My Study Partners

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Who I’ve been spending all my time with lately:

 

 

Trying Out WordPress Mobile

December 7, 2010 2 comments

I’m trying out WordPress Mobile for iPhone. So far, I don’t think the learning curve will be that steep but the comfortability curve will be. My fingers have the dexterity and thickness of bratwurst so typing on the iPhone is a challenge and I hate making typos, let alone publishing them.

Between this and my new favorite tool aka Prezi, I may yet become a productive member of society. Like many smartphone users, my first apps were largely entertainment based or what I’d seen on friends’ phones that was ‘cool.’ Now I am focusing more on apps that build my capacity to be productive and creative.

That shift makes sense because I can now go days without turning on my laptop. This iPhone is now really just an extension of my computer and it needs to be configured as such. Mobile apps are no longer just about entertainment or a cool novelty that makes life a bit better; apps are now also about performing at your peak.

There are big implications in this–vanishing time away from work, blurred lines between private and public space, evolving conditions for decision-making, etc. We should be mindful of those. I should be mindful of those, and I will, right after I finish this post, send some tweets and reply to a few emails.

Categories: Uncategorized

Great Info Well Presented

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment

This presentation by Swedish physician and researcher Hans Rosling is fascinating for a number of reasons.  Using over 120,000 calculations tied to income per person and life expectancy, Rosling and his team have tracked the arc of global human progress over the last 200 years.  As if that weren’t enough, the resulting presentation of their findings is not only informative but also memorable and easily grasped by virtually anyone.

Some have complained that Rosling is measuring progress by Western standards, ie. money equals progress and that the income growth demonstrated in the presentation cannot continue.  There is perhaps some validity to this charge but few would argue that the longer life expectancies we now enjoy are not welcomed by all.

Disappointed But Not Angry With World Cup Bid Results

December 4, 2010 2 comments

Before I started the exercise and weight loss portion of my life change, I knew nothing about soccer.  I did however know what it was like to sweat while eating.

Fast forward 2 years and I’m a soccer fanatic.  I watch it constantly and am even learning how to play.  So I actually cared when on Thursday, the international governing body for soccer chose the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  The 2018 Cup was awarded to Russia, which beat out, among others, England, which was the favorite based upon projected return on investment and infrastructure.  The 2022 Cup was given to Qatar, which beat out the favored United States bid.

A simple Google search shows that pundits and citizens alike in the US and England are crying foul, vowing inquests and reforms, and generally scratching their heads.  True, both Russia and Qatar’s bids were not favored.  Both countries are awash in petro-dollars and eager to improve their world standing, facts I reflexively tweeted when I first heard the news.  And FIFA’s reputation for integrity is not exactly stellar–it’s been referred to as the “Enron of sports” for a stream of scandals involving selling votes, monopolizing ticket sales and controlling construction contracts.

The English bid was likely damaged by an episode of the investigative news program Panorama which aired just a few days prior to the FIFA vote.  The program brought attention to a host of improprieties allegedly committed by members of the World Cup bid selection committee as well as a laundry list of special tax breaks the winning host nation must provide FIFA.  All in all, it’s pretty easy to see why most observers believe that something is not on the level.

I originally agreed until I read this article, also cited above, that discusses the generally crooked nature of not just FIFA but virtually every one of its contingent associations that make up world football governance.  The situation is similar to the baseball steroid scandals of the last decade.  In my opinion, I can’t be too judgmental of a player who breaks the rules when the entire system is crooked–Barry Bonds may have taken steroids but so did a lot of the pitchers he faced.  So if Qatar and Russia broke the rules, it’s highly unlikely they did so alone.

Most convincing though were the comments of Fox Soccer Channel’s Bobby McMahon, the godfather of soccer commentators, in this country anyway, who said that FIFA “knows that they’re going to make tons of money through TV rights wherever they go and they pretty much know that somebody is going to pull it off because they’re going to pump money into it.” (“Fox Soccer Report” on Fox Soccer Channel, 12/2).  McMahon added that countries now place so much importance on successfully hosting large events like the World Cup and the Olympics that they will dedicate whatever money, resources, time, etc., are needed to not just host a successful event but to out-perform any preceding iteration.

And by awarding the bids to Russia and Qatar, FIFA can further its goal of spreading soccer across the globe.  Russia has never hosted a World Cup and the Middle East has never hosted any major world sporting event.  Qatar may be the size of Connecticut with a population equal to the metro area of Jacksonville, FL, but take a look at what they have planned for the event venues–the World Cup games will require 12 new stadia.  Sit on the top row of one stadium and you’ll likely be able to see two others.  Our gas money at work.  Here’s a few pics to whet your appetite:

Al-Rayyan Stadium

Lusail Iconic Stadium

Doha Port Stadium

Categories: Life Change Tags: ,

Happy Birthday to My Girls

December 3, 2010 1 comment

Seven years ago today, we said hello to Kate and Tess and everything changed.  Twin girls, exactly the same, except…not the same.

Kate–you are an endless drain on my wallet and patience and I don’t care–except for that needle thing, PLEASE don’t do that again.  Your older brother makes me a father; you make a me daddy.  I love you as much as I miss your sister, and perhaps one day you will understand that.

Katherine Anne Gary, now age 7

Tess Elizabeth Gary, 12/3/03-5/18/04

 

Categories: Family Life Tags: ,

Current Thoughts on Life Change

December 2, 2010 1 comment

“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.”–Dr. Samuel Johnson

Said another way:  the only thing in the world you can truly change is yourself.

And that job is plenty hard enough.  The focus of this blog, one of them anyway, is how to lock in the positive life changes I have made in the past few years–weight loss, healthier lifestyle, career change to name a few.  Here’s the update on where I stand since this blog began in September:

  • Exercise–after a month-long hiatus due to my needle in the toe incident, I am now back to working out daily.  I was running 18-22 miles a week in early October; still cannot run far without a lot of pain but am putting in the equivalent of about 12-14 miles a week of running by using the Arc Trainer at my gym.  My long layoff extended to weightlifting as well and I feel pretty weak but getting better everyday.  At semester’s end I will be meeting with Industrial Strength fitness trainers and will finally get a professional plan instead of half-assedly applying the latest workouts I see in magazines.
  • Diet–Thanksgiving was last week and I did an ‘OK’ not eating everything in sight.  I did however drink everything that didn’t have a goldfish swimming in it, which continues the theme I started in Chicago.  Beer, wine, vodka, gin, sambuca–none of these are low on calories and full of vitamins.  Sambuca I especially love, it’s like the black jelly beans of liquor.  People either love it or hate it and, sad to say, I love it.  All that aside, I have made strides in again eliminating refined flour, all sugar and simple starches from my diet.  Breakfast is back to oatmeal, lunch is small whole wheat sandwich or soup, dinner is small cut of meat, vegetables and brown rice.  Time to set a new weight goal, and to once again place my diabetes in the forefront of my mind.
  • Weight–speaking of weight, I am virtually level from where I was when I started this blog.  I find this hard to believe because I feel much more like a fat tub of goo than before.  I think this can be attributed to the lack of exercise, especially weightlifting.
  • Other Bad Stuff–I’ve been sneaking smokes, started after my injury.  I can feel it in my chest that it’s affecting me and my fitness level has been harmed because of it.  Time to put the clamps on again.
  • Family Life–Kids have maintained straight-A averages.  My wife and I have about 20 minutes of conversation a week due to our schedules; we hope to get away together for a few days at the end of the year but, even with discounted airfare provided by ‘buddy passes’, my medical bills will likely kill that plan.  My mother has mostly healed from her fall.  And after Thanksgiving, I can say I hate kids–yours, mine and anyone else’s.
  • Anything Else?–I’ve given up politics completely.  It was my sharpest focus for more than 20 years but it’s wasted energy right now and I need every bit of that I can grab.
  • School–The class that requires this blog is the one that keeps me up at night.  It’s a sisyphean task; it’s like standing on top of a ball and still trying to keep the plates of the rest of my life spinning.  Blog entries, Twitter, chats, readings, events, a 5 gallon bucket full of new terms and programs of which I’ve never heard much less operated, projects–I frankly don’t have that much to say to the world, at least not barked on command like a seal.  Just seeing if you read these posts, Dr. Mac–I actually love the class and the challenge, even if I’m not always up for it.

So my ass is not necessarily fatter but it is softer–insert your own joke here, and even THAT is a joke, perhaps a better one.  My kids see Mom and Dad work like Japanese beavers and for the moment at least are emulating us.  Having both my wife and I in school sucks even more than I’d have thought.  Time to lay off the alcohol, pasta, potatoes and smokes and get back to running and soccer and generally looking and feeling better than 90% of the people my age.

To echo “Blazing Saddles”, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s right: the only thing I can change is myself.  But more than that, I believe the best, most honest and true motivation for doing so is also myself.  My kids, wife, family and friends may benefit from the necessary changes I make or they may not.  They may benefit greatly and not even recognize it.  That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t give up smoking because it might enable him to live to see his grandkids; it means he should give up smoking because it is good for HIM, not because it is good for someone else.

Life changes motivated by how we wish others to view or feel about us are doomed to fail.  Why?  Because others will never appreciate the efforts and struggles enough to satisfy us.  The foundations for true change lie only within ourselves.

Categories: Life Change Tags:

Another Pathetic Son of a Bitch

December 1, 2010 1 comment

When I decided to return to school and become a stay at home dad, I vowed to not become one of the following:

  • Hipster Dad, who’s goateed face greets each day by donning the uniform of  jeans or cargo shorts, ironic t-shirt,  retro shoes and iPod,  and who then listens to Vampire Weekend and The Hold Steady while running errands, cooking and folding laundry.  Take a look at the picture of me with my kids in Central Park this summer to see how well I’ve avoided that trap.
  • Oprah Dad, who, much like Oprah Mom, rarely misses an episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil.  Or The View.  Or Ellen.  Or Kathie Lee and Hoda.  Or anything else on daytime television.  And who cannot carry on any conversation that isn’t an extension of that day’s programming.
  • Fat Dad, an example of which is doubtless within 50 feet of where you are.
  • Slave Dad, who spends every waking moment in servitude to his family, an endless stream of sports practices, errands, play dates, school projects, volunteer gigs as well as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.

Central Park Summer 2010

So I’m a partial but not complete failure in this regard, which frankly is progress over the usual assessments directed my way.  To give myself some solace, context and excuse to drink beer during the middle of the day, I set up an interview with another stay at home dad also in my graduate program.

Jim Shoff is a former managing director at a Wall Street investment firm.  He took a buy-out awhile back and now splits his time between caring for his wife and three teenage children and attending communications graduate school at Queens University of Charlotte.  Where he once clipped bond coupons, today he clips actual coupons.  And while he doesn’t have a Wall Street salary anymore, Jim says he now gets paid in other ways that aren’t so immediate: for example, his kids have better lives and have been able to pursue new sports and interests.  We agreed how lucky we are to have this time with our kids.

With that necessary nicety behind us, we were both now free to express what a giant pain in the ass it is to be a stay at home parent.  Perhaps it’s better if not combined with the demands of graduate school–neither of us would know.  Certainly those women in the traditional housewife role had and still have difficult jobs.  Again, we don’t know but we’re also pretty sure those women have not had to endure the disapproving looks of strangers or snide remarks of family or acquaintances who consider our new roles as merely excuses to slack off while our wives support us.

Jim and I, we are heroes, we are victims…we are full of shit.  But then so is anyone else who considers raising their own kids the equivalent of hanging on a cross.  It’s difficult, unappreciated work, full of emotional minefields, long hours and the sort of cleaning tasks that would only be performed by someone who loves unconditionally.  But what else are you going to do?

Jim says he will one day return to work but not in banking.  Fittingly our conversation that day finished up on the topic of laundry–we both prefer top-loading washers.  He has two dryers.  I’m so jealous.