A Few Tips from our Wedding

Julie and I are married! We had our wedding a few weeks ago here in the Bay Area, and we had a fantastic time. It’s hard to imagine what could go wrong surrounded by friends and family to celebrate, but regardless, we were glad that all of our plans came together so well.

On our honeymoon, we spent a lot of time talking about the experience and musing about what we would do differently for that 2nd time that presumably will never come to pass. Amongst the tons of internet advice available on how to plan a wedding, we came up with a list of a few things that we thought went particularly well or poorly.

As such, this particularly post has been written in long discussion with Julie who deserves credit for the good ideas here.

1. Use Asana and Google Drive.

We dumped proposals, contracts, guests lists, and plenty more into Google Drive to share with our parents. Having a single place to use as reference and share the schedule avoided a lot of back-and-forth and confusion.

Longtime blog readers know my obsession with task management systems, and I definitely wanted it for wedding planning, too. We started with an empty Asana project, brain dumped tasks, never *cough* forget to do something.

2. Check in on your hotel blocks.

When we booked our hotel blocks, the hotel staff had standard block sizes for us with the understanding that it would be adjusted as necessary. Around the wedding, I found out from guests that the hotel where we were holding most peripheral events was apparently booked up, and we had no idea. In retrospect, we should have either checked in directly with the staff or tried booking ourselves.

3. Test out your wedding dress for dancing.

Julie and I hadn’t danced together in the full get-up until about a half-hour before our first dance. This wasn’t a big deal for me, but it was a big deal for Julie. I would recommend increasing that lead time by several orders of magnitude to avoid embarrassing accidents. Specifically, Julie would have tried walking backwards in her wedding dress during shopping and tailoring.

4. Put your guests in touch ahead of time.

For cliques of friends or family, it’s helpful to plan logistics around transportation and lodging if they know who else will be attending. It can be somewhat awkward for potential guests to ask directly (and accidentally inquire a non-invitee), so I just made a big email list and included everyone on it. I thought all of the social events surrounding the wedding went well and was glad to support that in any way possible.

5. Get lots of sleep before the wedding.

The wedding day itself is long, but even before that, we had plenty of guests coming through with whom we wanted to spend as much time as possible. The casualty of all of the excitement, of course, was sleep. The final 2 weeks before the wedding kept us up late with planning, and that time should have literally been work, plan, and sleep with everything else cut out to make more time for those.

6. Plan the cake cutting.

Through almost the entire wedding, we knew what would happen, but even more importantly, we had someone else specifically cueing or directing us on what we needed to do. The one gap was cake cutting: we went over to cut the cake, and suddenly, everyone was looking at us, and we were just supposed to do it. It was not hard, but it was a surprise after following instructions all day. It’s hard to practice, and we should have had a plan there.

7. Direct the DJ.

We are very fortunate to have very enthusiastic dancers amongst our friends and family, but not everything is going to work for the crowd. When the dancing was dying down, Julie told the DJ to “play stuff that people know”, and that re-invigorated the crowd.

8. Step back for a moment and take in the wedding.

One of Julie’s cousins gave us this advice during the wedding, and I wish I had followed it. Once I started getting dressed for the wedding, things never really stopped until Julie and I got in the car and drove away. Having everyone gathered together for us was a awe-inspiring thought, but we were so caught up in the action that I don’t think I ever really took it in. That would have been worth the 30 seconds to hang onto that feeling forever.

A photo posted by Nicole Cross (@43rdavephoto) on

Making a Wedding Registry

I have been telling people that making a wedding registry is a lot of fun: you get the joy of shopping without the pain of actually paying for anything. However, it hasn’t been a senseless shopping spree for Julie and me, and it has required far more deliberation than I had initially thought.

We started assembling our registry a few weeks ago when Julie created a shared Reminders list on our phones. Despite already owning plenty of single-function kitchen equipment, I always have my eye on something else. For example, I needed to fill an Amazon order a few weeks ago and ended up getting a shrimp deveiner. You might think that a pairing knife would suffice, but I have spent many afternoons deveining piles of shrimp to make won ton. As such, this icicle-shaped piece of plastic could change my life as much as a banana slicer or cherry pitter has.71PfUYplvrL._SY355_

The first pass on the registry was easy: I had wanted an ice cream maker for a long time. And a cookie dough scoop. And a cake carrier. And plenty of much more obscure equipment. Although I could only marginally justify purchasing these things myself, it was easy to ask for them knowing we were filling out a registry.

We drove out to the mall and walked through Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel to work on our registry. I feel like a child in a toy store when I’m in Williams-Sonoma: I see lots of things that I want but can’t reasonably get. It’s really easy to see measuring cups and want new measuring cups but hard to get rid of old measuring cups. Knowing there was no cost to it, however, our registry quickly filled up to a few dozen items.

After that, the registry sat unattended on our phones for several weeks. I think we knew that the tough work was ahead and liked the idea of the registry more than actually composing it. It’s easy to want a cookie dough scoop: it’s harder to figure out exactly which of the 3 models of cookie dough scoops is best and will ultimately be the best choice for us.

Two or three weeks ago, Julie actually created the registries online, and we started working through it. I had my “America’s Test Kitchen” cookbook out to the equipment guide section and The Sweethome open on another tab. Thankfully, other, more talented and patient people have tested and rated the quality of many items to find the very best anything. With them at hand, I know which one is the sharpest or which one is the easiest to clean. Some items were easy to pick: there is apparently 1 Bundt pan to buy, and the stores carry it. Some required some effort, such as the Peugeot pepper mill, which is available but comes in a variety of sizes and colors. Others, like the electric kettle, came with suggestions unavailable where we were registering. In those cases, was it even worth registering if we could get the best one?

There has been a surprising amount of soul-searching in creating the registry as well, especially compared to other wedding decisions. Luckily, Julie and I have either been on the same page or disproportionately invested in other wedding decisions. We have split the work on researching different vendors and then picked the best one in a reasonable process.

On top of registry items for new kitchen gadgets, registries often contain replacements for existing items, and those existing items may have emotional attachments for some people. I can comfortably say that accusingly because I have been the problem in our registry. As we ticked down the list of items to register for, Julie innocently mentioned everyday china. At the thought of not using the Corelle plates and bowls that I had grown up using and then selfishly taken from my parents, I immediately became defensive and began rationalizing with Julie why we should keep them.

Julie was taken aback by my emotional response to some lightweight, microwavable plates and bowls, but she did relent after a series of baffling (to her) conversations. That, however, only eliminated one decision, and we next looked deeper into the wide world of fine china and silverware. Unlike functional kitchen tools where you can determine the best model measuring a series of objective measures, china is quite subjective, with which I am of only limited use. Best of luck to Julie with that.

We’re almost done with the registry, and I’m looking forward to having that figured out. I thought it was just going to be a big shopping spree, but we have had to think much harder than that. Although most wedding decisions are one-time choices for a single day, registry gifts may follow us for the rest of our lives. If we don’t make the right choice now, I might die a little every time I try to grate parmesan over the next 60 years.

That’s a big decision that, in some ways, probably matches the significance of marriage much more strongly than most wedding decisions. Not only am I committing to Julie for the rest of my life, I’m also committing to this microplane zester for the rest of my life, though that’s more because I’m too cheap to replace it. At least with the registry, we can make independent choices on specific items to optimize the whole registry in a tractable manner. In picking each other, we’re each kind of a package deal: if Julie wants my vegetable chopping ability, she will also have to accept the subpar dish cleaning job.

I can’t speak for her, but I’m more than happy with that.

How Playing Tuba is and isn’t like riding a bike

When I am further along and in a more thoughtful mood, I’ll write a more complete post explaining why I decided to join a community wind ensemble and play tuba again. This post, however, is just a smattering of reactions from going to my first rehearsal in about 8 years.

Overall, the experience was a lot of fun. It’s amazing that I sat in a room of total strangers and was able to make music as part of a large ensemble. Some things went well. Some things did not go well. Here were the highlights.

Things that were liking riding a bike

1. Hitting notes. I’m probably overestimating how well I did, but in general, I was able to find the intervals fairly well. I tested my range up to 3 octaves, so that’s pretty much all there as well.

2. Rhythms. We got some funky time signatures like 4/2 and 5/8, and for an instrument best known for playing downbeats in a polka-like fashion, we had some strange syncopated rhythms as well. I definitely flubbed some faster sections, but I mostly didn’t get lost.

3. Counting rests. Nothing makes you feel more special in music than counting rests for 20 bars.

4. Hearing tuning problems. During warmup and in a few long notes, I could hear that I was badly out of tune. I actually didn’t even have a tuba when I showed up for rehearsal, and the director fortunately had an extra tuba lying around to lend to me. at least it was a miraphone, which is mostly what I have played. Anyways, I didn’t know the instrument and didn’t get a chance to tune with a machine.

Things that were not like riding a bike

1. Fixing tuning problems. Just because I could hear the issues and knew why they were happening didn’t mean I could fix them. On more than one occasion, I stopped playing because I knew I sounded bad and couldn’t do anything about it.

2. Key signatures. Were it not for the big poster on the wall of the middle school music room with the circle of fifths, I would give myself a 50-50 chance of naming the key I was in at any given measure. I instead relied largely on instinct for whether a note should be sharp or flat based on roughly how many symbols were in the key signature. Many apologies to the tuba player next to me who listened to me miss the same notes over and over.

3. Accidentals. I could not think fast enough for some of the accidentals, especially the weird ones like F-flat. Actually, combined with my uncertainty about the key signature, I probably accidentally played the accidentals correctly. Nevermind. This one went okay.

4. Endurance. This actually didn’t go as badly as I thought it might: the tuba parts were not too difficult, so I made it through a 2 1/2 hour rehearsal without blowing out my chops. However, I felt a lot of tightness in my lips while I was warming up and generally did not play the full dynamic range during rehearsal, so it was a constraint. On a related note, if you have not had tightness in your lips from playing a brass instrument for the first time in a long time, take my word for it that it is extremely bizarre.

5. Reading ledger lines. In my high school music, I was largely spared playing low notes because the music tended not to go that low (maybe an E below the staff). The music we were sightreading, however, was much more challenging in this sense because I was regularly reading 3 or 4 ledger lines below the staff, and I have no idea what any of those notes are. I know I can hit them if I had a fingering written in, but I didn’t, so I just put a lot of fingers down and played low. I think most people are not trained to distinguish notes that low anyways, so I got away with it.

Overall, I thought that the rehearsal went well, and I really enjoyed playing again, even if I missed so many key signatures. I hopefully will write more about the experience soon, but in the meantime, you can check out my view of rehearsal.

IMG_1865
the picture is sideways because I don’t know how to fix the orientation in wordpress

Stories versus Statistics

I like statistics. Statistics don’t lie. Out of context, they can mislead, but they can’t lie.

I like stories. Stories create meaning. Out of context, they can mislead, but they are just as impactful.

Unfortunately, stories and statistics are very different approaches and often conflict with each other. Here are a few examples.

Baseball loves statistics. Sabermetrics is the usage of advanced statistics to analyze player performance, which led to the idea of Moneyball. By calculating Wins Above Replacement (WAR) or Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP), we can compare players controlling for various conditions and better quantify their performance. On the other hand, there really is something to watching a batter’s swing or seeing a clutch performance in game. Both are approaches to analyzing a prospect’s future potential or a retired player’s hall of fame candidacy.

Charity, fundraising, and non-profit organizations have to convince regular citizens and philanthropic organizations to contribute. They might tell us that there are 5.2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s in 2014. Or maybe they will play Sarah MacLachlan’s “Angel” while talking about animal cruelty. Somehow, we have to be convinced about the saliency of a problem to want to take action.

In my work on web applications, my team is always trying to learn more about our users and what they do. One way we can do it is with analytics by counting how many times users click on this link over a month, or what percentage of our users are from Europe. Another approach is with user testing by looking over a user’s shoulder as they use our application. Analytics provide a complete picture, but they don’t explain why. User testing details a user’s behavior, but it’s just one.

In all of these examples, we have quantitative and qualitative approaches of analysis. Quantitative approaches tend to rely on numbers over a broad sample to appeal to our rational nature. Sadly, we are not very rational. Qualitative approaches tend to rely on a small set of narratives to appeal to our sensitive nature. Sadly, they are empirically not particularly valid.

It’s paradoxical that humans tend not to have good statistical intuitions, largely because of our bias towards causal reasoning. A classic example of bad statistics is in guessing conditional probabilities: we aren’t good at integrating the data together. On the other hand, we tend to look for reasons and patterns behind all sorts of data. In daily life, it’s helpful, but it makes us susceptible to a good story and our desire to see things where there is just chance.

The two ways of thinking aren’t always in conflict: they can be used in tandem. FiveThirtyEight is a data journalism organization that does the work to find good numbers and present them in a digestible format. The good numbers of often statistics, and the presentation puts together a story for us to understand. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about how he uses a classic science journalism format. Each finding begins with an anecdote for the reader to attach to, then transitions into methods and results of the study. It makes the topic both gripping and valid.

This is all very troubling because I tend to see storytelling by nature as a lie to get to a deeper truth. I believe in good quantitative analysis and understanding of randomness. There’s the truth about how the world works. Stories build on top of that. Sometimes, they invent connections that don’t exist in reality. In any case, they affect us as humans deeply and can overemphasize an idea. Playing “Angel” in a commercial is intended to touch us without any regard for the relative importance or impact of ASPCA over any other issue or organization.

Of course, statistics get a bad reputation because some representations can deceive, and excluded data can present a biased perspective. As a whole, however, quantitative analysis is intended to capture representative data. Stories deliberately present limited perspectives.

To ground this entire discussion, my recent interest in storytelling has been very troubling to me because of my preference towards quantitative ways of thinking. I most recently have been biased towards them because of my studies in college: despite being in an interdisciplinary major, I leaned more heavily on engineering and social sciences rather than the humanities. The fact that I barely read fiction in college tells you what I was mostly exposed to.

So it seems like there’s something to stories. Stories are a natural way for us to communicate, whether in conversation, journalism, science fiction novels, or commercials. Although I think my skepticism is probably healthy, stories can evoke responses that even the greatest light bulb moments can’t quite replicate. Besides, I wouldn’t have much of a blog if I didn’t believe in telling stories.

Great Things About My Birthday

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. As it is, I think Julie gets more excited about my birthday than I do, but it’s still really nice to be treated specially once a year for pretty arbitrary reason. Here are a few of the nice things about it, some of which may resonate more with you than others.

Good Food

Julie and I went to Queen House, my favorite Chinese place in downtown Mountain View. We went there last year for my birthday, so I guess it’s becoming something of a tradition. They have really good beef noodle soup and a 3 dishes for $25 (plus rice or scallion pancakes) menu that has good options. I think I have figured out  a lot of Chinese restaurant dishes, but they still manage to make theirs taste extra good.

Afterwards, we went to Sno-Zen for shaved ice. My uncle and cousin introduced me to it down in LA, and I have been craving a second shot at it. It’s light and fluffy unlike snow cones (which are just icy), and it’s like ice cream without the heaviness. The owner was friendly and helpful above typical courteous service. I can appreciate that and would absolutely recommend it to a friend.

Baseball Trade Deadline

The MLB trade deadline happens to be July 31st, so I have baseball rumors and news going on through the mid-afternoon. In a sport spanning 162 games and more than half of the year, there are few times with a spurt of action, and this happens to be one of them.

Facebook

Facebook has spawned what I’m sure is the relatively new phenomena of having endless email or push notifications as people wish you a happy birthday all day. For me, it tends to be a lot of high school friends who I haven’t talked to forever, and though it’s somewhat superficial, I’m glad for the brief moment of connection that may bring back past relationships. I try to send back thanks to everyone in a few sittings over the course of the day with some other appreciative note or response.

Harry Potter and Shared Birthdays

Harry Potter’s birthday was also July 31st. Maybe I’m biased by the similarity, but I can’t think of another fictional characters’ birthday who is more recognized. That’s cool. I would also like to give a shoutout to my friends Andy, Michael, Sam, and the couple others who I very painfully have to say I have forgotten who also share my birthday.

Target

After getting shaved ice, Julie and I went to Target to buy somewhat mundane things like socks and contact solution. Everyone who I told this to when asked about birthday plans laughed, though Julie called me out for doing this deliberately for the laugh. I honestly really like Target: I’m not much for the detail and effort of buying clothes or other apparel, but I do like looking at a lot of knickknacks and other items, and Target is kind of the king of stuff that is totally accessible but not junk. The main goal was to buy new flip-flops, though the only pair that looked serviceable was unfortunately not purchased when Julie pointed out that the style was intended for females.

Gifts… from myself

Most transitions from childhood to adulthood are overstated, but a nontrivial one for me was the ability to get things for myself. I realized when I started working that unlike when I was a child, I can get the things I want on my own. I don’t have to wait for a birthday or christmas for a gift. This greatly affected the way I perceived the ownership of things. Fortunately, it hasn’t led to a spree of consumerism, though it has left me in an unusual spot for gifts. I think I previously blogged about trying to give gifts that one would not bother for on their own.

In my case, item number one was a new wallet. Do I really need a new wallet? Not really. My current wallet hasn’t completely fallen apart, and until I literally had money spilling out of my pockets, I probably wouldn’t do anything about it. On the other hand, the buckle is almost detached, a few sheets have come out, and it’s generally in poor condition. As such, thanks Julie for the new wallet on its way.

The flip side of that is that I usually have the will not to instantly buy the things I want and try to be realistic about how much I will use things. As such, it can be tricky to find the motivation to get things otherwise. Once a year, though, I have my birthday. Last year, it was a car. This year, it will be a set of pizza making supplies I have wanted for awhile: a baking steel, a pizza peel, and Jim Lahey’s book. If you haven’t tried his no-knead pizza dough recipe, you must. It’s very easy and absolutely delicious.

Cheaper Rental Cars

Unless I’m running for president, I believe 25 is the last important birthday as I don’t get charged extra for rental cars. Also, my coworker told me that I apparently don’t have to get insurance on rental cars. What a racket.

Memories of my Po-Po

About two weeks ago, my po-po (maternal grandmother) passed away. At the funeral, several members of my family patched together a more complete look at her life than I had ever heard. I knew that she had come to Canada under her sister’s name, but when that happened and how she met my gong-gong (maternal grandfather) never came up. My uncles talked about her as a mother and what they learned from her. They mentioned her liveliness, her quiet leadership, her self-sufficiency, her dedication to family. Many stories from my sisters and cousins revolve around food, which is much of what I remember as well.

Since she passed, I have tried several times to write about her and failed, so I’m taking the easy way out and being self-aware. My blog posts tends to be formulaic: I start with a story about a recent event, then meander through my thoughts and extrapolate wildly. Somewhere along the way, I hit the hopefully profound moment of insight, share it, then wrap it back around to the original story as the close. For my po-po, it took one draft to get the lesson I wanted, but I couldn’t bridge the gap between a central story to that lesson.

I will again cop-out of real structure and say that it wasn’t a failing of writing to come up with the story: the problem is that the influence of my po-po is greater than can be expressed so concisely in a blog post. Instead, she has weaved herself through my life so deeply that I can only recognize the bits of it, which follow in a scattered manner.

Physically, there are the plates and bowls passed through my family.  These bowls have held countless bowls of cereal and held beaten eggs for many baked goods. These aren’t family heirlooms, though: they’re the dishes from airplane meals that you get your bread roll in.

Although I probably wouldn’t take a tray myself, I do remember the jars of smarties and 2-cracker packages of saltines, probably carried off from Chinese buffets in a napkin. And I remember waking up one morning to see my po-po carefully transferring individually wrapped pats of butter into a butter tray. I got through college by snagging cereal and milk from dinner the night before or stashing an apple or orange for breakfast.

Once a year, a clan of old Chinese people would caravan between Toronto cemeteries to visit the graves of their ancestors. There were lots of seemingly creepy people, and it was mostly riding in the car, but what 5-year old Kevin did know was that every attendee received a bag with a styrofoam box of Chinese food and a can of Sprite. A can of Sprite worth a day in my life.

So I happily sat in the middle, fold down front seat of the Cadillac between my grandparents. I couldn’t have sat in the backseat had I wanted to because it would be filled with luggage and supplies for every contingency. My po-po had extensive pillows for the marathon drives they would take to drive to Florida or Palm Springs, or later on, Houston when my family moved. My legs dangled, which was also okay, because there were glass jars of candies, sweet and salty dried orange peels, dried prunes that could either be delicious or disgusting based on the color of the writing (which I never did figure out), and other assorted snacks. And there would always be the huge thermos filled with tea.

I don’t remember really having too many in-depth conversations with my po-po. Her English was fine, though maybe it would have helped if I had known more Toisan. I do remember a lot of commands and laughs, though.

I once got a yellow “old-timers baseball” t-shirt from her that even today would be way too big. She gave it to me one day while at the cottage out of my grandpa’s collection, and I can’t possibly fathom the reason for it beyond my interest in baseball. Despite that, I ended up wearing it from several years.

Her Christmas gifts typically came in cardboard boxes wrapped in newspaper. Inside, I could expect half-rolls of girl scout cookies and other assorted goodies. I haven’t confronted my mom about it, but my mom’s last Christmas present was a cardboard box filled with assorted cooking equipment, and also a half-package of soap.

The simplest way to put what I learned from my po-po is that I learned how to be cheap, but I think the trivializes all of the intentions behind it. What’s so ironic is that because of her and my parents and grandparents, I have never been in a situation where frugality was necessary. Her dedication to family enabled the wonderful life I have, where saving is just norm. She taught me that what really matters is providing for and being there for the people you care about, and it’s worth enduring discomfort to have saved a bit of cash or driven across the country to make that happen. Stretch a little here and there to be able to spend time, the most limited resource, to truly have a fulfilling life.

My Regular TODO List

I am, by upbringing, a planner. Recently, I have become a more self-aware planner, and a need to rebel has pushed me to be more spontaneous. The result is that I have rapidly gone through phases of more and less planning depending on what I’m reacting against.

Currently, I’m in a planning mindset, which has led me to my scheduled TODO list. A few months ago, I would set a daily TODO list at the beginning of each week and cross off items everyday. My personal life was amazingly efficient, but it also really started to look like work. I backed off from that, but over the past few months of limited computer use, I have found myself not doing very much. Evenings would just disappear after finishing dishes.

During that time, I have maintained a “floating” section to my TODO list, which are intended to be done anytime during the week, but I haven’t used it consistently. One problem is that it muddles the urgency and timing of many different things, so it takes some thought to determine what is important to address. When I start going through it, I mentally skip items I can’t immediately do, and the ones I can are lost in the mix. Also, there are many things I would like to do very regularly but aren’t part of a daily routine. As such, I have developed a new system.

My new system is to set TODO items as daily, weekly, or monthly. On those schedules, I check and uncheck items in evernote. It grants me the right amount of flexibility to not feel too regimented in completing things that I have handcuffed myself to do. A lot of them are also vague to encourage exploration.

Here’s what it looks like:

Daily

  • Exercise – even if I don’t make arrangements to run or play a sport, I can at least do a quick workout at home or stretch out my arms
  • Learning a 2nd language – it’s a New Year’s Hope, and language has to be used. I was doing German, but after talking to Julie, I don’t think that will be very useful. Instead, I’m going to pick up more Cantonese. Maybe it’s not globally very important, but I have missed out on enough family interactions by not speaking it, and with my sister’s wedding coming up, I’ll see all of them
  • Read – It’s been amazing to get back into reading. Just putting it on my TODO list is enough to get me to open my current book, and then I’m sucked in
  • Listen to iTunes U – still getting through classes. This one is a lower priority, but it’s a reminder to keep it up. It somewhat goes against my last post,  but I need to keep moving, or else I’ll lose context for not keeping up with a class
  • Relax with Julie – most evenings, we do dinner and catch up, but on some nights (like StarCraft night), we might barely say hi before heading off into different things. It’s worth the time to sit down and enjoy being together
  • Read the news – I get the New York Times and Politico in my email inbox daily. I have let it pile up for 2 weeks, and it just isn’t as valuable when just catching up.

Weekly

  • Play StarCraft – join us on Tuesday nights!
  • Play other video games – I have a video game backlog, too. It’s probably too much to do on weekdays when I’m on my computer all day, but it’s nice to play on weekends when I can
  • Blog – I am become much less consistent over the past few months. My blog is where I do a lot of thinking
  • Write in my journal – Maybe my life isn’t that interesting nowadays, or maybe it just doesn’t fit, but I haven’t written daily in a few years. I have since gone for months without writing. Weekly is a good balance since I can usually write Sunday nights and look back on the biggest thing that happened that week
  • Watch TV – Agents of Shield, Cosmos, and whatever other show Julie and I are currently working through
  • Work on my side projects – This is somewhere between daily and weekly. Currently, I’m mostly focused on Spawning Tool, so we’ll see how that goes
  • Watch a movie – I also have a huge movie backlog. I have wanted to but been unable to successfully do movie night, but I know I have time to do it at some point during the week
  • Cook something new – Julie and I cook a lot, but it’s pretty easy to fall back on the standards. At least once a week we should try a new recipe amongst our cookbooks and foodmarks
  • Bake – I do enjoy baking, too, and it’s something I can do to brighten other people’s days
  • Basic cleanup – Typically, we do a big cleanup right before some major event when people are coming over, but it would be less daunting to do one of the tasks once a week and keep things running

Monthly

  • Eat out somewhere new – I mostly prefer home-cooked meals, but there’s just so much good food out there, especially up in San Francisco, that i haven’t explored. If I do go out to eat, it’s usually with a friend, and I like to pick nearby staples. It should be easy, but I definitely need to make an effort to eat out
  • Keep in touch with an old friend – Every time I catch up with someone, we both lament how poorly we keep up with people. Put it on a schedule
  • Get out to do something – Go to a community event, join a meetup, see a performance, get outdoors, take a day trip somewhere. Find something new to do
  • Run my RPGs – I have a Tekumel and a Forgotten Realms play group. We’re not that intense, but it’s easy to fall off track, so I’m shooting to play monthly with them
  • Volunteer – Recently, I have felt a push to become more involved in my community. Volunteering is one of the positive ways to do it, but I haven’t really done any in Mountain View yet
  • Play board games – My collection grew quite quickly, and it’s another fun way to hang out
  • Do a more extensive clean – If anything hasn’t been touched in a month of weekly cleans, it should probably be cleaned
  • Book club meeting – There’s enough structure around this that I don’t have to monitor it, but it’s just a reminder for myself

That may be the best high level look at my life. Let me know if you have any suggested changes in it!

The Consequence of a Canker Sore

(Author’s Note: I wrote this in my journal a few weeks ago)

A few days ago, I cut myself while chopping vegetables. As I was shifting my knife over to cut again, I just nicked my finger, and though I quickly got a bandaid on and kept cooking, I was still angry at myself for letting it happen. I pride myself on good, safe, efficient knife work, and every time I have cut myself, I know exactly what I did wrong to let it happen.

Fortunately, the cut was on the backside of my finger just below my nail, so it hasn’t really affected my ability to do anything. Sometimes, the smallest injuries can cause tremendous irritation, like having the blister on the ball of your foot or getting a paper cut on a butt wiping finger. Suddenly, an otherwise irrelevant part of your body is the most sensitive and noticed spot. It makes me appreciate those strange, forgotten parts.

The appreciation goes beyond simple awareness of the body part and into appreciation of the activity itself. My ongoing forearm problems have made me realize how I have centered everything I do upon the computer. Obviously I work on my computer, and I play games on my computer. I also write on my computer because of my blog. I do a lot of reading online. I watch TV almost exclusively through internet streaming. Oddly, those last few items shouldn’t even require the computer, but they have ended up converging on this device.

My latest malady of tremendous annoyance but not deserving of real sympathy is a canker sore on the underside of my tongue. Having never had a canker sore as far as I can remember, I’m going to pretend that this one was particularly bad. When my tongue is in a neutral position, it is hardly noticeable, but it is located such that both speaking and chewing are quite painful.

Maybe those who interact with me regularly won’t be surprised, but I have found it really hard to resist talking. When people ask me what I enjoy doing or what my hobbies are, I usually have to think about it. I might mention playing video games or cooking, but those are particular activities that I do at discrete times and not as often as I would like. I do, however, talk a lot, and I guess I like cooking because I enjoy eating so much. I never realized how important talking and eating are to me except when it was an effortful process to make it happen.

I have figured out workarounds. I have tried to talk without moving my tongue, which makes my fast speech even more difficult to understand. I compensate by gesturing a lot, though that gets silly quickly. I also have tried to avoid solid food, but that let to me to finding calories in drinking orange juice, which doesn’t interact well with canker sores. I guess I’ll just shut up and eat my food. And I’ll try to enjoy it, too.

My Top 10 Christmas Songs

Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is well underway. As is now American tradition, there’s outcry about how commercialized Christmas and other December holidays have become, but there are also the more heartwarming parts. There’s the tree decorating that I don’t do because I just go home a few days before Christmas. There’s the gift shopping that I don’t do because my family is too pragmatic to leave purchase suitability is to chance. There’s even the family time that my family can’t quite make because we’re all using our vacation time differently.

I personally only have two holiday traditions. First, I start wearing my Santa hat 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas. It’s not particularly creative, but it’s rare enough that strangers may be incorrectly convinced of my holiday spirit. It also happens to be a great way to keep my head warm since my haircut is not optimized for winter. Continue reading “My Top 10 Christmas Songs”