2013 :: Year in Review

2013 was an interesting year. My wife and I had a lot of good and some not so good things go on; she got full time at her job, my company moved to Irvine, I got injured and had back surgery, and we adopted a horse.

The move from LA to Irvine has been great for pretty much every part of my life and health (apparently even though I grew up there I’m not used to the smog and pollution concentrations in LA anymore). While I’ve had more time for a lot of things like being home, games, side projects, etc I seem to have lost as much time and drive for writing. Part of this is due to helping write code and documentation at work since moving on to being Director instead of just lead engineer. My goal at the beginning of 2013 was to write something every day- writing is a hobby that I quite enjoy. While I was taking a train every day it was easy to set aside time for writing every day; about 45 minutes as a matter of fact! February brought some really hectic times at work and then March brought moving the development team to Irvine and my promotion which combined took out the time I had previously used to write a lot. I still have about 14 things in variously edited stages that I’d like to get out at some points: ranging from Aaron Swartz to Pokemon games to project management tips and tricks to programming articles.

Possibly the biggest impact on my year was back surgery: L5 disc exploded while sprinting. One of the best surgeons on the west coast did my surgery; it went well and I’ve been healing pretty well. Even with how quick my recovery as been it’s still been a recovery from major surgery. It’s meant not doing a lot of activities, changing sleep schedules, not working out for a few months, and a lot of lingering pain. This process has made me start to wonder how long my disc had been slipping or had broken and I just didn’t notice- it’s very possibly it happened in high school. On the plus side I’ve learned a lot about how to take care of myself and started making even more strides to living healthier.

This coming year will have a lot more scheduling issues with the addition of a horse to the family and new hobbies like wood working. Taking it all one day at a time and working to live by James 4 more:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15 ESV

Time Commitments: Working Out

For the last year or so I’ve been dedicated 15 to 90 minutes a day to “working out” either in the gym or in my apartment. I’ve lost a bit of size in the mean time and gained a lot of health. I’ve also gained a lot of new clothes since none of my old ones fit. Most weeks I do one hour, six days a week; when I’m pressed for time (or sleep) it tends to go down to just 100 crunches, 20 push-ups, and 10 pull-ups. Fitocracy has been a great help in getting me going and will continue to be once I’m feeling better (finally over being sick!). Much of this routine has culminated in my starting to play basketball, something I couldn’t do for very long even six or seven months ago.

Back to the subject of Fitocracy, one of the things I wished it had/tracked is the amount of time a certain rep set took. Much of what I do at this point is about a certain number of reps almost as fast as possible; it’s a pain to track those separately from the XP-carrot world that is Fitocracy. Additionally, my Nike FuelBand is pretty bad for weight lifting but amazing for cardio; with my commute changing I may end up adding running six days a week instead of just two to three.

Interestingly I’ve been finding the payoff from working out the second best of all my commitments (time with wife is number one). An hour in the morning tends to lead to a very productive day, though two hours in the morning tend to lead to a lull and needing to go to bed early. With just a single hour I seem to feel healthier, be losing some size (and weight in some cases, too), and be more productive. This seems like a great tradeoff to me!

Time Commitments: Writing

The closest thing to a “New Years Resolution” for me was to start writing more. This seemed more doable when I was basically on vacation; the real wold of time and commitments hasn’t been as nice or forgiving. In some ways I should probably be good with that as it means that I get to do a lot of things throughout the week. But much like cutting back on music it’s having an effect elsewhere on my psyche and body. Writing is as much about documenting things that are going on as it is about releasing some creativity that gets bottled up; if it stays bottled up too long it tends to explode in some unforeseeable manner of oddity.

All things being equal I really should like to spend one hour, six days a week writing. Fifteen (15) minutes to get my brain in the right place, thirty (30) minutes for actual writing, and fifteen (15) minutes for editing. Sadly, finding an uninterrupted hour given my job and other responsibilities is more difficult than it probably should be. Thankfully my commute to and from work is just about an hour long! Sounds perfect, except I tend to need to write code or take phone calls given it’s work time.

Going forward things look to be changing and my schedule will open up for all the things mentioned, only time will tell at this point.

Time Commitments: Basketball

In an effort to diversify myself a bit I’ve joined a basketball team. At 6′ and 260lbs I’m not the most agile one on the court, but I’m slowly learning how to throw my weight around a bit. It’s made getting rebounds a bit easier at times; people tend to knock themselves off their trajectory when jumping in to me. Given my short-ish height I do have a hard time playing center but I’ve been making it up playing shooting guard and forward a bit. Rebounding is an odd thing I’ve been finding, so much of it is based on initial position yet balanced by “hustle” and tenacity to just move the person near you.

I’ve heard time and time again about how sports teach one a lot about themselves (and how music does, too), but I had forgotten just how much; it’s been years since I played soccer or rugby in an organized fashion. The amount one learns about their body is amazing enough, much less how one operates under pressure and in awkward social situations.

Tonight is our second play-off game against the team that went highly undefeated throughout the season; it will probably be our last play-off game of this season. No matter what happens, it should be fun and entertaining in some way! Win or lose it was still a fun experience that I hope I can make time for going forward.

Stargate Universe – Good, Bad, Ugly

For the most part I’ve been a very casual StarGate fan. Claudia Black and Ben Browder going to SG1 made me watch it a little more, but even then I just couldn’t justify the time commitment. Atlantis was entertaining at times, but never really caught my attention. And then there was Universe; if anything was going to get me in to the Gate craze it was a darker, more serialized story with Scalzi as the creative consultant. Recently I finally finished watching both seasons after watching the first half of the first season when it was on and attempting to DVR it and watch it later for the rest of that season…I failed at that time, but Netflix has allowed me to catch up and be a bit confused on my own feelings for the show.

Many of my feeling boil down to practically sound bites:

  • Writing ok, creative ideas decent, sound editing is horrible, pacing is plain bad
  • The more “uptempo” storytelling of the latter half of season 2 is a much needed change.
  • Ending is a bit of a cop out, but a decent season cliffhanger
  • Music Montage much?!
  • When did Rush or Eli have all this time to come up with theories on things?
  • Character roster large, and wasted

The moments where people were acting and not just staring off in the distance, or being framed creatively, actually weren’t that bad! The acting was what it was, but the writing was decent. However, there’s not a lot people can do when the pacing of the show is so off; mostly due to the not talking, dramatic framing, and…wait for it…music montages! It must have been something hip and edgy that year, or just a great nod to Gilmore Girls or The OC. By the end of Season 2 things were finally in place to have some real stories; the bridge was figured out (should have been done early in Season 1 or not at all), no one was trying to dial the gate on the ship anymore that wasn’t supposed to, and they finally had a goal.

The cast was actually quite good, the acting decent, and the premise sound. With all of that, it just felt like they wasted half the cast. Once again the end of Season 2 does a good job of giving everyone time, characterization, and interaction. In scenes more people talk, it’s not just an old school game of telephone anymore. The “assistant” scientists finally got more lines than “yes” or “that’s going to blow the ship up!” and moved on to comments, snarky comments even! And they even acknowledged that there were more soldiers than Greer on the ship; he’s a good character but was focused on a bit too much to the detriment of James and other members of the crew. Even Chloe got wasted a bit, especially with the Lucian Alliance bit of things taking center stage. Speaking of girls, Ginn was super wasted, especially once she became part of the ship. So many possibilities, and yet so much time spent on watching people sit around in despair.

Bringing it all back together, I have a rather fond memory of the show. Could it have been a lot better? Yes. But isn’t that true of most things? The show took a universe that people know and love and showed a different side of it. Taking themes that didn’t quite fit in other sci-fi shows and ran with them in a good way. I wish we could have seen what Season 3 brought (I’m assuming a reduction in crew due to malfunctions) and if it continued to increased tempo and storytelling that carried Season2 so well.

Television

I watch one show every week and make sure not to miss it: Castle. I’ve slowly added in Suits. Burn Notice used to be in that category but has declined recently sadly, same with Parenthood. Once Upon a Time has caught my attention more this season; I stopped last season about half way through since they were going a bit too far with the “no more happy endings” thing that was entertaining for me. Iron Chef as well as Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives are still staples in my weekly viewing. Grimm I will more or less listen to while my wife watches it and I code or game on the couch. That leads over to Netflix.

When I need something to just be on, or want to relax with some sic-fi I go to my Netflix queue. I’ve been re-watching Deep Space Nine since it was available on Netflix, not barreling through and it’s been fun to watch an episode and think back to when I first saw it, what it really means for the human state before continuing on with my day. Recently I got through the rest of StarGate Universe that I failed to watch in its original run; the change of day made it almost impossible for me to watch it or record it in the second season. Another post coming soon about that show; it was almost really good. At this point, the majority of my movie and show watching happens long, long after it’s new if at all.

Makes my normal viewing habits of television for a week are up to three hour of paying attention, and then a variable amount of “noise” while my wife watches her shows. I did not/do not include sport in this list; they are quite seasonal and I treat it more as news given how much of it I watch in clips on the web.

This post is very specific on television with a foray in to movie consumption; where I get most of my visual entertainment is “streams” of games, gaming related video casts, and various youTube videos. That’s some thoughts for another day though.

Time Commitments

Recently I decided to map out my week and have a table for time vs percentage and another of ideal; my ideal schedule I still haven’t really come up with, but documenting what a “normal” week looks like was hard enough in its own right. Looking at my schedule over the last couple of years this is what a normal week tends to look like apparently.

Activity – By Week Hours Percentage Notes
Total 168 100% This is how many hours a week possible
Music Practice 9 5 Three 3 hours rehearsals
Work Commute 12 7 2 Hours Train, 30 Minutes Redline, 30 Minutes Walking & Bus- 3 Hours/Day; I always try to work from home one day a week.
Work 40 24 Really this goes over a lot…
Comics 7 4 Between reading and picking up it’s about an hour a day
Sleep 42 25 Really this is a minimum, but it tends to be pretty true
Television 5 3 For shows I watch and various things my wife would like me to watch
Gaming 7 4 I really only end up averaging an hour a day at this point; this needs to improve dramatically
Church Activities 3 2 This is the other things I would like to bump up a lot
Personal Projects 10 6 From coding to everything else
Time with my Wife 25 15 I note this not as an obligation, but a privilege that I get to have at least this much time with my wife a week; typically it’s more, too!
Workouts 8 5 It’s about an hour each day with some spillage

That’s 100% of my week. I didn’t think I actually had it planned out that much, but I really do. Thankfully for me, there’s a lot of these things that I can do at the same time; like commuting and personal projects! I wrote this on one such commute. I did not include eating as I tend to pair it one of the other items above. Sadly, due to both our schedules, my dedicated time to enjoy my wife’s company gets cut tragically short all too often. Additionally this doesn’t even include various transportation timing that eats in to activities. Realizing that work plus sleep is half my week gone out the window was not an inspiring thought…

This has been a very interesting excursive for me; really having to think about the things I do/don’t do in a week and what my real priorities are. It’s also inspired me to make “Time Commitments” an on-going look at how I spend my time and how I think about my time.