Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thoughts on Michael Vick

I've held my tongue for a while now. It's not that I thought the guy deserved a fair shake. After all earning a gazillion dollars is already being considered elite and getting more than a fair shake in things. He's going to forfeit more money by not playing next year than I'll make in my entire life. And yet, there are those that consider the prosecution of their beloved hero wrong.

It's not wrong. Michael Vick, and every other multi-million dollar athlete out there that breaks the law, will just have to live up to it, like everyone else in this country. Being rich and famous should not earn you a free pass to also being stupid and unlawful.

The reason that I let the Michael Vick fiasco go so long is that it's just another one of those "hero's" that our kids look up to being a complete ass and doing something stupid. I have gotten numb to that. The fact is that people do stupid things all the time, and they get caught all the time. The only difference with professional athletes is the scale on which they do them. It's a lot easier to a really big stupid thing when you have an excessive amount of money at your disposal.

However, Michael Vick had a public statement apology yesterday that left me fuming. It was slightly impressive that he spoke without any note cards, but things he said weren't impressive.

He said that dog fighting is a terrible thing and that it was a mistake to take part in it. He said he found Jesus and asked for forgiveness. He said everyone makes mistakes. Then he said he takes full responsibility for what he did, and apologized to lying to his coach, his owner, the commissioner of football. The reason he gave, he was immature.

I doubt that after 6 years of brutalizing and killing dogs he suddenly thinks that dogfighting is wrong. His admission that it is all of a sudden is insulting to the rest of us. His tone and body language when he said he found Jesus and asked for forgiveness were poor. He didn't look like he found Jesus nor asked for forgiveness. He looked like he was trying to win favor with some people and that was all. His admission that everyone makes mistakes while true does not forgive him for this mistake. A mistake is to do something wrong in the heat of the moment, as a one time thing. Willfully breaking the law repeatedly for 6 years is not a mistake, it is just plain trying to get away with illegal activity. He said he takes full responsibility for what he did and always has, but that was not true either. At the start he claimed that his relatives and friends took advantage of his generosity and used the house for things that he was unaware. Since then it has been shown that he was very aware of what was happening, and that he took part. He blamed those closest to him that he trusted and that relied on him in order to save his own skin. That's not taking responsibility, that's not even being loyal to his friends and family. Finally his reason of being "immature" was crap. He was not being immature. It's another way to try to not take responsibility. "I did it because I wasn't allowed to be a kid when I was younger, but now that I have 100 million in my pocket I thought I could do this kind of stupid thing" is not a reason.

The thing that I admired about Vick prior to this is that he didn't seem to have that immature kid in him. He was a man out to prove he was a good quarterback. It didn't matter that I thought he was a good athlete but not a good quarterback. I at least thought he wasn't one of the thugs of football. I was amazed that he seemed so grounded while his brother was a complete terror. It's disappointing to know that even those people in professional football that appear to be above the level of thug may possibly just be better at not getting caught. That puts makes rest of the "good guys" in football suspect as well.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Growing your blog

All this month I've been reading about how to make my blog a better blog and following the 31 days to a better blog at ProBlogger.net. There are lots of good tips how to get more people to come and read your site. Go comment on other peoples sites, become an expert. Do guest posting. Tips on how to write when you really don't want to write. And the ever popular, "write for a niche market".

After two years blogging, I've come to the conclusion that I'll never write for a niche group. I may never have a huge following on my blog. But that's not really all that important. What is important is that I come out here and continue to try and improve my writing. My blog should allow me to grow as a writer. It has. If you scan back through some of my posts over the years, you will see that my style has changed somewhat. My topics have changed a lot, and I have learned a lot.

As I glanced back myself today I see my kids two years younger. I read my blog from August 05 and it seems like I'm writing to my diary, only for the world to see. In August 06, I have a mix of both tips for living life and thoughts of my philosophy on life mixed in with a diary of sorts. More recently though my posts have been more useful to the rest of the world. There are tips for how to do things, and get through life and some of the challenges that I face while doing so.

This blog also allows me the opportunity to find and get to know some wonderful new people. Recently "The Fat Runner" and I have crossed paths and have been keeping up with each other. I have links on the side to two of my good friends who both play music Keith Hampton and Joel Rosenberger. They both play great and are a joy to listen to. Finally I get to post about my experiments. Me becoming a handy man and gardener around the house are both just experiments of a computer programmer trying to figure it out.

I am not the foremost authority on Getting Things Done. I am not the worlds most prolific new tool tester. I don't have a comment on everything I read about, and I am not a blog about a single sport or sports team. My blog is tips on how to get through life, and things that I have to think about while doing so, with a bit of my family and kids thrown in the middle.

I just live an ordinary life. Do ordinary things and face the same challenges that everyone does.

Now it's time for me to do the dishes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Finders Keepers


In honor of Rachd I have accepted the challenge from Erin at The Corn Was Good to write about a controversial topic.

When I grew up the rules were simpler. The world wasn't, but my view of it was. Life was very easy. If I found something in the alley I would just pick it up and it was mine. I amassed a large collection of crap. I had parts of toys, and used toys, sticks and string, bottles and many other things. My brother and I would pick up each others toys and always holler "Finders Keepers". It was how we justified taking each others things.

"Finders Keepers" made life easy.

A few weeks ago I was picking up a few groceries for dinner with Ady and Jonas. As always, when I saw some money on the floor I had one of the kids pick it up. I have a knack for finding money that's been discarded or dropped. Finders Keepers. Usually it's just pennies, but occasionally I find a forgotten dime or when I'm really lucky a quarter. This day however, I saw green on the floor in the checkout lane. GREEN! I was excited, a whole dollar to put into the vacation fund.

I sent Jonas over to the next lane to pick up the money. It took a minute before he saw it and picked it up. I asked to see it, just to know how much we were adding to our savings. My heart jumped when I saw it was a fifty dollar bill. That's when I had conflict. My Finders Keepers attitude went to war with my wife, not my conscious. I don't really have much of a conscious when it comes to this kind of thing, when I find it, I keep it. But I knew that when I got home I would have a fight with my wife. She would tell me how I shouldn't have taken it. I should have turned it in, that money could have been all the money someone had.

I reasoned with myself and used all of Erin's words in my head to talk to Jonas. We can't keep this money because it could be all the money that someone has to buy groceries, and without it they may not be able to eat for a week. It took all of my concentration to lie like that. All of it's true, but I wanted that money. Finders keepers. I decided to hand the money over and made sure that if it wasn't claimed in a few days I could come in and reclaim it. I had after all found it. I handed the money over to the cashier and watched her walk into the office.

Heartbroken I returned home and still had to listen to Erin lecture me on the money. Giving it back still hadn't been enough, the fact that I told her I thought about keeping it was enough to earn me a lecture.

Three days later I returned to the store first thing in the morning. I had decided that I would be careful to word my inquiry as to "Was $50 turned in from lane 2", rather than "I lost $50" or the more direct "I turned in $50 was it claimed, if not it's mine". The woman working at the service desk didn't even check when I asked. She responded quickly with "Nope, no one turned in $50. If they had, I would know about it". I had to beg her to go double check in the office. Still nothing. Nobody turned in $50. But "you know how people are around here, someone probably just picked it up and put it in their pocket". But they didn't. I know, because I was the somebody. I was the one who could have, should have, picked it up and stuck it into my pocket. That should have been my $50. But no, I was listening to my wife's conscious and I didn't keep it.

I now know not to trust the cashiers at that grocery store. They are not honest. And although I would have kept the money myself, they should not have. If I had been in their position I would not have. There's a difference between finding money and having it turned in to you. When you are in a position where things are turned in to you, you have a responsibility of honesty in business that you have to live up to. I also know that the co-workers of those people think that everyone in this town is a thief.

The next time I find that money on the ground I won't hesitate to pick it up and pocket it. Finders Keepers.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Always do your best.


I love Springtime. The trees are just starting to bud and show life. The grass starts to turn green after being brown and buried by snow. The smell of morning dew and the coming rain fill your nose. It's the start of life and the beginning of baseball.

I was almost 12 and made it into Little League for the first time. Little league is a privilege because not everyone makes it. I was drafted by the team my dad coached, that had won the league the previous year. I was excited. Since my dad was one of the coaches, I figured I was going to get to play wherever I wanted. I was wrong.

My dad didn't treat me differently. I was expected to meet the same standards as everyone else, only I heard about it both at practice and at home. "Do it again. You're not trying. You can do better. Run" Run meant down to a telephone pole and back, it was about a quarter mile round trip. Anytime we made a mistake during a drill we had to run. I ran a lot. If I wasn't running hard enough I had to run again. Every drill we did had two purposes. First we were expected to learn the fundamentals of baseball, but more importantly we were expected to always try our best. It wasn't important enough for us to be the best at our positions. Everyone plays with a different ability level. What my coaches pushed for was for each of us to find out how far we could push ourselves to be the best that we could. The army slogan may be flashing through your mind "Be all that you can be". It was very much that same philosophy.

My life is much different now than it was at 12, but that philosophy hasn't changed. I still approach everything that I do with that attitude. I always give 100%, and I don't have to be the best at what I do, but I do have to try my best.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No Fear

I remember reading those No Fear shirts years ago when they were fashionable. Around the same time I loved to watch the cheesy movie No Retreat No Surrender. A kid at the time, I thought I was fearless. Every obstacle I came across I would pump myself up mentally with either the phrase "No Fear". If something wasn't going well the first time, I would chastise myself "No Retreat, no surrender". For a long time these two phrases got me through just about everything.

It's strange how living life teaches you both humility and fear. Those phrases don't work anymore because the failures and fear of future failures that we have can cause us to become completely catatonic.

Thursday night I have a two minute speech to give about a defining moment in my life. A specific incident that I can look back on and say, at this moment I learned that a certain virtue is necessary and important to me.

I have been approaching the speech with the same attitude I did as a kid. "No Fear" I can conquer this pit in my stomach, sweat on my hands and shaking in my bones. They are nothing to me, they will happen and I will not be any worse off. People will judge me, but I leave myself open to judgment constantly by having written on a blog. I do not worry about that.

I worry about what I will say. I don't view my life as having any major jumps in it. I have come to be who I am by 100,000 small insignificant changes each building on a previous change. An action by a friend, a sentence from a teacher, a book I read, a poem I wrote a reflection on life and it's events and a small change. Over and over again, repeated to the point of my current life. My life is, well, normal. I don't view myself as an extraordinary person, I'm a simple person doing simple things and sharing them with others.

Five days of thinking and an hour long discussion with my wife pushing and prodding me to dig into my past, which I rarely do anymore, have finally given me a topic to discuss. Now to prepare to face the speech and the room full of people watching, listening, and not caring with No Fear.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Movies, movies, everywhere

The past several days my head has been filled with movies. There are so many things that I want to watch that I haven't seen over the past decade. Erin and I have been talking about it for a while, and we both think that there are more movies out there that we are interested in than TV. If I were to start feeding my movie starved mind I would surely run up a big bill quickly. Therefore we are going to look at getting Netflix.

By now everyone has heard of Netflix. I'm kind of surprised that more local video stores haven't gone out of business since Netflix started. I myself am going to be a late adopter. That's one of those people who sit on the sideline and wait for something to be established before they start using it.

There are a few benefits that Netflix has that I will probably just be restating, but it's part of why Erin and I are going to do it.
    • No more trips to the video store. It's not that it's far to the store, only 5 blocks from home, but taking 2 or 3 kids with me is a pain.
    • No more not knowing what I want. I hate walking into a store and hoping to find something I want. When I'm online I can look at movies and reviews and add them to the list as soon as I hear about them. When I'm at the video store it's very random.
    • No more late fees. You wouldn't think that this is a big problem only having to go 5 blocks, but the last 4 times we've rented movies we've had to pay late fees. We even owe late fees for our library movies which are free. Erin said it the other day. Netflix was made for people like us.
    • More movie watching. I don't have cable anymore, and I don't get out to movies, but if I pay for Netflix you can sure as heck bet that I'm going to set aside more time to watch movies. There's no point in paying to not watch movies. I average maybe 2 movies a month, I expect that to increase to 2 a week, which is a huge increase in movies watching.
    • More variety. At the video store there are so many things that I haven't seen that I don't even get into the sections of the store that have the things I missed last year and the year before. With Netflix I'll see the new ones, but I'll also start getting into movies from the past decade that I've missed. Plus, if things get slow, I may just check out a whole new genre that I would have normally skipped, such as the slasher movies.
There is only one downside that I can think of. I can't on a whim get up and go to the video store for movies without paying more. If I happen to be in a situation where I've seen all of my movies and want to watch more, I'd have to run to the video store and rent them risking all of the things that I just worried about.

Netflix is a very cool mix of online tech and snail mail though. It's like Amazon only they expect every product to be returned. I like that kind of thinking. About 10 years ago a friend and I were sitting around talking and came up with the idea of Pizza and a Movie. You would go online and order your pizza and a movie and they would both be delivered to your house. I've seen that some big cities are doing this now, but I'm shocked it hasn't caught on in the more rural areas. It's the smaller towns that could really eat up something like that. At least Netflix makes it one step closer, you can get your movie delivered to you in the mail, and you can call your local Pizza Hut and have it delivered.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What's in a name...a tag!

After two years on the internet blogging, I've finally been tagged. Yes, it was my wife Erin that tagged me. However, I thought this one was interesting enough to actually do.

THE RULES:
1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
2. You must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their
middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
3. When you are tagged, you need to write your own blog post containing your own middle name game facts.
4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

My middle name:
CHARLES
C- Committed to improving myself.
H- Happily Married.
A- A nice guy.
R- Running towards a marathon goal, and a healthy life.
L- Likes to read, a lot.
E- Erin and I are ready mentally for another baby.
S- Shares my life on my blog.


I tag. Larry, The Fat Runner, Trish, Ari, Tiffany, Joel, dahcredyns
I was kind of shocked to see that I didn't have a problem finding 7 people to tag. You can do it too. Even if you can't find someone to tag, enjoy writing your post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chicago Distance Classic and me

This is what I look like after running 13 miles. Sunday I ran the Chicago Distance Classic. This half marathon race has been going on one year longer than the Chicago Marathon. I ran my fastest time for the distance ever with 2:32:17. This wasn't about a single race though. I run all the time. I run 3 days every week, and when this race was over I'll get back out and keep running.

My goal is fitness and health, not races. I still have about 20 pounds that I want to lose and I continue to work on that and track everything at SparkPeople.com

Running just happens to be one of the best ways to lose weight. The best thing about running is that anyone can do it. That's part of why I wanted to run the CDC, it's owned by John "the Penguin" Bingham, and he is well known for helping people break into running. He himself broke into running late in life and never became a fast runner, he just became fit. His newest book about running is Running For Mortals. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard it's good. I do read runner's world every month and his column is probably the best page of the magazine. I did read the first book he wrote No Need for Speed, which is a fun book about just getting out the door to get going. Because with running for fitness, that's what's most important.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Do you have the right running Support?


Support is very important in running. You have to have good shoes, good clothes, and good family. In order to run well you have to have good support. I'm lucky, I have great support. Sometimes I don't recognize it, but last Sunday was an example of support from my wife that changed the day, and my week since.

I woke up late for my run on Sunday. I was planning on being out of the house by 5 in order to get home as everyone else was waking up for the day. Instead I woke up at 7 when my youngest started yelling from his crib that it was time to wake up.

I sat on the floor, where I slept Saturday night as I spent a quality night bonding with my oldest at the same time that my wife and daughter slept together in our bed, and started to beat myself up mentally. I was so mad. I wanted to be done already and instead I was just waking up.
My wife, knowing how much of a beast I can be without my run, came to me and said, "It's still early, and isn't it the run that's important not the time?" I could not argue with those words of wisdom.

Out the door I went at 7:15. My training plan only has me running 6 mile runs on long days that I'm not trying to get closer to the marathon distance. The past several really long runs though I've started to pitter out after 6 miles. In order to prevent that, I have decided that I'm going to start increasing my short long runs from 6 miles up to 10. This weekend I was increasing to 8 miles. With my trusty MP3 player and shoes I was on my way.

There was something about having started late that really annoyed me. I was mad and I don't normally start a morning mad. I love mornings, each day is full of promise and anything can happen, so I am almost always happy to start a day. Sunday I was mad. I was mad to the point of punishing myself. I didn't beat myself up mentally, I did it physically. My mind and body are constantly at odds with each other. My body says give me food while my mind says I don't need it. My body says I need sleep, while my mind says I have too much to do. Now though, I was pushing my body beyond what it could handle. Beyond what it has had to handle.

Even while pushing harder than normal, I was sticking to my run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute running pattern. I didn't want to screw up the pattern that has worked so well and that I plan on using in the marathon. That meant that each run had to be faster. I made the 5K mark at 32 minutes, much faster than a normal long run. I was at 4.13 miles at 43 minutes, still a great pace for my run. I then turned around and started pushing even harder. I was going to run as hard as I could on the way back home. When I was finished I had averaged 11:04 per mile.

Left to my own devices I would not have gotten out the door. With my wife's encouraged me to not only go for a run, but fueled the desire to push harder and have one of my best runs of the year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cherish what you have

I read about a little 5 year old girl that died a few weeks ago. I cried as I read the story. I was shocked that I could feel so deeply for this complete stranger. I realized that I was identifying with her. I too have a 5 year old that likes to be adventurous and do things that are dangerous. He loves to swim and swims in Lake Michigan with his mom from time to time. I don't know how I would respond if the same tragedy happened to me, but this woman's strength is awe inspiring.

The mom blogs and has clearly been writing as her personal form of therapy to get over this tragedy. She posted about the accident and about the funeral. There is a link to a slide show of Hannah that was made for the funeral. I watched this 15 minute video of her daughter and cried. I kept thinking how lucky I am that my kids are still alive, and how much I would miss them if something were to happen.

I cherish what I have even more now. I love and hold my children closer and tighter. I take more pictures and act goofy with them. Anything can happen and I want my kids to know that I love them completely.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How to get your motivation back

If you are lacking some motivation for productivity in your life, it may be because you've got something on your mind that's been there for too long. A project that's been sitting for a while can become a drain mentally even when you aren't working on it. Sometimes getting a project onto a list isn't enough. When a project isn't just a dream, but something that needs to be accomplished it can still drain energy.

Get starting by finding the project that really nags at you. You'll know it pretty quickly. When you read through your list it's the one that makes your stomach turn, the one that people say something about, or the one that is really visible and you worry about someone saying something about. Decide that this project is no longer on hold, but that the rest of things will be. You may say right here "but my current projects are too important to put on hold". That may be, but you would be getting them done better and faster without this energy drain.

Accomplish one of those long waiting projects and your energy will soar.

I have had this problem myself. I have gone a long time without feeling like I was performing up to my ability. I would do great things while at work, my creativity was high, my performance was, my mood was great, then I'd go home and feel down. I'd walk into my house and see the unfinished living room wall. The wall that looked the same for the past 14 months. Some time before we bought our house the front porch had been turned into a room of the house. However, the giant picture window had never been removed, it remained offering a view of the next room. The previous owners never had a problem with this, however, with three kids my wife and I were worried that this could be a disaster. As soon as we could we set on removing the window, you can see pictures at my previous post Living Room Changes and More Living Room Pics

However, since that day, the wall remained the same, unfinished. Just a piece of drywall, ugly. I would walk into the house and it would stare at me. After too many months of explaining it away I finally said "that's enough, this is getting done today". It was not a convenient task. I had to move the furniture out of the room and keep the kids busy without them tromping through the highest traffic room of the house. With a day of frustration for my wife, who had to deal with the kids, I was able to finish the wall and get it painted, now it looks like a normal wall. In the few days since then, my desire to be productive has soared.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Organize your life with this free to do list

Swift To-Do List Lite is a great Desktop tool. The install is very simple. Just download the setup program and run it. There's nothing to it.

Using the application is extremely intuitive. There are keyboard shortcut, which is a huge advantage. Many web applications lack keyboard shortcuts, I love the keyboard and do my best to shun the mouse.

Even though the application is extremely easy to use and understand there is also a great online manual.





The best attribute of this application that I've found so far for this is that it can be used very easily by anyone. The professional version states that it has unlimited tasks and to do lists. I haven't hit the limit on tasks or To-Do lists yet. However, once I do, I'll probably be ready to upgrade to the professional version. By that point the application will be such an ingrained part of my routine that staying with it will be worth the price. Erin uses this on our home computer to make to-do lists for me, and her, as well as to keep track of what we need for our groceries.

I do have a few complaints. Everything is saved locally. This prevents online sharing between computers. I love the offline version, but being able to upload the list to a service and view all of my to-do items from wherever I have the application installed would be nice. I've also started trying to limit the applications that I use to applications that will run entirely on my USB drive. I will post more about these later. Having to install locally means that I have to have the computer that has my list on it with me in order to see what I have to do.

All in all this is a great application that I will continue to use at least until the limit of the free version is reached. There are too many benefits to replace it with something that I would have to pay for.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting more done.

I'm a big GTD (Getting Things Done) proponent, which means that I create a list of things that need to be done and do my best to accomplish them, or at least realize that I'm not going to do a specific thing for a reason.

I'm also a minimalist. I prefer to have the least amount of crap that I need. When I'm done with something I give it away or throw it away. I don't like to keep things that I don't need and won't use again.

Lately I've been lacking on both fronts. I've accumulated piles of things that I know I don't need, and I haven't been accomplishing as many things as I could and should be.

The problem appears to be that I spend too much time on odd random things that have aren't accomplishing anything and don't fit with any of my life goals. Mainly, I spend too much time watching television. I love watching baseball, and try to accomplish something of use while doing it, but I tend to get distracted by the play and just sit and stare.

The solution is that I'm working on making checklists of things to do. I subscribe to Productivity501, and I'm using the habits checklist that he created, if you want it, you'll have to subscribe to his RSS Feed.. I have made a list of habits that I want to have that match up with things that I want to be doing in both my personal and professional life. I have recently cleaned up my TODO lists. They were overrun with tasks that were completed and no longer necessary. I had too many reference notes where they didn't belong, and not enough details on some things. Now my task lists are more focused and detailed with only the things that I need to do. I'm looking at trying out some new software to help organize these. I love the interface for MonkeyGTD, and I've been using it for quite some time now, but there are some severe limitations that are causing me pain. For someone just getting started this is a great tool, but as you grow, you may find that you also outgrow this tool.

I've also cleaned up and organized better my use of the TiddlyWiki. I've grown to like this more than MonkeyGTD. It just stores the data that you type, and lets you type your lists and add notes quickly by turning a list item into a new Tiddler (think page).

I'm also looking for other tools that will help me. We've started using Swift To-Do Lite at home. This has been working well. We use it to track todo items that Erin wants to add to my list, as well as to keep track of groceries that we need. The checklist function is nice and it can be printed.

The bigger issue though has been distractions. When I'm on the computer, I try to not let myself wander. If I notice that I'm not doing something that helps me accomplish something on my list somewhere, then I'm not doing something worth-while. If what I'm doing is interesting enough that I want to continue. I add it to my list. But the bigger distraction is the TV. Erin and I have discussed it and both have agreed that it's time to turn it off. Today the cable man came and turned off our television. We now only have the 5 channels that we can get with the antenna. That removes almost all baseball distractions, and most of my football distractions. With football just around the corner I won't be as tempted to sit in front of ESPN all day on Saturday, and then the networks all day on Sunday. Plus I'll no longer get Monday Night football now that it's on ESPN. There are now 6-10 more hours a week that I won't have the TV distracting me, and I'll probably start getting dizzy with the amount of things that I will accomplish.