Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wheel of Meat and Update

The big A has spun the wheel of meat again and I was not selected.  We lost about 100 people, half of my department are gone, again.  We lost half last year too.  Bottom line, I'm still where I was, doing what I was.

I did complete P90X week three last week and I'm halfway through week four.  This week is the recovery week so I'm doing yoga, core, kenpo and stretching.  It is SO nice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Singed and Synced

I got blisters on me fingers!
As reported I burned my hand last Saturday.  I had expected I would have to do alternate activities in P90X because of it, but I guess I treated it properly and I was able to do everything.  I did count 20 individual blisters.  In the last two days they have calmed down and are now thick dead skin.  It sort of feels like I'm wearing a glove, or like my whole hand is calloused.  I included a picture when it seemed to be the most obviously blistered.

I'm afraid I won't be able to play my ukulele for a while though.

The sync part is more than just a chance to be alliterative, I figured out some ways to kill several goals with some of the same stones.

I've decided the Archaeology experiment I want to do it starting fires the way natives in my area would have.  This ties in with my goal to learn the trees.  I'll have to learn the woods they would have used.  I've been told that the hand drill method of starting fires was almost universal (this is the method that Tom Hanks uses in Castaway).

This is also somewhat historical for the Chicago area and I could use it for my Chicago History podcast.

You may be asking yourself, "Self, you look marvelous today by the way, did you get a haircut, or lose weight?"

Actually, you may be asking yourself that, but more to the point you may be asking yourself, "Self, thank you for noticing by the way, anyway, self, didn't we read that Prop was going to give us some fiction?  And hey, why is he talking about goals again, I thought we were through with that?"

Well, I did promise fiction, and I'm working on a little story I should be able to post in the next couple of days.

The reason I'm bringing up goals again is because I committed to reporting on how I was doing.  It was something I didn't do very well last year.  I've been reporting on my exercise, but I haven't yet mentioned any of my other goals.

I did commit to reporting my Health goal on a weekly basis.  The other reports are supposed to be on a monthly basis, except my Girl Scout goal which I'm supposed to report weekly.  For that my goal is to get Outdoor Skills Training.

I'm sorry to report that I have not had a chance to work on that at all.  I'd like to blame my burnt hand, but that is a sync too far.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

P90X Week 2

Can you guess where I got this X?
I finnished earlier today, but I have another week done.  It was harder than last week, and I haven't lost any weight.  I suppose my body is still getting settled into the idea of working out every day.

I gave blood today too, and my blood pressure was great, so I definetly have to keep going.  The only concern I have right now is that I burned my hand.  I had heated a pipe to try to get it loose from another pipe.  I had thought that the heated area would expand and help me get them apart.  As I grabbed the pieces I wanted to twist and rock them, so I put my left hand closer to the joint.  I could feel it sizzling like a steak on a griddle.

I was right by the sink so I immediately ran cold water on it and dumped my hand in a pitcher of ice water.  Right now I have an ice pack on it.  I'm going to blister on most of my fingers and maybe part of my palm.  I just hope it isn't so bad that I can't hold weights to work out on Monday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thinking Through My History Podcast

There is a lot of work to do before I can start a podcast as I have tasked myself.  Firstly I need to understand what history is and what is its purpose.  From there I need to understand what history means to me and what I want to see in a podcast about Chicago history.  From there I need to decide what format I want to use (and what I'm capable of) and if I can actually write a couple of dozen episodes.

I've tried to do a podcast before and managed one episode.  It just didn't feel right, I had a good deal of trouble getting my thoughts together sufficiently.  The original impetus for that podcast was similar to how I feel now, but I don't think I had really thought through the details I listed above.  Also, I hadn't the experience of trying a podcast when I had started that podcast.  Now I have that experience to give me some idea.

There are several articles on-line that talk about the purpose of history.  I've also found many quotes about history.  They capture most of what I found and how I feel about studying history.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”  ― George Orwell 
“If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ”  ― Michael Crichton 
“The first duty of a man is to think for himself”  ― José Martí 
I don't agree with the following two quotes:
“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  ― Napoleon Bonaparte
“Half of writing history is hiding the truth”  ― Joss Whedon
I feel this is a counter to those two arguments:
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”  ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark 

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”  ― Winston S. Churchill 
"Study the past if you would define the future.”  ― Confucius 
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”  ― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works 

These two seem to work together:
"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.”  ― Marcus Tullius Cicero 
"History is important. If you don't know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”  ― Howard Zinn 

“History is a Rorschach test, people. What you see when you look at it tells you as much about yourself as it does about the past.”  ― Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution 

“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are. ”  ― David McCullough 
“You have to know the past to understand the present.”  ― Carl Sagan 
“A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

"I am interested in historical truth, and truth in history is often unpleasant and distasteful to those of fine sensibility.”  ― Mercedes Lackey, The Fire Rose 

This one inspires me to teach history to those who would hike the Chicago Lincoln Avenue Trail:
“The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.”  ― Stephen E. Ambrose

“Anybody can make history; only a great man can write it.”  ― Oscar Wilde 
“Never question the power of one! Throughout history it has been the actions of only one person who has in inspired the movement of change.”  ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free 

“It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts." -Bill Vaughan 
Well, I'll give you what I can figure out and you take from it what you will.
I feel that in a way history is a foreign land that I have close ties to and I can understand somewhat.  It is a fun place to visit, a flight of fancy, an escape and it helps me to put today into perspective.
So far the ideas I have for the podcast are as follows:
  1. Reboot Chicagoland History Week
    1. Pros
      1. I already have the blog and artwork such as it is
      2. Very little production needed.  
      3. Less time consuming.  If I script properly I wouldn't need editing
      4. No costs
      5. Can have guest interviews
      6. More scholarly
      7. Could be outlined rather than scripted
      8. Could have audience participatory games like trivia questions
    2. Cons
      1. It didn't work before
      2. Less fun than drama
      3. Ends up being more trivia oriented and less useful, historical, and much less useful as a map to the future (and all that highbrow stuff)
    3. Questions
      1. Should I get a cohost?
      2. Should I cover the whole area or just Chicago?
      3. Will the name be confusing?
      4. Should I start with Lincoln Avenue?
  2. Chicago Time Machine - modeled after Dr. Who and Young Indiana Jones it would be an adventure audio drama following characters as they use a time machine to explore Chicago's past
    1. Pros
      1. No temptation to outline, I would definitely script this
      2. Drama would help keep it lively
      3. A completely fresh view
      4. One topic at a time would be plenty to fill the podcast
      5. More like fiction and therefore helpful in exercising my writing muscles
    2. Cons
      1. Production time and cost would both be the highest - this may be a complete deal breaker
      2. Needs actors 
      3. Couldn't really have guests and interviews
      4. I'd have to learn and include a good deal of minutia to include in the background to add authenticity
    3. Questions
      1. Could I do this strictly as a narrative and tell the story rather than act it out?
      2. Could I produce CLHW as a podcast and still write this, but not produce this?
  3. Chicago History Detective - following something that exists today back to it's origins.  This would be similar to the TV show "Connections." 
    1. Pros
      1. Less production needed, can be all narrative, but still somewhat dramatic
      2. Again, a complete break form CLHW
      3. A mix of the scholarly and drama
    2. Cons
      1. Could be too contrived
      2. Difficult to find a way to include guests and interviews
    3. Questions
      1. Would this lead to too much researching?
      2. What if I started on one topic and it ended up taking me too far?
  4. My Kind of Town - same as rebooting CLHW, but with a new blog and new name
    1. Pros
      1. Avoids confusion and any other problems of rebooting CLHW
      2. Probably most of the same pros as CLHW
      3. Could allow for easy widening to more towns than just Chicago
      4. I could use the first four notes of My Kind of Town like the NBC chimes.  This would eliminate any other need for music
    2. Cons
      1. I could run into the same problems as CLHW
      2. Isn't the best way to draw in listeners who search for Chicago
    3. Questions
      1. Is this already being used?
      2. Is this too loose a structure?  Will I lose my focus and peter out?
This is where I am with the podcast so far.  Well, there is this and I've already started gathering and studying research material.

Anyone have any answers or opinions?  Share please, I would enjoy it very much.

By the way, I don't know what happened to the font.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

P90X Week 1

Just a few minutes ago I finished my first week of P90X.

I've been doing it off and on since late October, but this was only the second full 6 day week I've done.  I thought I would start in late October and be super fit by Christmas, but I didn't have the yoga disk and then Thanksgiving got in the way, then Christmas and New Years, and I hurt my calf overdoing plyo, and then there was Kwanzaa and Hanuka.

To quote Jake Blues, "There was a hurricane, an wasn't my fault!!!"

Last Monday was my official, official start day, and to paraphrase Darth Vader, There will be no holidays to stop me this time.

I have an Excel file I found and it talks about a Classic Program and a Lean Program.  The copy I have is not complete, but it looks like I only have the Classic, except that I have all the disks.  Because I hurt my calf a couple of weeks ago I'm a bit leery about doing plyo full out, so I opted for the cardio instead of plyo for this first week.

Yesterday was the worst, only because I had a lot of things going on and I didn't start to work out until 2300.  I finished at about 0030, so I sort of did a double today.

I dialed down the intensity from the highest I had gotten in my intermittent stages of November and December.  I figured I'd reset the bar and keep raising it from this week forward.

Isn't that a funny expression, "raise the bar?"  I always think about limbo when I hear that and it confuses me.  I keep thinking that it would be harder to lower the bar.

Anyway, I still can't do a regular pull-up and I don't really have a space I can do it.  Where I have my overhead pull-up bar I have to bend my knees just to hang at full arm and it think it hampers me a bit.  No excuses, but I do think I would be able to do at least one if I could hang straight.

Without a real pull-up bar and no bands to use I have a waist-high bar and I lay on the floor.  I can't reach the bar when I lay with my arms fully extended (in other words, when I am holding the bar I can extend my arms fully without touching my back to the floor).  This week I did all my pull-ups with that bar and with my feet up on a chair so I know I'm not getting any help from my legs (it just makes everything a bit lighter).  When I was doing it in November and December I would occasionally try the higher bar.  As soon as I am able to do any with the higher bar I'm going to switch to that and only add the lower bar after I've done all I can on the higher one.

So anyway, that's one week in the bag.  Is anyone else doing P90X, P90, Zumba, Buns of Steel?

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Goal Setting Getting SMART failed me.  Thanks Mobile Monday
I want to vet my 2013 goals against the SMART system.

I've decided that I'm going to keep my work goal confidential here.  It may be proprietary and I am going to write it down and share it at work.  Trust me, it will be tracked.

The SMART system says the goals should be:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results focused
  • Time bound
My Physical Goal is to Complete P90X.
  • Specific - yes
  • Measurable - I do or don't finish, there is not try.  That's the measure of success
  • Achievable - I have a plan and I'm fit enough to start, I do think I can do it
  • Results focused - this means I can't take credit just because I did it a lot if I don't finish
  • Time bound - it's right in the name, 90 days
For the rest of them I'm not going to go point by point, I'll just record if they meet the requirements.

Mental Goal:  Learn Greek to a S2 or B1 level by the end of the year.
This meets the requirements.

Family Man Goal:  Go on Quarterly Dates with my wife this year.
Dates is not well defined here, but I know what it means.  Otherwise I think this meets the requirements.

Job Hunter Goal:  Get a new position by the end of the year.
I think this is a SMART goal, but I have to make sure my plan is solid and I follow it carefully if I want it to be achievable.

Girl Scouter Goal:  Get Outdoor Skills Trained in time for our troop to go camping in May.
It may not seem like it here, but this is fairly cut and dry as long as I follow the plan.

Boy Scouter Goal:  Achieve Gold level points on Journey to Excellence in the Unit Service area.
I need to work on my plan to achieve this too, but it is SMART.

Writer Goal:  Write a fortnightly podcast on Chicago history.
The measurement and result is a bit fuzzy here.  I think it needs more.

Write a fortnightly podcast on Chicago history that are each between 10 and 30 minutes long.  I should write 20 podcasts to consider this goal accomplished.  Once I start I must not miss an installment by more than two days.
That's better, as far as goals go, it's certainly much harder as far as achieving it goes, but I have to hold myself to a specific SMART goal or it won't do any good.

Spiritual Goal:  Learn the neighborhood trees.
This one is far short of meeting the requirements.  Let's revisit.
By the end of the year I will be able to identify the species (by common name) of 10 random trees native to my area when the trees are fully leafed out.

My Archaeology Goal:  Participate in an Archaeology activity by the end of the year.
The activity would include a dig, a mock dig, a class or an experiment

Finally, my Social Goal:  Join a band or club
This may be the easiest and the least likely to get done since it is the lowest priority.  The point is to get out more, but since, "getting out more" is not a SMART goal I made it this.

Well, I think I've beat this dead horse enough.  I hope I haven't lost any readers.  That's it for goal setting, I promise and I owe you all.  I think I will have to repay your patience with some fiction coming soon.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2013 Goal Setting Part 3b - Something Lost, Something Gained

Somehow in this shuffle I lost my goal to learn Greek.

I know where I lost it.  I had put it on a sort of back burner until I could define it better; then it became, "Mental - TBA;" then I grabbed it for my Chicago Lincoln Avenue Trail goal.

That won't do.  I have to have a Greek goal.  I thought about adding the role of Son-In-Law which is certainly a role I play and probably the strongest driver of why I want to learn Greek.  I want to make it easier to communicate with my mother and father-in-law and I want it to be as easy on them as possible.

On the other hand I have a huge pile of goals already. I should limit the number of slots available and make some tough choices right now.

That's why I've decided to move my CLAT goal to be my Writing goal.  It's bitter-sweet because I really like writing fiction, in fact I find myself doing it whenever I don't focus on something else.  It's also the only hobby I have that actually makes money (not much at all, but I have gotten back at least all my investments (i.e. postage)).

I do need to work on my writing, but I can make this work for me.  I was thinking of a podcast anyway and any writing, fiction or nonfiction requires some of the same skills, techniques and discipline.

Whenever I write fiction I do research as well.  I will continue to do research, only I will have to be more meticulous about it now.  I will continue to write, but I'll have to cite my sources.

This could work and rather than sidetracking me from becoming the next great American novelist, I should look on this as an opportunity to learn my craft from a different angle and to get more hungry to write fiction.

My CLAT Mental goal was, "Learning More About Chicago."  It will now be my Writing goal, specifically: I will produce a history podcast on a regular basis (not less frequently than fortnightly).

I will still learn more about Chicago history, and all the rest of the six steps will remain the same.

Now, about that Greek goal; I need to define it.  I've found a couple of different scales to measure language proficiency.  There is the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale (S1 - S5), the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale (Novice - Distinguished in each of 4 categories) and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching Assessment (CEFR) which uses an ABC scale, each with a level 1 and 2.

I don't think I can settle for the absolutely lowest level so I'll look at the next level on each of these scales.

ILR S2 is Limited Working Proficiency
  • able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements
  • can handle with confidence, but not with facility, most social situations including introductions and casual conversations about current events, as well as work, family, and autobiographical information
  • can handle limited work requirements, needing help in handling any complications or difficulties; can get the gist of most conversations on non-technical subjects (i.e. topics which require no specialized knowledge), and has a speaking vocabulary sufficient to respond simply with some circumlocutions
  • has an accent which, though often quite faulty, is intelligible
  • can usually handle elementary constructions quite accurately but does not have thorough or confident control of the grammar.
That's still a very long way from what I could do, and a really good level I would be happy with by the end of the year.  Heck, I've be very very happy with if after this year I could get to this level after more than 20 years not being able to.

The CEFR Level A2 is called Waystage or Beginner:
  • Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
I can already pretty much do this.  Let's look at the next level, B1 called Threshold or intermediate:
  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
That's more like where I need to get to.

The ACTFL one has four categories (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and four or five levels for each.  It is a little to involved for reposting here.  I'll take a look at it later.

For now I think I can set my Greek goal at a B1 or S2 level.  I'll look for some sort of test I can take to evaluate me at the end of the year, but my simple test will be to be able to hold a conversation with my in-laws (about something other than food) entirely in Greek.  Ultimately I'd like to be able to read a Greek newspaper and a book in Greek, but this would be enough for this year.
  1. Passion - I feel like the biggest idiot on the planet for not being able to learn this language yet.  That alone should be reason enough to feel a burning passion to get this done.  In addition I am desperate to better communicate with half of my family.
  2. I can picture myself talking with them, and listening to what they and my wife are arguing about, as well as sitting down to one of my father-in-law's newspapers and being able to discuss events.
  3. Interim steps
    1. I have already put flashcards on my electronic devices, and I've set myself up to review them daily
    2. There is a site called Tower of Babelfish which has a method for language learning in four steps.  They can also be found in this Lifehacker article.  It goes into great detail in how to do the steps, but here are the steps:
      1. Learn pronunciation
      2. Learn vocabulary and grammar
      3. Listen, read and write
      4. Speech
  4. Write and share.  I've done that here, and I'm going to tell my wife and in-laws.  That should be fun.
  5. Due Dates
    1. I need to study daily, so I have a daily due date
    2. I need to get all my things ready and lined up by March so I can work on this at least the rest of the year at full speed
  6. Review - I will review my progress and report here at least monthly
That sets all my goals except my work one.  I'm going to repost them in priority order (for now).

  1. Physical - P90X
  2. Mental - Learn Greek (S2 or B1)
  3. Role: Family Man - Quarterly dates
  4. Role:Abbott Worker - TBA
  5. Role: Job Hunter - Get a new job
  6. Role: Girl Scouter - Get trained
  7. Role: Boy Scouter - Gold Commissioner JtE points
  8. Role: Writer - Fornightly Chicago history podcast
  9. Spiritual - Learn the trees
  10. Role: Archaeologist - Participate in an Archaeology activity
  11. Social - Join a club

Sunday, January 06, 2013

2013 Goal Setting - Part 3a

I have the following goals to set yet:  Mental, Abbott Worker, and Writing.

I'm feeling a bit guilty for not taking a Chicago Lincoln Avenue Trail goal.  I've got other people involved in that project and I really should take that as a goal.

I've decided that I'm going to take that as my Mental goal, sort of.  I'm taking, Learning More About Chicago as my goal, and that feeds right into CLAT.
  1. Passion - I love Chicago, the CLAT was my Dad's project I want to keep alive and I owe it to those who have already said they would help
  2. Visualize - I envision scores of young people gathering for a parade-like opening, each wearing their earbuds plugged into their pod-esque devices.  The TV, radio and print media are there to record and interview for the human interest pieces of the day.  The march begins and everyone listens to the professional sounding hiking guide as they learn about Chicago and earn unique patches.
  3. Interim steps
    1. Mental Goal only steps
      a.  Get books from the library
      b.  Read up on general Chicago history
      c.  Find material about Lincoln Avenue and read up on that
      d.  Record any applicable information for use with the CLAT
    2. CLAT specific steps that may or may not be finished, but we'll work on
      a.  Finish the CLAT blog (this has several interim steps itself)
      b.  Steering Committee meetings
      c.  Pitch to CAC (Chicago Area Council of the BSA)
      d.  Pitch to the GSUSA Council (Greater Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana)
      e.  Pitch to Eagle candidates who want to help, and then coordinating with those Scouts on their Eagle projects
      f.  Get the guide re-written
      g.  Get the guide recorded and posted
      h.  Publicity
      i.  Fundraising
      j.  Parade coordination
      k.  On-going upkeep efforts
      l.  Blazes along the route
  4. Write down - here; in my planner; on the CLAT blog; and for the CLAT itself; I'll be writing meeting notes.
  5. Due Dates - 
    1.  For reading it's more of an ongoing thing with less designated due dates than weekly reminders
    2.  I'm setting the date of the end of the quarter for the first  Steering Committee meeting.  We'll set the schedule from there
  6. Review Monthly here and on the CLAT facebook page.

Wow, that seems like a lot.  I've still got my Abbott Worker and Writer goals to do yet.  I'm pretty sure my writing goal will have something to do with audio dramas and/or podcasts.  To date my most lucrative writing effort was an audio drama so I may continue in that vein.  Also, that lends itself well to the audio hiking guide of this goal.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Becoming a Full Time Writer

I still need to decide on a Mental, Writing and Abbott Worker goals, but as I break and for fun I found a website with "10 Questions Writers Must Ask Before Quitting Their Day Job."

First I'll give the questions and then the answers:


My answers:
  1.  MAYBE - I think I can be successful if I manage to become an archaeologist, but there are many levels of success.  I would probably be disappointed in my life if I did not get a few books published and earn a significant part of my income from writing, but earning it all from writing would not be necessary for me to fell successful.
  2. YES - I do like the idea of writing full time.  It is certainly a job I would enjoy immensely.  I also see it as the only possible way I could make it rich.  I don't really think it will make me rich, but none of the other things I think I could do would do it.  At least this has a chance.
  3. NO - Financial plan, nope, don't got one of those.  I think this is a deal breaker if you have a family.
  4. YES - I often imagine what life would be like as an author.  I like what I see.
  5. YES - I'm already being carried under Mrs. Prop because I can and it is the most economical way for us to do it.  I could just keep that up.
  6. MAYBE - I'm smart enough and I do like the idea of it enough.  I think I'm disciplined enough, tax-wise and I'm good enough with self promotion, but I've never really been tested.
  7. YES - This isn't a yes/no question, but I can handle human interaction.  I have a family and I would certainly keep up things like my volunteer work and clubs.  There is no problem here.
  8. YES - I've done it before and I can do it again.
  9. MAYBE - Since I have no financial plan I'm sure they would think I'm crazy and Mrs. Prop would probably have me institutionalized, so right now I think it would be a temporary, "No."
  10. NO - I don't have one.  I need the security of my corporate job and without big checks rolling in and more in the mail, I couldn't swing it.  I wouldn't have a safety net and I can't work without one.
 That makes 5 Yes's, 3 Maybe's, and 2 No's.  I think the No's are deal breakers so no full-time writing for me, not yet.