Category Archives: challenges

I read a whole bunch of books. You won’t believe which are my favorites. Number 3 made me laugh

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, thanks in no small part to Audible and Overdrive, which let me read while I am commuting, cooking, and working out at the gym.  So far, I have 46 titles accounted in my Goodreads account, and I am 171 days ahead of my annual reading goal. Granted, at least 10 of those are graphic novels (I had a mild Flash obsession going there for a bit.).

Here are some of my favorites so far this year, in no particular order.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store  by Robin Sloan – If you love quirky mysteries, Google, Helvetica, awkward protagonists, or glow-in-the-dark dust covers, this is the book for you.

The Stand by Stephen King – The forces of good and evil gather in a post-apocalyptic show down. This was the second of three books in a row that I read that start with a virulent pandemic.  That was not on purpose, and it stressed me out. I could not be an epidemiologist.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Fantastic science fiction.  There’s a movie coming out later this year.  I bought a second copy for my Mars themed bathroom.  XKCD described it thusly :

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman – This was the story of the first few years of my career at Ford Motor Company.  It was interesting getting the behind the scenes look at some of the things that happened.  It is also a fantastically well written book if you are interested in the auto industry in general.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I don’t rightly know how to describe this book.  Gaiman writes books that demand to be read but elude description of why you should read them. I put this one off for a long while, but I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.

What have you read and loved so far this year?

March Personal Challenge : Be More Active











This year, I set some New Year’s Resolutions, mostly principle based, to help me improve how I feel about myself and about my life.

The idea, when I had them, was to take one or two or three of the principles and work on them in any given time period (months being the most obvious.)

I’ll do a Jan-Feb wrapup here in a post or two, but I wanted to share an experience and my thinking about March.

In February, for reasons still a bit unclear to me, I asked myself a question: “Can I underspend a particular budget category?”

I do pretty good with my budget, but there is one line item that I constantly overspend: Shopping. I bin all of my Amazon purchases, clothes purchases (“Dress Better”), and most household goods to this category, and so have a tendency to overspend.  It’s not a problem to my overall budget, as I’ve got a lot of wiggle room baked in.  But I wanted to see if I could for once, spend within that budget on purpose. (“Deliberate practices”)

I’m happy to report that I could. It actually took a bit of work to rein back some impulse purchases, but I made it, underspending my budget by $43! No creative accounting or anything, although I did use points to pay for one Amazon purchase.

As I thought about the experience, I wondered what kind of a question could I ask myself for March.  I have been playing with the idea of eating Paleo or vegetarian for a month (“Cook More”), but felt like I need a bit more time to learn about those particular diet systems.  I’ve been meaning to start back up my Morning Mile (“Deliberate Practices” / “Be More Active”) once the weather starts to warm back up again. I had a great experience with that practice during November, and put it on the back burner for winter.

At approximately the same time I was pondering these big questions, I found an article about getting data out of the FitBit system into a Google Document.  I love my FitBit, but I’ve never been able to really analyze my habits with it. It’s great on a one off daily analysis, but I wanted to know how I have been changing over time.  Am I walking more? Am I walking less?

I spent some time figuring it out, but I’ve got my data over to a spreadsheet, where I learned some very interesting things.  For example, last November was my 2012 high for average daily steps: about 7,600 vs my long term average around 5,500. (No surprise, thanks to the Morning Mile). I was surprised that I only hit 10,000 steps in a day only 16 times in 2012.  Sundays are my least active day, and Saturdays are generally my most active, but in 2013 so far, it’s been a virtual tie between Mondays and Thursdays. I’ve apparently been more interested in watching TV on Saturdays than going for a walk. Cut me some slack, it’s cold in January and February!

I decide my question for March would be: Can I average 10K steps?  Can I get more 10K step days in March than I did last year? What does it look like if I try to get more walking in?

I started out on Friday with a Morning Mile, and by the end of the day had only made it to 9000 steps. (I definitely took a few extra trips downstairs at bedtime for things I had “forgotten” to get past 9000.) Saturday, I may have overcompensated with a walk, a row, and then picking the vacuum cleaner at Chapel Cleanup. I hit 10K shortly after noon and ended the day with 14K steps.  Already today I am at or above my Sunday average.

The graphs at the top of the page should show you how I’m doing. They should update daily. I’ll report back in April and let you know how it went.

How many have you read?

You know that silly Facebook meme, the one that lists 100 books that the BBC has allegedly selected as the best evAH, and then goes on to claim that the average reader has only read like 6 of them.  It’s fun, but completely bunk.

Well, our friends over at NPR, (who are like the BBC in a non-British way, I guess), recently put out a call for the best SciFi and Fantasy books.  Over 5000 people nominated books and series in the comments.  (I might have. I thought about it, but then I don’t know if I actually did or not).   Then they slimmed the list to the top 237 nominations, specifically excluding books that didn’t make their strict criteria (basically, they excluded horror, paranormal romance, and YA  from the list), and asked for votes.

50,000 votes later, and mine was for sure one of them, and they came up with a list of the top 100 SciFi/Fantasy novels (excluding YA. They are running a YA poll next summer.  Sorry Harry.)

I don’t propose a meme, although go ahead and play along if you want.  I’m just curious to know how many of them I have read.  I’ve got the top 13 down, except I have never finished 1984

Here’s the list.  I bolded the ones I’ve read at least one of the series, although in most cases, I’ve read the whole she-bang. 

Continue reading How many have you read?

Day 3

I’m on my third day of a Facebook game related detox.Cultural Detox

The rules are simple. No Facebook games.

I’ve only been playing three anyway, but they are all three of the click and hope variety. They are significantly less click happy than, say, Mafia Wars, and they do involve some sorts of decision making, but really, it’s just clicking and hoping.

What kind of game play is that anyway?

I got to a point in all three where I had accomplished what I wanted. (As if it can really be called an accomplishment… It’s just an accumulation of clicks over time.) And so I felt like I could let go.

The first day was a breeze, the second a little challenging, but today is not going so great. I apparently need those little dopamine squirts that come when I click my little rat brain buttons. I’ve also never had Facebook game-related nightmares until last night (although I think that might have been significantly influenced by a pair of Doctor Who episodes that I watched earlier in the evening with a similar character.)

In other news, I found a downloadable version of Race for the Galaxy, a board game I have recently been playing in real life. I’m using it to try to improve my understanding of how the game works, and it involves very complex decision making, so that’s good, right? I don’t get as much dopamine but I am improving actual skills (for example, evaluating trade offs, developing and deploying strategy, attempting to learn what

Also, my kitchen is approaching a clean state.

Amazing what a little less MouseHunt can do for you.

Anyone else have any experience with electronic detox? Do you know how long I have until the shakes start in?

Pushups Update

I thought I should probably post a really quick update on my 100 pushups challenge status.

Last week, I did the final workout of week 6. I repeated several weeks. I haven’t tried the final test yet. I don’t think I’m really ready for 100 pushups, I think I could use one more week. So far this week hasn’t been a pushups kind of week for me. This daylight savings time change is supposed to be the easy one, but I’ve been struggling all week to adjust.

So there you have it. I didn’t quite make my goal, timing wise. But that’s ok, because I consistently put the effort into the goal, I just didn’t gain strength as fast as the program suggested I might. Perfectly acceptable, because I can now do 45+ pushups at the end of a workout that includes more than 140 pushups. I couldn’t have said that 8 weeks ago.

I’ll keep you posted as to when I actually get to 100 pushups.

On Goals and Challenges: Pushup Edition

At the beginning of the year, I set a few goals. Naturally, I forgot to write them down, so now I don’t remember what most of them were. I managed to complete one (run a half-marathon) and kind of fizzled out on another (write every day). I can only remember one of my other goals, and now it’s time to get started on it.

And because if I don’t tell anyone about it, I’ll probably keep putting it of, here I am, telling people about it. And of course, inviting you to join with me.

So what’s the goal? 100 pushups… all at once…

I’ve seen this program floating around the interwebs for a while now, and determined that this would be the year that I finally make something of my life, or at least the year where I do 100 pushups and pretend that I have arrived at self-actualization. I mean, after doing 100 pushups, what else is there to do in life?

So here’s my plan:

Last week, I did the initial test. I knocked out 8 pushups. (Ok, so I’m weak. I had just rolled out of bed, and didn’t actually go to exhaustion because I was already exhausted.)

The program is written as a 6 week program, but to be on the safe side, I’m giving myself 8 weeks to do it fully. That puts me right about at my birthday for completing the program and the 100 pushups.

So that’s my goal. 100 pushups by my birthday.

Here’s the deal:

I love doing stupid things by myself, but I love doing stupid things with other people too. (See also: Saline 5K in the rain.) So I’m inviting you to do the program with me. Kind of like the treadmill challenge, but only this time with pushups.

So who is in? Are you man and woman enough to do 100 pushups by Halloween? Well, are you?

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. I didn’t know. No idea!

It turns out it’s only been around since 1996, but still, that’s 13 whole years when I could have been celebrating an obscure and arbitrary holiday, and I wasn’t.

It’s time to change that.

Here’s how I propose to do it:

Write Poetry.

Pretty simple actually, but here’s what that means. I will write poetry during NPM, but I also want you to write poetry this month. After all, it’s not really a celebration if I’m the only one that shows up to the party. Know what I mean?

It’s April 13th already, so there’s still plenty of time, but remember, April is one of those tricky months with only 30 days in them. I invite you (if you are reading this, that means you’re invited) to write a poem, short or long, rhyming or not, iambic pentameter or free verse, and post it in the comments or post it on your blog. I’m also carrying around my fake Moleskine a lot lately, and if you want, you can write your poem in that, which I will scan and put up on my writing blog as bonus material. I’ll try to sum everything up here at the end of the month.

I’ve been writing and reading poetry for most of my life. Here are some things that I’ve learned about writing poetry:
1) Writing poetry is manly.
2) Writing poetry is fun.
3) Poetry doesn’t have to mean anything.
4) Poetry means so much more than just what you wrote down.
5) Poetry doesn’t have to be about serious subjects.
6) Poetry heals the soul.
7) Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.
8) Poetry doesn’t have to be hard to write.
9) Poetry doesn’t have to be good.

There are exactly zero excuses for you not to write a poem this month. Zero! So do it. Invite others to do it. To get you started, here are all of the poems that I’ve written so far this year. I’m sure that I I’ll be adding a few more. Added bonus: I just dug up an old account I had on Here are some vintage 2006 poems.

So go! Write Poetry! Breathe air! Live!