Resolutions: Making 2011 My Bitch!

As is the tradition here, every year I come up with resolutions to try to make myself and my life better in some way in the upcoming year. I’ve had varying levels of success in the past, but I’ve also been fairly specific. So this year, I’ll be a little more general. So without further adieu:

  • Nurture my family relationships – This is just making sure I make time to spend with my family without distraction. More Daddy/Daughter dates, more trips to “do stuff” rather than just hanging out at home, and more dates to connect with my wife. Family is important, and they need to know it.
  • Get a little more fit – Not going to go crazy here, but I need to exercise. It won’t be hard to exercise more, as I exercise pretty much nil right now. So I’ll play some Kinect games (which are a surprisingly good workout) ride the elliptical bike, run occasionally when the weather allows, do some situps and pushups once in awhile, and play softball again this spring. Just need to get more active.
  • Eat a little better – Once again, I just need to reduce portions and eat healthier foods a little more often. Nothing major, and I’ll still be able to eat the stuff I love once in awhile, but I just need to eat smarter, and eat less.
  • Hone my photography skills – I just need to continue to work on my passion that is photography. Take more pictures, post more pictures, learn more about Photoshop and Lightroom, and learn how to use my camera like an expert. I’m not committing to a 52 Weeks project or anything like that. I’m just going to try to make more time and do more with it overall.
  • Enjoy what I have – I’m a very fortunate person. I’ve got a good job and a good family but I tend to always want more. This year, I just want to look at what I have and try to enjoy it without worrying about what I don’t have.
  • Reduce spending – This kind of goes hand-in-hand with enjoying what I have, but I’m going to try to spend less overall. Bring my lunch to work more, Cut out unnecessary subscriptions, and spend more time with the things I have instead of spending that cash on new stuff.

So there ya go. I think they are all attainable, but I’ll need some discipline to stick to them. I truly am optimistic about this being a great year, and I think doing the above will only help facilitate that optimism. I will OWN 2011. Here’s hoping you do too!

2010 Wrap-Up

I kick off every year with my resolutions for the new year, and then I recap them here just to keep myself honest. So without further adieu, how did I do?

  • Keep up the Health kick – Well I wanted to keep the weight down, and possibly drop to 175. Well until the end of the summer I did pretty well. I played softball in the spring and really enjoyed it, and can’t wait to play again next summer. My body at 40 takes a little more maintenance, but I can make it happen. Now, this fall, our schedules made it so we ate late at night most nights and didn’t have much time for exercise. So I’ve gone back up in weight now to 200. Annoyed about it, but mark my words, I’ll be back to 190 by Lotusphere for sure.
  • Really do more with my photography THIS year – I did do more, but never kept up the 52 Weeks project. I think I got about half done. On the other hand, I joined NAPP (the National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and joined up for Kelby Training to learn how to do more with Photoshop and Lightroom. In addition, for my birthday I got to upgrade to the Canon 7D camera. It’s got a lot more power, and I’ve already put it to good use photographing my daughters plays and gymnastics meets. So not as much progress as I would have liked, but it did get better than last year.
  • Do NOT let the new managerial responsibilities disrupt my family – I think I did well with this one. I’ve really tried to keep work and family separate, and I feel I’ve done a pretty good job. Now there were some periods that were a little rough, but I think you’ll always have those. I’ll always strive to be better, but as long as all my girls know how much I love them every single day, life is good.
  • Watch a little less TV – I rocked on this one. The wife and I eliminated a ton of shows we watched, and also some of them were cancelled which helped. We resisted the urge to try all the new shows, and some that we did we ditched after a couple episodes. So less TV means more time for other things including family, photography, gaming, etc.
  • Blog more – #FAIL I actually blogged less this year than last year by a couple posts. But including this, I think I was still around 60. Facebook and Twitter have really taken up most of my posting time. So this still is a diary for me, and helps me document a lot of what is going on. You’ll see a good uptick in January/February surrounding Lotusphere again, so we’ll see if I keep it up or not.

So as with most resolutions, I didn’t do very well, but this public shaming will hopefully help motivate me. 2010 had some definite ups and downs, but myself and my family were healthy, I’m gainfully employed at a job I love, and really I can’t ask for much more than that.

This year had a lot of things packed in. Gramps passed away. Project #PDL started off 2010 with a bang, and I ended up in Vegas a couple more times. Once for my fifteenth wedding anniversary, and another for a wonderful Defcon weekend with close friends. I then ended up in St Louis for IAMLUG, where I also met up with some college friends I hadn’t seen in person in about 15 years. My friend’s cigar shop had to move locations, and then the new location lasted about 6 months before being robbed and shutting down. This paved the way for me to set up a man cave in my back house, which was accelerated by flooding due to busted water pipes. I ate a lot of sushi, listened to a lot of music, vacationed in the Wisconsin Dells and got a new tattoo. 2010 had some highs and lows, but I came out the other end a better person, with a better outlook on the future.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful, safe, healthy, and joyous 2011.

SIUED: Delicious Bookmarks

In the latest installment of Shit I Use Every Day, I give you the bookmarking service Delicious. Delicious is simply a website that allows you to save your internet bookmarks to it’s website. The main thing this does for you, is that it makes your bookmarks available from any web browser. It also serves as a backup for your bookmarks. I’m sure you know people, or have been one of those people, that have all of their bookmarks on a computer, and once that computer crashes they lose them all. Delicious prevents that by storing everything in the cloud.

The thing that makes it special for me is though is the Firefox Bookmarks add-on. Firefox is the web browser I use, and this add-on integrates Delicious into the browser itself. I personally ‘tag’ all of my bookmarks according to their function. So, I have tags such as webmail, travel, social, weather, photography etc. With the add-on I can add a toolbar that shows these tags. So now, if I click the tag for Photography, then I get a drop-down of all of the photography bookmarks I have. This add-on syncs with the website, so every time I add a new site, it shows up on the website and the toolbar.

The nice thing about this, is that I can add the toolbar to any web browser and log in. So the home PC, the home Mac, and the work Mac all have the add-on installed into Firefox. The bookmarks are consistent across each browser, and adding a site on any one of them adds the site everywhere. I use my bookmarks every day, so having them available and backed up at all times is pretty wonderful.

Delicious is free, and can integrate with Chrome and more. Check it out.

Wishes CAN come true

About a year or so ago. The Make-A-Wish foundation granted the wish of a seven year old little girl. This little girl wanted her and her family to go to Disney. Now for those of you that don’t know, Make-A-Wish is a wonderful organization that grants wishes to children who are very sick, many of whom are probably not going to live much longer due to their illness. Well this little girl was stricken with cancer, and she wanted, just for a little while, to enjoy a vacation with her family. She got her wish.

I personally cannot fathom how that was for her parents. They had the joy of seeing their daughter having fun at Disney, but with the knowledge that the trip may be her last, and that they may lose their little girl. It destroys me to even think what that must be like.

Flash forward to last Saturday. My own daughter had her first gymnastics meet ever. She’s been training hard for months, and this was huge for her. She’s just turned seven, and is currently a Level 4 USA Gymnast. Alongside her was one of her her teammates. She looked like any other little girl, ready to compete yet a little nervous.

The difference was that she was now cancer-free.

My daughter’s teammate was also competing in her first-ever gymnastics meet. But for her and her parents, it was a just a little more special. Just a year earlier, she was fighting cancer. Now she simply had to fight to do the perfect round-off flip flop. That’s the way it should be. She did an awesome job, and I could see the joy in her parents eyes. They were emotional, and rightly so, because I’m sure that it was their wish that was granted that day.

My daughter and her teammate did wonderfully, won many medals and their team won first place overall. It was only fitting that it happened at the Make-A-Wish Classic.

Hug your kids today, and realize, that sometimes, wishes can come true.

Well Thank You!

Tomorrow in the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving. A time punctuated by NFL football, family and tons of food. You are also supposed to reflect on what you are thankful for. I’m feeling particularly thankful this year, so I wanted to jot down a couple of reasons why.

  • The health of my family – I’m so glad that myself and my family are healthy. I’ve seen too much bad shit in recent years happen to friends of mine. So not having to deal with sickness is a true blessing.
  • Having a job I love – It sounds cliche, but I really love what I do for a living. Even though the stress levels can get high sometimes, I still really enjoy everything about my job. It doesn’t hurt that I have the best staff on the planet working for me either. I am so thankful that those folks make me look good on a daily basis.
  • Having a job, period – Right now the economy sucks for so many people, so to actually be employed and not looking for work is something I do not take for granted.
  • Having a great family – I have an awesome wife and two incredibly outgoing, sweet, fun children. My wife and I both love our in-laws and don’t dread getting together at times like Thanksgiving. Not everyone has that luxury.
  • Having great friends – I have some truly great friends, both in real life and virtually. Being able to stay in touch, hang out, and be there for each other is a gift.

You know, that’s really what it’s all about. I have my health, my family and friends, and a good job. I don’t really have any right to bitch, and I need to remember that more often.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you, no matter whether you are celebrating this holiday or not. It’s always good to take stock on how good life really is. And remember, just “Let Go” of all the inconsequential bullshit that drags you down, and focus on what lifts you up. You’ll be much happier that way, I know I am.

SIUED: 1Password

The second installment in Shit I Use Every Day is a password management program called 1Password. I first installed 1Password as part of a bundle of Mac software I had purchased, and then it quickly became essential in my day-to-day world.

1Password is simply a vault for storing all the passwords you use on various websites. You protect it with your master password, and it remembers all the rest. It can also generate random passwords for you with more security than something you might use yourself. This program makes it really easy to use random passwords on every website you frequent, and you as the user never have to remember any of them. If I come to a webpage that requires a login, I do a quick keyboard shortcut, enter the master password, and 1Password fills in the details for that particular website and it logs me in.

That’s not all, 1Password can store software keys, credit card info, notes and even things about your identity that you fill in on forms all the time. Then you can access any of that information quickly.

Now for those of you who are concerned about security, the encryption is 128-bit AES encryption. Which Agile software says “would take millions of years for a criminal to decrypt your data using a brute force attack.” So it’s VERY secure, and wont be getting hacked any time soon. The other thought is what happens if your computer crashes and you lose all your passwords? Well, they have that covered too via syncing with Dropbox.

If you have Dropbox (my first SIUED post) installed, 1Password can use it to store your data files. That means it’s automatically backed up to your Dropbox account. This also means that your password information can replicate to all of your Mac or Windows machines using Dropbox as well as all of your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.) If you install 1Password on any of those devices, and they have Dropbox, then all of your data is automatically available on any of those. Add a password to your iPhone’s version of 1Password, and it syncs to everything else. Edit and change a password on your Mac, and it automatically replicates that change around. So that means your passwords are available on any of those devices at any time. It’s convenience and backup rolled into one.

So save yourself having to remember all of those passwords, and get more secure in the process. Trust me, this is much better than writing your passwords on post-it notes, and worth every penny.

Shit I Use Every Day (SIUED) : Dropbox

I often get asked by people what software I utilize a lot, so I thought that I would start writing articles letting people know the software I find useful and use nearly every day. The first installment is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a nifty little utility that does one thing, and one thing perfectly. It synchronizes your files between computers, the web and mobile devices. You install a small piece of software wherever you want access to your files, and anytime you add a new file to your Dropbox folder, it get’s synchronized to all of your other devices.

For example, I have Dropbox installed on the following:

  • my work desktop (Windows XP)
  • my work laptop (Mac OSX)
  • the home family iMac (Mac OSX)
  • the home server/biz machine (Windows 7)
  • my iPad (iOS)
  • my iPhone (iOS)

So, each one of those devices has Dropbox installed and they all talk to the Dropbox website. If I change or add a file on ANY of those devices, the change gets replicated to ALL of the devices. It’s great for making things available everywhere, and even as a cheater backup solution. I also utilize several Dropbox ‘aware’ programs that store their data IN Dropbox, so you can utilize those programs on multiple devices as well. I’ll get into that more in a future installment of SIUED. In addition, you can use the service to share files with others. So load them up in your Dropbox, and then invite others to share that folder.

So if you are interested in Dropbox, you can sign up for the free service here. It’s become indispensable in my day-to-day routine.

Oh No, Four Oh.

This Friday, Oct. 22nd, I turn 40 years old. 40. It’s actually kind of hard to comprehend hitting this milestone. It doesn’t seem so far away that I was a punk high school kid working in fast food and chasing tail. Or a college student working as a local radio DJ to pay the bills. Or living in a van down by the river with my future wife.

None of those things seem that long ago, and I have vivid memories of them, but each were a minimum of a decade and a half ago.

Overall, birthdays have always been kinda “meh” for me. I’ve never dreaded them, and I’ve never felt old… until now.

I don’t think I’m feeling old for the typical reasons either. First, I don’t believe in regret. It’s a stupid emotion. If you have a spine, own up to your choices and realize you made them for a reason. I’m not looking back on the past 40 years and wishing I had made different choices. Do I wonder sometimes what different choices would have meant? Certainly. I have that curiosity as everyone does. But that doesn’t mean I regret making the choices I have. Like I said, I made them for a reason, and I am where I am today because of them. So, I’m not upset about 40 because of regret.

Well, a lot of times people look at 40 and take stock of their life and realize that they are not happy in their job, or their relationship, or their financial standing, or they don’t feel attractive or talented in some way anymore. That’s not me either.

Make no mistake, I’m fucking awesome.

So why is this awesome guy with no regrets and a great life not liking 40? Well, it boils down to this. For the first time in my life, I no longer feel invincible.

At 16, 26 and maybe even at 36, I felt like nothing in the world could touch me or get to me. I was bulletproof. Not anymore. I’ve seen too many of my idols, my peers and my friends succumb to things like cancer and stroke. I’ve seen good businessmen lose almost everything. I’ve seen friends and family walk away from upside-down mortgages. I’ve seen some friends unexpectedly divorce, and yet others living in loveless marriages filled with baseless accusations.

All of these things help me realize how lucky I personally am, yet how fragile it all is. It can come tumbling down in an instant. In getting to 40, I’ve felt it always was an uphill climb and I’m now at the peak of the mountain. I’m looking down the other side, and I realize that if I fall now, going downhill makes the wreckage worse.

I guess I’ll just have to do my best not to tumble and enjoy the trek back down the mountain as much as I can.

So hello 40. It’s officially time to be old. Now get off my lawn.

Letting Go

New InkOver the past year or so, I’ve been trying really hard to not let little things bother me. Part of that whole mentality came about with my epiphany post after a rather tumultuous summer.

Since then, life has been much better. That said, that doesn’t mean everything is roses all the time, far from it. I’ve had some really trying weeks where it became increasingly more difficult to just “let go” of the small stuff. Add to that the fact that I’m ending my thirties at the end of this week, and I’ve been a little more grumpy than I need to be. So I decided to remind myself to let go by getting it inked into my body.

The picture you see at the upper right translates to “Let Go” or to some folks as “Forget it.” This is what I need to continue to do. I need to let go of all of the crap I cannot change, and forget about the poison people and things that just bring you down. Getting rid of those bad influences make me a much happier person, and make my life a much better thing to live. It’s hard to do sometimes, but now I have a little reminder for when I need it. I’m really looking forward to letting go more often.

I turn 40 later this week, and it’s hit me a lot harder than I imagined it would. That said, one thing that it IS spurring in me, is to get a bunch of meaningful ink. “Let go” was the first of what I hope will be many to come.

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