January 2013

"Takers"

There is one hot-button issue that will always draw me into a rant: the assertion that anyone who draws a paycheck from the government is a "taker" rather than a "maker".

My wife is a science teacher in a public school. She worked her way through college and obtained a Masters degree and a Ph.D. She could have taken a position in university academia, but decided she could do more good in a classroom with students.

She works in one of the wealthiest districts of one of the wealthiest counties in the state. She teaches the children of dentists, lawyers, and accountants who spend their weekends on the golf course complaining about being crushed by taxes and arguing about which model of BMW to buy this year.

She always works over 60 hours per week. She works harder than anyone I've ever seen in private industry.

Her pay has been cut by about 25% over the past five years. A big chunk of what income she has left goes toward buying supplies that the school system and parents won't provide.

She's a taker. She's a leech sucking society's blood. She should stop teaching science to children and go do something useful, right?

DirecTV Customer Service Sucks, and They Are Watching Me

This past weekend, two of our DirecTV satellite receivers failed. The failures were unrelated: one stopped working after the magic smoke leaked out of the vents; the other kept rebooting itself and scanning its disk, without ever actually starting up.

My wife called DirecTV and told them about the problems. The customer service rep agreed to send a replacement for the receiver that was smoking. However, we would have to let the other receiver keep trying to scan/repair its disk for 48 hours before they would declare it dead and replace it.

A couple of days went by, and we received a replacement receiver. We hooked it up and called DirecTV to activate it, and that went fine.

So far, I'd call this reasonable service. Then we asked about the other failed receiver, which was still not working after 48 hours, and that's when things changed.

46

Another year behind me. Not a bad year.

I picked up a new client this year, and reduced my time spent working with the client I've had for the past couple of years. The new client provides opportunities for more interesting work. I've been able to do more mobile and web development, and will be doing some embedded-systems development soon. I may be able to put Windows/.NET development behind me for a while. I was able to give myself a nice bump in my hourly rate.

Family and dogs are doing fine. There is nothing very interesting to report, but I'm happy.

We're planning to visit relatives in North Dakota this summer. I haven't been back there for a while (over ten years, I think), so it will be nice to see everybody.

I think I'm healthier than I was a year ago. I started running in August, and ran a 10K on New Year's Day. I have started training to run a half-marathon at the end of March. I've lost a few pounds and a few waistline inches. If I can lose 20 pounds this year, I'll be in good shape.

Goals for the coming year:

  • Write in my journal every day.
  • Run a half marathon, and the Peachtree Road Race 10K. (Maybe: run Atlanta Marathon this fall.)
  • Practice guitar at least six days per week. My wife bought me a nice Fender Telecaster for Christmas/birthday, which has been a good motivator.
  • Learn to play keyboard. My brother bought me a keyboard for Christmas/birthday, so I have no excuses not to learn to play.
  • Look at this list of goals once in a while.

From Couch Potato to Running a 10K in a Few Months

In August, I started running after a few years of sitting on the couch. I ran the Peachtree Road Race back in 2007, then stopped running completely shortly thereafter. My post-40 physical decline has been distressing, so I decided I needed to get back into doing something active.

Just as I started thinking "Maybe I should start running again," I ran across a mention of the Couch-to-5K running plan in a blog. The core idea is that the plan very gradually builds up your endurance. Too many people decide "I need to start running," then go out and run a couple of miles, and then wake up in pain the following morning and decide they will never run again. C25K starts you off alternating between 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking the first week, then 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking the second week, then keeps bumping up the jogging time and reducing the walking time until you are running for 30 minutes straight.

The first couple of weeks of C25K seemed really easy, and I was tempted to skip forward a couple of weeks, but I'm glad I didn't. I think its gradual nature is the key to its success. Every other time I've gotten into running, I've had problems with pain in my right ankle, but that didn't happen this time.

There is an iPhone app that will tell you when to start running and when to start walking, so it appealed to both the geeky and lazy aspects of my personality.

I finished C25K in October, and was surprised at how easy it had been. So I decided to follow up with the 5K-to-10K program, which also has an iPhone app.

I expected going from 5K to 10K to be easier than going from 0 to 5K, but it wasn't. The first few weeks were easy, but once I got up to about five miles, it was tough to keep going. But I did it, and a few weeks ago I did my first 60-minute continuous run.

Unfortunately, this coincided with the holiday season, so while I lost 10 pounds between August and December, I put five pounds back on during December. I'll have to work on that.

Today, New Year's Day, I ran the 2013 PT Solutions Resolution Run 10K, organized by the Atlanta Track Club. It was 45 degrees and raining, so it wasn't pleasant, but I did finish, running the whole 6.2 miles except for brief walks at the water stations. My time was one hour and three minutes, which is not great, but I'm happy with it.

Next, on to the half marathon!