens with a banhammer while trying to force them to publicize themselves through pages (which are what you hand to a publicist so they can badger everyone who ever bothered to like you, and not at all intuitive).

Trying to force people into a model never works.  The prudent programmer allows flexibility in their data models to reflect and fit what people want to do while minimizing the ways people can accidentally or intentionally hurt each other.  I feel that when the dust settles from all this fracas Facebook is going to do what it should have done and allow not-a-real-name profiles where you check a little box saying “this is a pseudonym” and pops up a wizard that helps you set your permissions accordingly (“Are you trying to remain anonymous?  Are there folks you want to pre-block?  Would you like some tips in subtle aggrandization of your shows or dress-making business for $5.99?”).

Meanwhile, I am also sort of annoyed at all the drag queens.  I sympathize with the drag queens who spent years working on their profiles and loading them up with pictures and events and generally filling up the ‘book with all sorts of disruptive innovation.  But if using Facebook outside it’s terms of service was a cornerstone of your publicity empire than maybe that empire needed a disruptive innovation of its own.

I also sympathize with the anonymous folks the drag queens claim to speak for… But all the calls for boycotts and the repeated posting of their username on Ello… ugh Seriously?  Ello?  It’s the underwhelming love child of Twitter and LiveJournal.  It’s buggy and invite-only; you can’t run events or message people; it has no mobile presence;  and you can’t block people or deny friendships.  And you’re recommending this over facebook for all those near-oppressed souls who are trying to get away from evil parents, nosy bosses, and scary exes!?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just say “name yourself John/Jane Smith”?

Dietetics

Fatty is on a diet.

What I mean by “fatty” is:  “Hrm.  I seem to keep pinging 250 lbs… and while it’s nice that my semi-regular gym visits make me look feel like I am only 220 lbs… I should probably start trying to eat better and make those gym visits a bit more regular.”  What I mean by diet is: “instead of going out to eat for two meals a day, or having an entire frozen pizza for dinner, or having corn dogs for breakfast, or having a half pound of random taffy-esque office-candy for lunch, or [insert nutritionally suspect decision here]… I should focus on assembling things from ingredients that don’t come pre-mixed with preservatives and half-an-ocean’s worth of salt and corn syrup.”  I am going to focus on having a piece of fruit and a box of frozen veggies handy for grazing when I feel a bit peckish but don’t want to yet assemble some English Muffin Mini Pizza or make dinner for Eric and I to share.  Finally I’m starting to track what I’m eating for a few weeks to spot check whether certain things are way higher/lower in calories than I suspected… and which foods my body reacts-to as ‘hollow’.  Again.

The push today is because yesterday was particularly bad for my ego: I accidentally wore a shirt that was too tight around the middle on a day that was too warm for a jacket.  Thus I spent the entire day sucking in my gut and generally trying to not inflict my stretching-at-the-button sausage casing on coworkers and the dentist (who I am rather sure don’t give a shit) .  The day was spent eating better and drinking naught but water and going on a 5K treadmill run.  By 8:30 I was exhausted and had to skip out on a Ru Paul Viewing party, and this morning I was sore in the ribs from spending all day asking my diaphragm and abdominal muscles to haul all those pesky organs up into the rib cage.

I don’t wish for my glory days of being near 160 lbs… where I discovered DDR the same time I switched to diet coke and had a late 2 inch growth spurt… and everyone was a bit worried that I had an eating disorder. Instead I’m wishing for my glory days of being near 200 lbs, which at least had me on the top end of “normal” as opposed to pinging against “obese” using the CDC’s increasingly beleaguered BMI index.  Thus, I’m going to do the tracking and the better planning but avoid the “NO YOU CAN’T EAT THAT IT IS DEMON FOOD YOU FAT FAT FATTY FAT FAT” internal dialogue which seems counterproductive.  Especially since people (whether imaginary or real) screaming at me that I can’t do something sets off the precocious inner child who proudly dances around and goes “Just watch me, asshole”.

As I think more and more about diet in general (in terms of ‘eating better’ and not ‘panicky weight loss through fear’)… I notice this trend that there seems to be 400,000 articles out there that seem to say some combination of “I found this thing that worked for me… for as long as I could stand it before I fell off the wagon and went back to un-obsessive eating”  and only 200 of the articles seemed to end with “and it stayed off” and 150 of those were folks who still bike to work every day or are Los Angelino Personal Fitness Gurus.  The other 399,800 articles bemoan an inability to find things that were not low-grade psychological and physical torture and how much it sucks that weight watching in general creates a stress feedback loop designed to fight any mass change.

Cut to me listening to an episode of the Sawbones podcast discussing homeopathy and a prior article about how homeopathy works (and doesn’t)… and I get a little brainstorm to follow-up upon:  Homeopathy should totally be dedicated to diet and exercise.  Cue my rudimentary understanding of Homeopathy:

  • Homeopathic medical technician (HMT) interviews the crap out of you to see what you eat, how it makes you feel, what you do, gets medical history, history of ailments.  Way longer and deeper than general medical practitioners would… (this is basically therapy and generally tends to make people feel better just because they get an ally in understanding whatever is chronically bothering them)
  • HMT looks at an index of things that cause those symptoms given family history and medical studies to make diagnosis of condition(s).  (rather solid here)
  • HMT takes thing that causes those symptoms (willow-bark, arsenic, some other poison) and rather than giving you those poisons, puts that poison in water and dilutes that water 10,000 times so that the “aura” of the poison is in the water and has curative powers (that’s where it gets a bit hokey).

Now… a bacterial infection or cancer is probably still best handled ‘allopathically’ (IE, antibiotics, surgery, and chemotherapy to fight the things that ail you, as opposed water with the aura of something that is like a bacterial infection or your cancer symptoms)… but since diets always seem to fail unless they are painstakingly maintained… I feel like sitting down with someone who can get down to the basics of any food based issues you may have (“You tend to deal with anxiety by living in a house made of candy and not facing your feelings”, “oats make your stomach send acid envoys to your throat to burn out your esophagus”,  “Red Meat turns you into a gas furnace”,  “shrimp makes your gout flare up”, “citrus makes you swell up and die”, “tofu has you chasing the diarrhea dragon”)  and frankly, saying “cake poisons you and gives you massive heartburn, drink this cake-water instead, especially whenever you feel a bit nervous” seems like a good way to handle it.

I’ll get back to you later to see if the strawberry laffy-taffy water, nerd water, or tootsie-roll water helped.  Also, I feel like this is already an industry and has words like “toxin” and “chelating” attached to it a bunch.

Buttoning up the cars for winter.

Yesterday was a bit of a full day…

  • walked dog
  • Took Amelia the Miata for an oil change, found she was due for a new air filter, manual transmission service, and diff service
  • ordered some chrismtas presents for friends
  • Got Mom Birthday/Christmas presents
  • Got new shoes as my old ones had a hole in the sole
  • Poured a half bottle of stabil into the tank of amelia, filled her as full of gas as I could, and then parked her in the garage.
  • Hooked Amelia’s battery to a float charger, plugged float charger into the wall
  • Decided to do the same button-up to Gerta the Merkur
  • Found that the cable for the hood release had snapped at the handle, triggered hood release using pliars.
  • Found that critters had eaten through a radiator hose
  • Detached radiator hose of Gerta, drained coolant
  • Drove to get new radiator hose, new coolant, and second fan belt.
  • Installed new radiator hose, filled with new coolant
  • Went to nearby gas station, put second half of bottle into tank, realized I misplaced my wallet
  • drove home, searched for wallet, could not find, called advance auto parts, tried to call gas station
  • drove back to gas station, found wallet in gas station trashcan, made other people pumping gas feel a bit weirded out when I told them how lucky I felt
  • filled merkur, drove home, attached float chargers
  • drove to friends place, helped friend sort through stacks and stacks of old stuff
  • drove home feeling really tired and achey and sniffly
  • walked dog
  • rubbed cayenne pepper on the Merkur’s heater hose (hopefully so critters don’t gnaw through it again), covered the hood vent with plastic wrap, covered the Merkur.

Today I slept in, bought some snacks-for and later went-to a lovely D&D game taking Cairo along, watched Requiem for a Dream (because my cold has me taking day-quil/ny-quil and what better time to watch that movie for the first time when you are sort of loopy on cold medicine).  Love me some jump cuts to string music.

Hope you all had a good weekend, or that your weekend is still on because of Veteran’s day.

Drag Queens and Drinkin’

Awesome things about yesterday:

  • A little “Hey, we should play DDR sometime” discussion morphed fully into a DDR event… one that shifted times and day about 4 times until it was right up against Dragnificent… but one where most everyone invited showed up… and one where I still managed to lose 5 lbs despite samosa and cheeseburger and fries. There will be more DDR Events. Let me know if you are interested.
  • Work has maintained it’s awesomeness… There’s just something magical about being handed a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet to play-with and attending staff meetings where folks talk about interactions with brilliant/powerful figures in computing and public health worlds without sounding name-droppey.
  • Dragnificent was wonderful despite name-dropping. It was worth staying out late on a school night (although if I seem reticent today, it’s because the lack of sleep means I have had to place my medium duty “DO NOT RESPOND WITH YOUR FIRST IMPULSE BECAUSE IT WILL BE OVERLY DEFENSIVE AND BITCHY AND NOT IN A FUN WAY” filter).   I also am still tickled that I have a ‘Drag Queens and Drinkin’ category for You Need A Budget.
  • I seemed to show up just at the right time for all the events in a very packed day, all while maintaining patience in traffic. Punctual Peter is Happy Peter.

Also, I am living for You Need A Budget, previously recommended by my friend Kim, and then re-recommended by my Brother, who bought it for me as a gift through steam.  Steam now shows off to the world how much time I spend tweaking numbers.  I am also living for Drag Queen terminology like “I am living for…” because it gives me life.

More Rotations

So, when we last left off I was gearing up for some downtime while I waited for the New Project that was going to be like a basket of kittens and muffins.  In the meantime, two people from the CDC I used to work with that I really enjoyed working-with and only stopped working-with because of politics way out of my control… apparently were in a position to hire someone-like-me and asked specifically-for-me.  I was asked to re-take a job that can be summed-up-as “research this cool thing, and write a blog post on whether it is, in fact, cool… and if so, curate it into a non-heuristic demo that will be presented at conferences and likely consumed by various universities and public-health-think tanks.”  The last time I was in this position I had a cool mash up that polled live data from Poison Control and coordinated it with Geodata to display a heatmap using google map widgets.  It got me co-authored in a paper and I got to present at a conference and display the demonstration to the head of the CDC at the time.

Thus, the basket of kittens and muffins from the universe was upgraded to a trailer full of unicorns and cake, and the several credit-card based checks from the bank of trouble were cashed in for a mortgage.  Being a good tauntalist (a religion based on the idea that there is a God, and she is essentially good but really likes messing with people that tend to freak out… which could be simplified as karma… as I cannot go a week without tickling those that hate being tickled and hugging those who don’t like to be hugged) I prepared for Some Crazy to come my way:  I was sure that while I was hitching up the trailer full of unicorns and cake to the Mazda, a tornado was picking up a dumptruck full of used anvils to make my drive to the unicorn stables and cake convention a bit less smooth.

The big one, of course, is the shutdown.  The whole thing happened right as everything was ramping-up and I was figuring out what new tech I should play-with.  I also feel awful for the awesome new folks I am looking forward to working-with because they aren’t getting paid as the shenanigans go on.  I’ll spare lots of political invective and simply say that I hope everything wraps up soon and will hope for bipartisan efforts to prevent such things from happening in the future.

In the meantime, I’m keeping a stiff upper lip.  I have some other things I can be doing, and I am still getting paid because I am insulated by my contracting company who is pretty much telling me to be back at the office within an hour of a budget breakthrough.  It’ll be great to see everyone working again.

Rotations

After about 2 years, the project I had at Gillem Enclave (South Atlanta, near the airport) is over .  Thus, my 70-85 mile daily commute during rush hour is also over.  My next project looks to have me mainly working-from-home with occasional travel to my company’s mother-ship in downtown Atlanta and even less occasional travel to the DC-area.  Today will be the first day I haven’t made the commute, and there is naturally some adjustment while I plan and deal.  A few things that that keep running through my head:

  • I am getting back roughly 2-3 hours a week-day, and $50 a week… I am also getting back emotional and willpower strength, as I will not have to concentrate really hard on being courteous in traffic
  • I am shifting from an application support role to an application research and develop role and stand in front of folks and be a smartypants showing off my research and development… which is ostensibly what I want and what I keep telling myself and others that I want.  The application I’ll be researching is also nifty, in one of my stronger tech bases, and has plenty of room for expansion and improvement.
  • I’ll get to work from home a bunch

Now.  These are both blessings and curses.  Blessings in the fact that they are humongous, lovely gifts from the universe and my job, which are often lucrative and satisfying… and curses in that they are things I’ve quietly been asking and hoping-for;  which are like gigantic credit-card-based checks from the Bank of Trouble. I am in a RuPaul’s Drag Race situation:  “Here Eppy!  It’s all the chances you’ve been wanting in a big shiny box with a humongous pretty bow, now go forth and build these opportunities into splendor and the satisfaction of your goals and dreams… and DON’T… Fuck it up.

Today has been very much about unpacking the box, opening the presents, inventorying all the parts, and skimming the instructions.  My goals are by Friday to have professional and personal plans about which things I want to start first prepared, committed to memory, and shared with appropriate parties.  If anything so we can laugh at them later.   Now, I not going to share my professional plans here one because I consider them BrainProduct owned by my company… and two because they would bore the living snot out of you.  If you really want to know, hit me up in comments or emails… and stick around as I’ll probably blather on about The Neat Thingy I Get To Play With and Make Better and Talk About To Other Smart People on future podcasts and rants.  But the private goals I do want to share with you, as I hope to share the benefits.

  • Most of the time and willpower I win back can be spent on Not Work Stuff.  That means more
    • Reading/Listening:  Of blogs, new blogs, podcasts, and new podcasts
    • Writing/Recording:  Of blogs and podcasts
    • Personal Betterment: Like going from hovering around 230 lbs to hovering around 200 lbs (which is simple enough by tracking what I eat so I am honest about when I’ve Had Enough for That Day… and going to the gym… which I have more time and willpower for).
    • Mild Home Improvement: which is less about bathroom renovation and more about keeping surfaces swept and/or scrubbed and presentable.  The goal is to keep the house up well enough that any Eric requests are actually going to be really helpful to him as opposed to just “If you’re going to be home all the time why don’t you clean up this mess”?
    • Presentation:  Of my house, of my baked goods, of movie nights and general gatherings.

Needless to say I’m kind of excited.

Did my Mother piss off a Gypsy or something?

I have had, at least I think, generally above-average tech literacy for most of my life.   I make my career in being an, at least I think, high-priced tech consultant… and generally was good at helping people research problems.  I spent my latter years at college helping scrub and then harden student’s personal computers from all the Ills of the Internet as of 2002. Sure I do the same “How do I make computer/phone/car stop doing [un-nerving thing], Google?” thing as most folks, but for some reason I seemed to zero in on the issue and fix it quickest.  So I am comfortable with the idea that I have encountered and know how to fix a lot of random tech issues.

That being said, the most complicated and confusing and “unsolvable without some sort of large replacement purchase” issues are always courtesy of my Mother.  I mean, I have seen heisenburg upgrades of Internet Explorer (I can’t see it in the ‘windows features’ list to uninstall it, but when I try to install a new copy, it says it’s already installed!?), I have seen more toolbars than an auto shop… but this most recent thing makes me think my mother just got cursed by someone.

So, I’m printing out some documents for my mother to read, and the printer jammed… and as I was yanking out the crimped sheets from the printers every orifice,  I noticed that in the paper maelstrom there were some small strips of paper that were about 8 inches long and 3/8ths inch wide… and they were perfectly cut, not something torn off by something getting caught in the printer.  The end of one was also singed by getting caught close to the fusor.

There were a few more jams, a few more strips, and eventually the paper ran out, and in picking up the remnants of a plastic wrapped, reputable all-purpose paper, and STRIPS STARTED FALLING OUT OF IT.  I shook the rest of the ream from both angles until about 40 or 50 of the little suckers were littering the floor.  And this was not like, some local hand-me-down paper from the friendly mill down across town or something, this was Georgia Pacific, bought in Office Max/Office Despot/Staples Should-not-have-little-strips-n-shit paper.

This is the sort of thing I don’t see anywhere else that has reassured me of my mother’s status of an aggregator for strange tech problems.  I may soon be inquiring to the services of Young Priest & Old Priest LLC.

Habit review for 2013

I believe it was the Life On The Shit List podcast (or LOTSL if you are looking in iTunes since they don’t like wirty dords) where I heard someone say that it was easier to make habits than set resolutions or goals.  The example given was a guy who had a gut who made it a habit of going to Yoga every night and, well, lost the gut after months and months of 7x a week bendy stretchy core exercise.  That pretty much sums up the approaches that have seemed to work for me, so I’ll frame my resolutions/goals/what-have-you for 2013 as habits that have been working, have not been working, and that I want to form over the next year.

  • Habits to Keep or Ramp Up
    • Early to Bed, Early to Rise:  I have taken to falling asleep around 9:00 PM, and waking up around 5:00 AM.  It means I get out of the house at 6:15 and work by 7:00, and leave work by 3:00 or 4:00 and avoid some of the worst traffic.   It also means I work through most of the daylight.  This has helpfully been enforced by Cairo, the insane weenie beast who will pretty much start licking my face and kicking me in the stomach if she is not let out by 6:00 AM
    • Save up for expenses I know are coming:  I got a SmartyPig account, and set up monthly debits on things I know are coming that are going to be expensive (Insurance Payments, Car Tires, Vacations/Staycations, etc).  It has slowed the amount I contribute to loan over-payment and emergency savings… but it has also drastically reduced the need for me to dip into those emergency savings, and I consider that a good thing
    • Super-Budgeting in general:  I have a silly way of budgeting that involves both high tech tools like Mint and Google Calendar and  low tech tools like Index Cards… but it works for me and forces me to spot-check where money went.   I have actually had a few “No, I can’t buy that yet because I went to lunch with such and such for so and so” and made decisions about whether I wanted to go out to lunch next week or buy Whatever Thing I had my eye on.
    • Gym:  I was pretty good about going to the gym at least 3 times a week.  a bunch of weight moved up into my back, chest, and shoulders, and my knee stopped bothering me (or when it did bother me, it was because I had just done 50 step-ups on it and it stopped bitching as soon as I got home)
    • Eating better:  I was pretty good about making lunches, using sparkpeople to track calories and keep myself honest about how many times I had already had candy.  With this and the gym I had gone from oscillating between 225-235 lbs to oscillating between 215-225 lbs.  I hope this year to make it to oscillating between 195 and 205 lbs.
  • Habits to fall back into
    • Social Planning:  For some reason, I stopped planning things as much as I used to.  Parties and cons and vacations sort of went on autopilot.  I stopped reaching out to people to make sure they could come or to see what they wanted to do.  I wasn’t as good about hitting up people to hang out and started not seeing them nearly as much.  I want to see those people, have a better idea of who might be making it to my parties, and be more excited about what I am doing for Con.  Also, if I take time off and don’t plan things to do… Eric starts to plan chores for me, and I don’t have nearly as good a time.
    • Active Listening:  I need to be better about remembering names, pulling more important nuggets from conversation, making eye contact, and picking up on things that people say.  This means turning away from the computer.  This means acknowledging something I missed instead of blaming the other person for something I “didn’t hear.”
    • Handwriting Cards:  I wrote a lot more thank you cards and Holiday cards than I did this year.  I want to write more cards because it’s fun and people seem to respond well to it… although I am going to try out a plan for Christmas cards of buying a bunch of them now (when they are on sale)  writing a generic message in a card appropriate to the recipient about once a week, and then mailing them all out the day after Thanksgiving day.  I can’t tell whether the idea is brilliant or disingenuous.  Probably a bit of both.
    • Podcasting:  I podcasted.  I need to fall back off the wagon.  I had fun visiting with a bunch of local podcasters the week before Christmas (and Big Fatty) and I need to keep up to stay in touch with so many of the wonderful people I have met through it.
  • Habits to start
    • Analytic Shopping:  If I am buying something… ask what it’s replacing, and if it isn’t replacing something… where it will live in my already full house.   This also goes for asking for gifts.
    • Semi-daily cleaning:  We have a dog now.  The dog is made of hair which gets everywhere.  Instead of cleaning lazily once a month… I need to probably run the vacuum over everything once every two or three days… and need to be a lot better about mopping up after the dog tracks mud into the house as opposed to once every three weeks.
  • Habits to Drop
    • Leaving both doors of the garage open:  so that Cairo can sneak out and run off… where she plays Gingerbread Dog (“Can’t catch me!” *sprint*)
    • Autopiloting my career:  I should at least give work the opportunity to block things I want to do and I think will be interesting before getting bitter about not doing them.
    • Replacing a meal with a tube of cookie dough:  Eating that much cookie dough (or even only half a tube) seems to be a way to make my brain hit the shiny red “abandon ship” button for my entire digestive tract

New Tires For Amelia!

I just ordered new tires for Amelia (the 2010 Miata): Continental ExtremeContact DW 205/45ZR17 Because Reasons:

1. Every review seems to be one of three things:
a. “OH MY GOD THESE ARE THE BEST TIRES EVER”
b. “I really, really like these tires but they wore out after only 25,000 miles (15,000 miles if they were used on a track regularly)” <— Welcome to the world of “Max Performance Summer” tires. They are so grippy because they are a bit less soft than toothpaste.
c. “I replaced the Michelin Pilot Super Sports on my [insert expensive sporty car here] with these and while they rode more comfortably they performed a bit worse and were a little bit louder. This offended me and I went back to the Pilots. Not too bad a tire however…” <— Michelin Pilot Super Sports go for about $250 a tire on my car (and can reach upwards of $500-600 a tire on really fancy cars with wide, thin tires)…. You can apparently get them for $195 a tire from COSTCO occasionally. The tires I just got are more like $105 a tire. I’m more than okay with 98% performance for 50-10% of the cost.
2. They have a little “DW” stamped into one of the treads. When they are no longer safe for wet driving, the “W” wears away. When they are no longer even safe for Dry driving, the “D” wears away.
3. I already have Contental ExtremeContact DWS (the higher-treadwear all-season version… DWS is for Dry/Wet/Snow, hence the DW’s are Dry/Wet only) on Lina (the 2004 Mazda3) and was so impressed I talked Eric into getting them for his Fusion (“They slip a lot less!” he says).

I look forward to around 22,000 miles of gleeful driving on the shiny new shoes!

(Image ganked from http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Tyre/Continental/ExtremeContact-DW.htm)