Things I Want to Do In 2011…

December 31, 2010 7:56pm
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I kind of liked the way that I laid things out in the last post as far as things done in 2010, so I thought it might be interesting to try presenting my resolutions for 2011 in this same fashion as well. I’ve noticed over the years that the more resolutions I write, the more I end up missing anyways, so who knows – maybe the hidden benefit of summarizing my resolutions will be an actual chance at achieving them!

I’ll let you know in a year…

Get to and maintain a healthy weight
I know, losing weight is probably the most popular resolution in the world, and yet it shows up on people’s lists every single year because we’re all horrible at it! I’m certainly not the only one, but regardless of how everyone else chooses to address the challenge this year, I really feel like I need to make this my #1 priority this year, for so many reasons. Not for nothing, but I’m really hoping that my latest discoveries will be the tipping point for actually giving me a chance at making a difference this year…

Make some significant strides with my writing & publishing efforts
Last year was a good year for me, but now that I’ve got some momentum, I want 2011 to be even better. I’ve got a ton of new things that I want to work on this year – writing efforts, new books, new websites – and even though it’s going to be a bear trying to get even half of them done, I think the farther I get the more aware I’m becoming of the prize at the end of the road (writing full-time).

Spend more time…

  • doing things with my wife.
  • lounging around Walt Disney World.
  • relaxing and doing things just for me (usually playing video games).

I decided to bundle all of these together because in reality, they’re all just time management issues that require both less time wasted doing stupid stuff and more productive time spent on the things that I do need to accomplish. As I mentioned, 2011 is going to be busier than ever as far as my writing is concerned, but it’s important that I don’t completely seclude myself from these other things that I enjoy, too.

Spend less time…

  • milling over politics and random controversies.
  • getting sucked into debates that I’m reading purely for the drama.
  • thinking about productivity and more time being productive.

Again with regards to my previous objective, the “good news” in trying to spend more time kicking back and relaxing is that aside from actual work, there are still other areas that are ripe for improvement to get some “free time” back. If I had instead written a new column every time I got all worked up over some political argument last year, I’d have never had a single late column the entire year! Need to focus on what’s really important…

Expand our family
And last but certainly not least, a shared resolution between me and my wife is to see some new additions take place around our home! First and foremost, we’ve recently been trying to get pregnant, so hopefully something will come of that in 2011. Also, it looks like things are finally shaping up where we should be able to get a dog like we’ve always wanted. Finally, sometime this spring Sara’s sister is going to move in with us for a while, which should be fun just in general to have another person around. If all goes according to plan, our house should be quite the bustling place come Christmas 2011!

So there you have it – five “simple” goals for 2011. Sure, I could add plenty more, but honestly if I can just manage these ones as they are, I should come out just fine at the end of the year…

Things I Did In 2010…

December 31, 2010 7:20pm
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So apparently I didn’t actually make New Year’s resolutions last year, but nonetheless before I lay out some goals for 2011, I thought it might be interesting to look back over what I did manage to accomplish in the previous year first. I always tend to get a little hard on myself when I don’t meet these things, which is made all the worse because I also set extremely high expectations for myself, so I think it’s good to take a look back every now and then and consider the high points even if they weren’t necessarily expected at the beginning of the year…

Started blogging again on a regular basis
I honestly never realized how much I missed doing this until I actually started back up again … plus, it didn’t help that my blog was getting weighed down by all of those stupid LoudTwitter posts! The bottom line is that I think it’s really neat to be able to look back and see where I was a 6-months / 1-year / even 5-years ago, and jotting down my random thoughts via blogging makes that possible.

Published my very first book
And some seven years in the making, no less! It’s hard to believe that I first entertained the idea of putting out a book of humor columns way back in 2003, but I suppose life just got busy and it took me a while to see things through. That said, I’m hoping that having the first behind me now will act as sort of a catalyst of more to come in the new year…

Actually made money with my writing
Granted, I won’t be buying my first yacht with the proceeds from book #1, but it did get my foot in the door and some actual revenues for my taxes, which I’m sure the IRS will be happy to finally see after … well, a while! Again, I’m hoping that this year’s performance can if nothing else serve to get the ball rolling for more writing income in 2011.

Went on three separate, very awesome vacations
What can I say – we work hard, we play hard! But seriously, my wife and I had kind of come up short in recent years of spending time together due to other obligations, so it was really nice to actually set aside some time for us for a change. I think we were gone for something like 5 weeks total – a long weekend in Seattle, about 3.5 weeks for our road trip, and then a week out at Disneyland for our anniversary. Good times, indeed…

Paid off a boatload of debt
Now I’m not going to list numbers and we certainly could’ve done more if we hadn’t gone on all of the vacations, but it was still a fairly significant dent nonetheless and got us one step closer to being debt-free and saving for a house. In addition, we also started making regular contributions to an emergency fund, which also still has a ways to go, but I think is going to provide a vital security blanket when I’m finally ready to transition careers some day.

I suppose the more that I think about it, 2010 was really all about laying the groundwork for more things to come in the future. There are a lot of other things that could go on here as well if you wanted to talk about half-completed projects and things that didn’t go as planned, but I think as it is, this is a good, solid list of five accomplishments that I can be proud about looking back at the past year.

Now as for 2011…

2010 in movies…

December 30, 2010 10:37pm
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Worst Line: “This must be some sort of … hot tub time machine!” (Hot Tub Time Machine)

Best Line: “Underwear would be fine … if I were wearing any.” (She’s Out of My League)

Most Sentimental Line: But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. (Toy Story 3)

Chick Flick That Wasn’t Actually Too Bad: Valentine’s Day

Chick Flick That Was Absolutely Horrible: Eclipse

Better Than Expected Cop Movie: Cop Out

Just As Bad As Expected Cop Movie: The Other Guys

Non-Pixar CGI Movie That I Actually Really Enjoyed: How to Train Your Dragon

Only Went Because I Lost a Bet: Shrek Forever After

Hated Even Having to Watch the Stupid Trailer: Legend of the Guardians (aka That Stupid Owl Movie)

I’ll Be Happy When the Series is Finally Over: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

3D Movie That Gave Me a Headache: Alice in Wonderland

Movie I Kinda Wanted to See, But I Guess I’ll Just Catch It on DVD Later: The Social Network

Worst Movie of the Year, or Possibly Ever: Get Him to the Greek

Other Stuff That I Hoped Would’ve Been Better:

Top 5 Favorites for 2010:
5. Grown Ups
4. The Losers
3. How to Train Your Dragon
2. Toy Story 3
1. She’s Out of My League

I hate the cold, pt. 2.

December 28, 2010 10:22pm
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(a sequel)

I hate tile floors, and having to wear socks around my own house.

I hate not wanting to eat anything except meatball subs, not for their sustenance, but for their warmth.

I hate having not put up all of our Christmas lights outside because it was just too damn cold out.

I hate that gross, burning smell that the heater in my car makes because I only run it one month out of the year.

I hate reading about all of the selfish strawberry farmers who are pulling water out of the ground like crazy to try and preserve their crops, knowing damn well that it’s going to result in sinkholes opening up all over the place in the months to come.

I hate being sick, then feeling better, then feeling even more sick than the last time.

I hate the only warm place in our house being in bed.

I hate when even the 10-day forecast doesn’t show an end in sight.

I really, really, really hate the cold!

As I’m getting ready to do a redesign of my main personal site, one of the questions that I keep coming back to is whether or not it’s finally time to just wave goodbye to LiveJournal and migrate everything over to something that I would host myself. This used to be something that I was really passionate against because I’ve been using LJ since 2003 and have accumulated nearly 1,700 posts here, but the more I go back and review the reasons that I didn’t want to leave, the less weight they’re all starting to have…

It’s where all of my friends blog!
Well, hardly any of those people actually use LJ anymore! The people that do still blog are either self-hosted or using another platform, and several have just thrown in the towel altogether and just post updates to Facebook these days. My Friends List, and even Friends of Friends List, are pretty much both just filled with RSS syndication of comics nowadays – I rarely ever see actual blog posts in there anymore.

LiveJournal Icons are cool!
While I still can’t necessarily deny this, I do think that I know enough about WordPress now to just mimic the feature there … that is, if there isn’t already a plugin available for it. I also used to argue that icons made my friends list more colorful to read, but if nobody else is posting…

I like the app that I use to post my updates.
I’ve been using a program called Semagic for a number of years that’s really easy to use and offers pretty dropdowns for all of the LJ-specific features (icon, mood, music, etc…), however the downside of this is that it’s actually a pain to post when I don’t have access to the application. Like for this actual post, for instance – I’m actually writing it in Word, but when I paste it into Semagic to post later, the formatting will look really ugly because of how Microsoft bloats its HTML output … I usually end up posting as plain text and then re-adding all of the formatting manually anyways.

Although I believe that Semagic can actually post into WordPress, too, I also have the option to post via the regular interface wherever I have web access OR I can paste via Word without formatting issues … this is already verified because that’s exactly how I do my humor columns each and every week.

Migrating everything is going to be a pain in the ass, and I’ve already paid for another year…
True, 1,700 posts is going to be a pain, especially considering that whatever import tool that I use likely won’t preserve all of the tags and formats as clearly as I would like, but on the other hand … you’ve got to start somewhere, right?!

I guess in looking over the nitty-gritty, I basically just convinced myself that it’s finally time … at least to say that I’m going to do it, anyways. Sure, it’s only $20 a year for a paid account with LJ and there’s really no reason why I couldn’t just go free, but the more I look at it the benefits are really dwindling these days … namely, nobody else uses LJ anymore and everyone I do follow I now use RSS for. Plus, I’m kind of making it a point to dump old online stuff that I don’t really need anymore this year, anyways. Already I’ve let a few domain names expire for projects years old that just never came to fruition, and although I never paid for Flickr, I’m still debating whether I want to get a pro account with them or use my own hosting account for photos as well.

Again, the money isn’t really a big deal, but a) like the placeholder domain names, it’s dumb to keep paying for something that I don’t need; and b) I already have a monthly bill for webhosting, so to some extent it does seem a little silly to pay an extra fee for another service that I could host myself … unless it offers some amazing features that open source software doesn’t currently replicate (arguably, this is my debate with Flickr right now…).

My requirements are pretty simple for this blog – I don’t even know if anybody else reads it because I’ve always looked at it more just as something for me to look back at reminiscently from time to time, so if we’re finally to the point where it makes more sense for me to just host a simple WordPress blog for it myself, maybe that’s finally ok. Besides, maybe that will put it in a better position to actually get read by more random people, and a few cents here and there from Adsense never hurts. I’ve already proven this year that even though something may seem stupid to me, that doesn’t mean other people won’t be interested in it nonetheless!

Anyways, I’m sure I won’t stop posting here for a while, but I suppose it’s something for me to start playing around with when the redesign for gets underway. My original plan was just to keep it a portal pointing to all of my other sites, but I was planning on using WordPress as the framework, so including a blog in the mix shouldn’t be much trouble on that part. I’m not really concerned about the design, but the 1,700-post import could get a little ugly! Then again, maybe it’d be a good task to do 6 months at a time – that way, I can go back and tag all of those really old posts at the same time, too!

We’ll see whether I still renew my paid account here in Sept. 2011 whether this plan actually worked out or not…

So admittedly I haven’t written one of these posts in a long time because I kind of hit rock bottom with the whole diet & exercise efforts. The last post that I wrote was just before going on our three-week road trip, so you can guess how well I ate during that whole excursion! Sadly, I can probably count the number of times I’ve hopped on the elliptical since then on one hand, attributed to a toss up between stress and just not making any progress whatsoever, but nonetheless I want to start back up and try again for a couple of reasons.

1) As usual, one of my New Years Resolutions for next year is going to be to lose weight.
2) Over the last couple of months I’ve seen some medical diagnoses that are hopefully going to make this goal actually attainable going forward.

First and foremost, a few months back my doctor finally diagnosed me with some sort of thyroid problems, which honestly I don’t know all of the details about offhand except that it can really screw with your metabolism. Admittedly, I was kind of hoping that this would just be the magic pill that would cause the weight to simply fall off once it got stabilized, and it didn’t … but at least it’s one less hidden variable working against me going forward.

The other more drastic change is that earlier this fall I was diagnosed with sleep apnea – something that my wife has been suggesting for a while because I snore like a buzz saw (and apparently stop breathing during the night!), but I never wanted to accept because it would mean that I’d have to wear this creepy gas mask to bed for the rest of my life. Well, after continuing to not show any signs of weight loss after stabilizing my thyroid, the doc sent me off to do a sleep study (a horrible night spent with wires taped all over my body) and at the end of six hours of “sleep,” they concluded that I had woken up from not breathing something like 40 or 50 times over the course of the six-hour period.

This is important because apparently the body needs to actually get rest in order to properly burn fat, which it can’t do if instead it has to focus on waking me up subconsciously every 15 minutes when I start to suffocate in my sleep!

Yikes, indeed.

And as much as I really didn’t want to hear all of this, it was kind of a relief because it actually makes a lot of sense. It’s the same reason that I was feeling lethargic and tired all of the time – because although, yes, I’m fat and that plays a big part of it, at the same time I’m also feeling drowsy because I’m not actually sleeping in the truest sense of the word at night, and of course, shorting myself sleep to stay up late working on stuff just compounds that even further! Looking back, it seems really obvious, but frankly, it took a long time getting here and I honestly probably would’ve kept on denying it even longer if I wasn’t beyond ready to give up with weight loss…

So the long and the short of it is that as a result, I now have to use a CPAP machine when I sleep, which is the creepy gas mask thing where I wear a little mask over my nose that pushes air down my breathing passage and keeps me from stopping breathing in the middle of the night. I hate the thing and it’s a huge pain in the ass, but on the bright side, I do feel a little more rested and I don’t feel like I yawn during the day nearly as much as I used to. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve been using the thing for a little over a month.

Also, Sara says that my snoring disappeared completely, which I know is a huge bonus for her!

That said, the game plan now is this – basically, try again!!! These were two potentially huge variables working against me that I had absolutely no knowledge of over the past years, so it could very well be that now that I’m actively managing them, I actually stand a chance at losing weight on my own. Granted, I don’t expect the weight loss to be handed to me – I’m also starting to accept that as I get older, my metabolism isn’t exactly working for me anymore, but at least if I have a fighting chance instead of doing everything I’m supposed to and then still just failing miserably, that’s gotta be worth another try at this whole thing. For all of those other reasons that I don’t want to be overweight, and now also because I don’t want to wear this stupid gas mask for the rest of my life!

Holiday snacking and our ridiculously cold weather has made diet & exercise tough these last couple weeks of December, but so far that’s the plan and I’m slowly inching myself back into the habits of working out and eating better that are supposed to make this whole thing work. Today’s post is really just an attempt to bring things back up to speed, but I’ll do my best to write more in 2011 once I get things back into gear…

*fingers crossed*

What game should I play next???

December 26, 2010 4:36pm
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One of the things that I really want to try to do more of in the new year is play more video games, but I’m kind of stuck right now in that I’m not really sure what I want to pick-up next. The last game that I finished was Dragon Quest VIII (PS2), which I ended up really getting into, so I’d love to find another game that follows in that same spirit. I’d almost liken it to Final Fantasy 2 (SNES) in that even though it was a pretty long game, by the time I had finally finished it, I was so attached to the characters that I almost wish there was a sequel that I could just pick up and keep right on going!

Unfortunately for the most part, both of those series’ tend to start fresh with each new game, but here are a couple that I’ve been thinking about so far…

Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (Wii)
My big concern with this one (as with a lot of Wii games) is that I really want a turn-based RPG – I’m just not a fan of the Kingdom Hearts-style fighting where you have to mash buttons like an action game to attack (Zelda is one of my few exceptions to this rule), and my concern is that the Wii controller is going to make this mechanism even worse if I have to wave the Wii-mote in the air to swing my sword!

Final Fantasy IV: The After-Years (Wii / Virtual Console)
I geeked out about the concept of this game earlier this spring, but never actually got around to playing it. The game is supposed to pick up with a number of characters from my beloved FF2 and take them on new adventures. This could be really cool, or it could kinda ruin my favorite game of all time if the graphics and voice actors that they came up with for my pixelated party aren’t actually all that good…

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)
I’m not a huge fan of mixing technology with magic in the RPGs that I play – the airships and chainsaw from FF2 and FF3 respectively were ok, but the dude with the machine gun arm in FF7 was pushing it a bit for me! So I definitely have concerns when the first bullet point on Amazon describes this as “…where technology has advanced to its peak and magic is considered taboo.”

Older Final Fantasy Games That I Never Got Around to Playing… (PSX)
I guess I also have a number of other games that I picked up in the moment and then never actually played – FFII (Final Fantasy Origins), FF5 (Final Fantasy Anthology), Final Fantasy Tactics, as well as either FF8 or FF9, and also FF10 for the PS2. A lot of these I held off on for one reason or another – either I didn’t care for the battle system or for the collections, I bought it for one of the other games on the disc … but ultimately I suppose these are all worth a consideration, too.

Also, having just bought Sara a Nintendo DS for Christmas, I can’t help but notice how many games from these series’ ended up on the portable platform, too! So far I do like it from what little I’ve played around with it, but I just don’t know if I can stare at that tiny screen for the amount of time that I’d typically put into an RPG…

Still, that’s a lot of games!

Any suggestions? It looks like right now it’s a toss up between something old and something new…

Christmas imagery…

December 25, 2010 9:55pm
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It all started with my wife making pumpkin french toast on Christmas Eve…

Then we made cookies – only two kinds this year, but they were both really good!

I didn’t put up as many lights as normal due to a lack of time, but still had a better display than most of the block.

Santa was very good to us with regards to presents this year!

And Mickey was happy to stand guard over them for us!

Our quaint, little Christmas Village, a la Legos and gingerbread…

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Ok, this is it – the last blog post about my awesome summer vacation.

I mean, it is December now – admittedly I am probably pushing the statute of limitations on this sort of thing anyways!

Still, it was important for me to actually write about this trip in its entirely because, as you might guess from pouring over the previous 33 blog posts and some 15,000 words, this was a huge trip for us. It still amazes me how much we were able to do on that trip – looking back, it’s just incredible to me, especially when you consider how most people would end up making this half a dozen shorter trips … or more!

But we were really lucky to be able to pull it all off in one shot – we planned ahead and really took the approach that this was going to be the last time that we’d be able to do a vacation of this magnitude for quite some time. The next couple of years have a lot of new challenges in store for us – having kids, buying a house to call our own, career changes – so between time, energy, and finances, this summer seemed to be the best time for us to actually be able to pull something like this off. As they say, it was a “once in a lifetime trip”, or so we thought.

In looking back over all of these amazing things that we did across nearly a month of roaming around the country together, though, I think the most significant thing that I want to take away from it all is that in hindsight, that kind of adventure most certainly does not have to be a once in a lifetime event. In fact, if anything it needs to happen many, many times in this lifetime! To be honest, the costs really weren’t that bad for the duration – actually, we probably spent about as much for these three and a half weeks as we spent for a week out at Disneyland, airfare included, so if anything, more demanding was actually just setting aside the time to be able to get away from work for the better part of a month. And considering that we both still had enough vacation time to go on two other major trips this year, the excuses are actually drying up pretty quick…

Now I’m not saying that eight months from now we’ll hit the road again and go exploring in a different direction, but looking at it more long term – I’m 30 now, so by the time I’m 35 or 40, it’d be nice to have something a little more recent to look back on instead of just saying, “Remember way back in 2010 when we did that amazing road trip because we didn’t have any of this weighing us down?!” Life is what you make of it, so after a grand adventure such as this that was just ridiculous amounts of fun and bonding time, in 20 years I want to be able to look back on this as the start of a family tradition, not just a once in a lifetime trip.

Challenge accepted!

Having shot over 1,800 photos on this trip, it was hard frankly to even narrow those down to the 135 that I ended up featuring in these blog posts. Nonetheless, even amongst those a distinct handful stood out as my own personal all-time favorites. Some highlighted key moments during the dream, some just turned out to be nice-looking shots, so if you don’t feel like skimming through the other 33 posts in this series, here are the very best according to me…

whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium

an amazingly adorable moment shared with the Coca-Cola Bear

Brandi wishing that she could get through just one family visit without Lori or me shoving a camera in her face…

incredibly well-lit tyrannosaurus rex at Science North‘s dinosaur exhibit

the awesome view out our hotel room at Niagara Falls

purdy flowers seen while we were walking around the overlook areas by the Falls

a neat view of a bridge disappearing into the mountains somewhere along the Hudson River

although admittedly blurry, I thought this was a pretty shot of all of the colored banners representing the different brands that Hershey’s owns

a lucky view of the Washington Monument at sunset that I caught on our way back to the subway

Walt always said that nighttime was extra special around his parks, and apparently it also applies to his hotels as well

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