Fitness for the Xbox

Yourself!Fitness (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title) is the next generation workout video. Unlike a typical video, this one actually tests your abilities, customizes the workouts for your needs (or goals) and tracks your progress. There are two options: workout and meditation. Workout is exercising that helps you focus on your goals, whereas meditation is yoga poses. Your personal trainer and nutritionist, Maya, is easy on the eyes (yes, she’s a babe), but she pushes you and makes it hurt (I didn’t realize I had muscles there!).

I’ve only used it twice, but I feel like its really worked me. I’ve found myself pushing myself to keep up, and I’ve ended up in a sweat by the end of the workout. I’m not very flexible, so the yoga is still tough for me. I haven’t started using the meal planner yet, but I’ve read that it’s pretty good, and you can determine how many calories you want to consume everyday.

My only gripe, though, is that I can’t listen to my own music. I’m not a big fan of most of the music on it, but I can at least turn it down and listen to a music CD instead.

As I progress in my fitness goal, I’ll write about how well I’m doing, including whether or not I’ve kept up (Maya keeps track of that as well).

Yourself!Fitness for the Xbox

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we commemorate the life and work of one of the greatest civil rights leaders in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the voice for all black American citizens to receive the same equal treatment as white Americans. He fought through his words and his nonviolent actions, which he adopted from Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi. His legacy lives on, and his fight continues. Today people of all races have made many great strides forward towards equal and civil rights. Yet I am constantly reminded of the bigotry that still exists in our country today because many people are so closed-minded that they act like barbarians. If we as American citizens truly believe in strong moral values, then we should look upon the words and work of Dr. King and remember that he didn’t fight for just black Americans, but for all Americans. Today’s blog is dedicated to the men and women who continue to struggle for the ideals that Dr. King fought to achieve. Let’s not remember today as just a day of remembrance, but as the first day that we will work to improve the civil liberties for all of those around us.

The King Center – The Meaning of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

My 2005 Resolutions

Last year I published a list of resolutions for 2004. It’s now 2005, so I took the time to review my list and update it for the New Year. I’ll start with my 2004 accomplishments and move on to what I’d like to complete this year.

2004 resolutions accomplished

Eat healthier

I started off pretty well in 2004, and was able to maintain it for most of the year. But then I fell into the trap of finding convenience in the nearby McDonald’s drive-thru. Fortunately, they now sell salads. At any rate, I need to maintain eating healthier, and follow Benjamin Franklin’s lesson, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

Be more active

I didn’t play as much golf again this year, but I made up for it by playing softball. I was pretty active for the summer, but I need to maintain it year-round. And I need to prepare for softball and golf this year.

Spend more time playing guitar

I think I made some pretty good strides playing the guitar in the past year. I still want to learn more, so I keep plugging away.

Be more assertive

I managed to spend more time away from home this year by hanging out with friends. I also dated for a while (no, really). I also managed to show people that I’m really a fun-loving, nice guy.

Keep the apartment clean

I cleaned it, but it became messy again. I plan on doing some major cleaning this spring, so I hope to be done with this before the middle of the year. The other trick, of course, will be to maintain it.

Be less cynical

I had a rough time when I was put at-risk earlier this year. Yet I managed to see a silver lining in losing my job, though, and I landed on my feet in a job that I truly enjoy. Perhaps I’m not as cynical as I thought I was.

Meet that special someone

I managed to meet some people this year, but things didn’t work out. At least I tried, though… that counts, doesn’t it?

Finish my desk

I had the desk finished and installed by March of this year. Consider this one done.

Read more

I managed to spend some time reading this year. However, I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to. It’s that darned television and the new DVR that will make this more difficult to accomplish throughout the year.

Finish my web site redesign

I just published the site in early December, so this is another finished resolution.

Complete my England vacation scrapbook

I never started putting together an actual paper scrapbook, but I managed to publish an electronic version on my site. I’d consider that an accomplishment.

It’s pretty obvious that I managed to work towards my goals in 2004. But I have more to accomplish in 2005. Some are repeats, while others are new initiatives.

2005 goals

Continue staying healthy

I’ve got a couple of minor health issues, so I want to attack those and get myself into better shape. This will require remaining active year-round and really trying to keep away from the burgers, fries, and sweets. It’s time for some winter activities.

Keep playing the guitar

I love to shred. I don’t think this will be a problem. But I still have a lot to improve upon, and much more to learn. I plan on working harder on remembering those long Metallica solos.

Improve my wardrobe

I managed to purchase new clothes for work, but I don’t have much in terms of just casual, yet dressy, clothes. If I had to go on a date tomorrow, I’d pretty much be limited in what to wear. Hooded sweatshirts and Metallica T-shirts just won’t cut it. It’s time for some new shirts and pants.

Keep improving my analytical skills

I realize that I still have much to learn in my current job. In time I’ll understand more about my agency and the things that need to be accomplished in order to make everyone’s lives easier, including our customers (that is, the citizens).

Keep reducing the clutter

As I stated earlier, I managed to clean the apartment, but it became messy again. I have no excuses now that I have a desk to help keep me organized. I’ll keep clearing things out and prepare to really start looking for a new place to move (it’s time to start building equity in a house).

Keep adding content to the new site

I want to keep the site fresh, so I have to continue adding content that’s worth reading. Due to my work on the new site redesign, I didn’t write any new soapbox articles after January. I also want to complete the article on building my desk, and I’m thinking about doing more with the blog (although I’m still not sure I want to have people responding and posting to the site yet). I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on it, so I hope people continue to find the things I publish either useful or entertaining.

What are my chances in 2005?

I’ve already started down the right path, although I had a few slip ups along the way. My list this year is much shorter than it was last year, showing that I managed to really get into some positive habits. I have some challenges ahead of me, but I’m working on them now so I can keep them going strong throughout 2005.

Friendly wager between governors

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty placed a friendly wager on this Sunday’s playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. If the Packers win, Governor Pawlenty will provide dinner at Schumacher’s Hotel and Restaurant in New Prague, Minnesota. If the Vikings win, Governor Doyle will provide some Usinger’s sausages and Carr’s cheeses. That’s as friendly and spirited a wager as one can get, and it shows that both governors have real pride in what their states offer.

First snowfall of the season

For those of you who live in southern Wisconsin, you know that we’re finally receiving some much needed snow. This gives me an excuse to make my regular annual gripe about drivers who seem to forget how to drive around the white stuff. As I drove along the expressway to work this morning, I was stuck behind a slow driver, despite the fact that there was no precipitation and the expressway was clear. I couldn’t go around because the other two lanes were moving slower (we were traveling at 40 miles per hour; the posted limit is 55). Finally, that driver moved out of the way, and I managed to safely get up to the speed limit. As Dave Barry says, “If you are not passing, GET OUT OF THE LEFT DAMN LANE (emphasis and language original).”

My drive home tonight was seriously slowed by the amount of snow we received during the day. Road crews were unable to keep up with the accumulation, which made driving conditions difficult. Although I managed to get the car up to 40 mph during on the expressway, traffic came to a standstill a couple of times. The city streets were worse, since the snow made for slippery driving. Even then, I was able to accelerate up to a fairly safe speed.

So we’re getting pounded with more snow tonight and tomorrow, and the weather forecasters tell us to expect up to ten inches of snow by the end of the winter storm. It’s not the beating that Indianapolis, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw (19-34 inches), but it is still a lot of snow for one day. It makes me wonder how people will drive when we receive some real snow.

I’m not suggesting that people can drive at regular speeds in snow, because that’s just dangerous. But if roads are already cleared and well-traveled and there is no precipitation, it does not mean that you need to drive extremely slow. Driving in this weather requires adjusting for conditions (slowing down if the roads are sloppy) and allowing plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. The important thing is to not be intimidated by the snow, but it is still important to be cautious.

Rewriting education

I warned about this before, and only now are people realizing that I was right (see my soapbox article, link below). Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that writing skills are becoming a major issue in education. That’s because most people do not spend enough time studying the written language. Instead, they write what they think as if it were speech and assume it looks good on paper. I wasn’t different when I started my career, but my supervisor at the time taught me the error of my ways and instilled a sense of proper written grammar.

I hate to break it to you kids that want to make a career of writing in a business setting, but writing skills are now more important than ever. With the need for proper documentation and clarity for the non-expert, it is important to be able to write so that a majority of non-technical readers know what you are writing. If you write inconsistently and unclearly, then the work that you spent on the document is wasted; no one will read it. Even if it is read, your credibility is questioned, and readers will ask others before coming to you.

Proper writing (not creative writing; that’s a different set of rules) should reflect that you are competent. It should show that you understand what you are writing about, and it should demonstrate your expertise. Even more important is that your writing becomes a reflection of your character. If you write incomplete or incoherent sentences, it shows your reader that you are unaware of what you are trying to explain, and that you may not know what you are doing.

So learn to write well. Computers are tools, not ends to a means. And above all, encourage writing in children by teaching them to read and write proper grammar.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rewriting education

No more guitar?

As an aspiring guitarist, I find the following Wisconsin State Journal article somewhat disturbing. But I don’t believe it means the end of the guitar as an American icon. Sure, popular music (stuff made with computers, synthesizers, and samplers) does not have as much guitar in it anymore. But the guitar is still common in real music. This covers jazz, country, blues, rock, and metal (yes, there are other forms of real music, but I don’t consider pop music real to begin with).

Even then, guitars are still apparent in some pop music. Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews play the guitar. John Mayer is a blues guitarist gone popular. But these seem rare in today’s “Top 40” culture. I was young and stupid once, and I listened to popular music in my youth. Today, I am a living, breathing musician who appreciates musical and writing talent. That’s why my musical influences include Lennon and McCartney (and I can’t wait to see Macca play at this year’s SuperBowl), Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Joe Walsh.

It’s also no secret that I’m a Metallica fan (or a Metallicat). Their intense, guitar-driven riffs and mind-blowing fast solos keep me wanting to learn how to master the guitar, or at least play like Kirk Hammett (as I’ve said, when I grow up I want to be him). For the handful of us that are purists, it is difficult to convince us that guitar in music is dead. It’s very unfortunate that popular music has essentially put it to rest. I think it goes to show that the recording industry still controls the music that we listen to.

So if you’re like me and an aspiring musician (or an accomplished one), appreciate the talents that you have. Perhaps chicks will again dig us. I’ll continue to enjoy playing for as long as I can, and I’ll never tire of the great original sounds that come from the guitar.

Wisconsin State Journal: RIP? Pop Musicians Are Making Do Without The Icon Of Americana