Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Danger of Slippage  

In a recent blog post I mentioned that if you miss a day of a workout, it's really easy to miss the next day. I thought it was true when I wrote it, but a week or so later I started adding the days up and realized it was far more true than I anticipated.

Aikido has classes Monday through Saturday, sometimes twice a day. My last Aikido workout was Friday the 6th, and I elected not to go to the Saturday morning workout. In my defense I haven't gone to any of the Saturday morning workouts as I'm still a beginner, but after that decision not to attend Aikido, I found that I couldn't attend Aikido on any of the following days because:
  • Monday the 9th was my 4oth birthday party, one day early because of...
  • Tuesday the 10th was my standing commitment to my writer's group (I am one of the two leaders while the primary facilitator is on maternity leave).
  • Wednesday the 11th my wife and I took a trip to San Francisco for our yearly Valentine's Day trip, dining at the Stinking Rose and dancing at Bondage-a-Go-Go.
  • Thursday the 12th the trip continued, with a day at Muir Woods and dinner at Teatro Zinzani.
  • Friday the 13th: no class for the Aikido Winter Camp, which I was not signed up for because I just joined the dojo.
  • Saturday the 14th: no class for Aikido Winter Camp.
  • Monday the 16th: no class for President's Day.
  • Tuesday the 17th: standing committment to writer's group.
  • Wednesday the 18th: out sick with a cold.
  • Thursday the 19th: recovering from being sick.
  • Friday the 20th: first day that I could have attended, but I forgot my uniform and ended taking the opportunity to surprise my wife with a romantic dinner before she left town.
  • Saturday the 21st: prior committment to hang out with my wife on the last day before her 1-month business trip.
  • Monday the 23rd: second day I could have attended, but my car ended up being in the shop for longer than I expected ... *and* I forgot my uniform again.
  • Tuesday the 24th: standing committment to writer's group.
So after that one decision to skip class, there were fourteen straight sessions that I skipped because of lame excuses, valid excuses, or outright cancellations. So I'm going to put this down as the Centaur's Fourth Law: If you choose to miss a commitment, you're much less likely to catch the next one.(1)

To combat this, I've developed an attitude that works: put the workout or the exercise or the development activity on a regular schedule and treat it like a true commitment that can't be missed. That's the only thing that worked for me for karate in Atlanta or for the writer's group out here. Treating a development activity as an unbreakable commitment sometimes can get you in trouble - I missed one of my wife's art gallery openings for a karate class before I learned when it was safe for me to relax the rule, and I still regret that to this day - but for me, if I don't, I'll end up a victim of the Centaur's Fourth Law.

So now again: let's renew the commitment and get back on the horse. And as for Wednesday the 25th? Let's just say my gym bag, with uniform in it, is placed so it blocks the front door.

-the Centaur
(1) It's the fourth law because I'm sure I can come up with at least three laws more important than that, like You're almost certainly wrong about something you're almost certain you're right about or maybe The more successful you are at staying 'on message', the more successful you'll be at alienating your audience. But I don't have a labeled list or anything at this point.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

New Year's Resolutions 2009: February Checkin  

Let's see how this thing is going:
  • Review your resolutions monthly.
    Self-referential check.
  • Eat two before you buy one.
    So far so good
  • Work out at the gym at least twice a week, three weeks per month:
    Sandi and I are back on a regular schedule, more or less; 3-4 times per week. Easy to miss a subsequent day once you miss a day.
  • Go to a martial arts class two times a week, at least three weeks per month:
    Been going to the Aikido Center, think I got in at least three weeks last month. Easy to miss a subsequent day once you miss a day.
  • Review your GTD folder at least once a week, three weeks a month.
    So far, so good.
  • Publish at least one Fanu Fiku page a month.
    Total failure on this in January, but I do have a big backlog of pages and worked on a 24 hour comic day, so this is in progress.
  • Spend at least two hours writing at least twice a week.
    On top of it.
  • Spend at least two hours doing generative research at least once a week.
    Total failure on this; I have spent very little time doing this, but at least I'm still reading technical journals at a good pace.
  • Send a short story to a magazine at least once a month.
    Total failure. I need to tackle that this weekend.
  • Spend at least one hour a week practicing a foreign language.
    Total failure.
  • Spend at least one hour a week practicing your poi.
    Had to order new poi as we lost them in a recent trip.
  • Each week, contact a friend you haven't talked to in a while.
    So far so good.
  • Write a blog entry once a week.
    So far so good.
  • Read a novel once a month.
    Total failure at the "fun" resolution. I recently finished re-reading "The Fountainhead" prior to making the resolutions. I'm trying to read Triplanetary but it is frankly gad-ow-ful, and I really don't like saying that about some author's hard work.
So so far we're batting ... meh. 16 resolutions, total failure on 6 of them. Gotta keep at it... suggestions welcome, as would be 24 extra hours every day.

-the Centaur



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The not-so-big four oh  

Four oh? Meh. Feels more like a two-five. God has blessed me with good health, a great marriage, cool friends, entertaining cats, a wonderful job, and many consuming interests.

I've been blessed and lucky with my health. I haven't had any major health issues to deal with (knock on wood). I rarely drink (and never more than one at a sitting), and I've always found the smell of cigarette smoke repulsive, so I never had to fight those addictions. Even tragedy has helped me: my adoptive family suffers from heart issues, which made me aware in my early twenties that you have to pay attention to your health. College courses and advisors that warned me that it gets harder to keep off weight as your metabolism slows down. SO in my early twenties, I started exercising and changing my diet.

It took years, but now I'm down to within 5 pounds of my high school weight. I'm more physically fit than any time in my life except for a patch a few years back when I was training for a karate match, interrupted only by breaking my arm. There are a few cracks in the paint here and there - a metal plate in that same arm, a touch of arthritis maybe spawned from a knee injury in Japan, and I had an odd-looking but noncancerous mole removed last month - but overall, I feel great. I want to take on that next forty years - or the next forty after that.

It just goes to show you are always as old as you are, but you age as fast as you feel. Here's to many more years made special by the presence of friends rather than the passage of time.

-the Centaur



Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Fail Full of Win  

So I just spent the last 24 hours, give or take, doing a 24 Hour Comics Day, an attempt to do a 24 page comic from blank to finished page in 24 hours. I, my buddy Nate, and his buddy Jon started work at 10 on Saturday and worked towards 10 on Sunday (well, actually, Jon started at 6 and worked towards 6 because he keeps different hours). Fueled entirely by pizza, diet cola, and a variety of healthy and unhealthy snacks in a continuing rotation, each of us attempted to produce our own brand new comic book, with no prior effort spent on plot, script or drawings other than thinking.

Our results: FAIL. But it was a good failure. As far as final product went, we didn't have much to show: each of us produced around two finished pages. I was just shy of finishing my second page when I quit at 9:30am, Jon finished 2 when he quit at 5, and Nathan had finished two pages and two half pages when he quit around 8:30. But the byproducts were far more impressive.

I produced a complete story, 26 complete pages of storyboards, and two pages of script for the trickiest dialogue sequences. Jon also produced a complete story, 24 pages of storyboards, and about 5 pages of script. Nathan had a complete story, but during the completion of the pages he became increasingly ruthless about his story and became convinced that he could restructure it better to tell a better story - so he perhaps learned more about his process than any of us.

What I learned about my process is that I'm getting better about taking story ideas, extracting a theme, structuring the plot around the theme, and condensing them to the right size; but I'm still inspired to tell stories much larger than my target lengths. And beyond that, I need to practice drawing: practice faces, practice bodies, practice hands, practice animals, practice everything. I was constantly looking online and in my extensive library for reference models to help me draw things that I should have learned and internalized by now. Admittedly, for the past two years I've been focused on writing, not drawing, but art is made by those who make it, not those who make excuses.

Since we're not done, we've agreed to finish the comics over the next 24 days and then have a party to share the finished comics with our friends. Technically these won't then be 24 hour comics; they're more "Comics inspired by the 24 hour comic day experience." But they will be OUR comics, they'll be finished, and we'll all have one more creative work under our belts.

Ad tractus!
-the Centaur



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