category: My life, my life, my life…

1/11/11

On New Year’s Day, a guy from the local fire department or rescue squad came around soliciting donations. As I was writing my check out, he said, “One-One-Eleven… all ones… wow, when’s something like that going to happen again?”

I responded, “Well, probably about ten days from now.”

He paused and said, “Oh. Yeah.”

2010: My Year in Review

If I were the type to focus on the negative things that happened during the year (which I sometimes am), I’d note that Amina’s illness and death were a huge strain on all of us emotionally for the first half of the year. I’d also look back to things I wrote late last year and in January of this year about my hopes and plans for the year and how I missed the mark on pretty much every front. There were a couple of very specific changes I wanted to make this year that I didn’t. Again. And it’s getting hard to keep failing myself like that.

A few things I worked on this year that I’m pleased with: I journaled a lot more (using 750words.com and then importing into my desktop journal software), I ran far more than any previous year (231 miles, though I was as inconsistent as ever, aside from October), and we travelled a fair amount.

All-in-all, it was actually a pretty good year. I didn’t document as much online this year and find myself generally being slightly less forthcoming than I was in the past, but I decided to write up a rundown of my year, for what’s it’s worth. Last year, I found that I enjoyed the process of putting the list together and I suspect years down the road, I’ll be glad I did.

2011, bring it on. I’m ready for you. I think.

The year, by month

January

  • Large nearly-dead tree #1 removed from our backyard.
  • Talked to Ludwig van Trikt on the phone

February

  • GIANT F’ING SNOWSTORM (over 3 feet).

March

  • Ran my first race of the year, a 5-miler with Ragz at an 8:06/mile pace.
  • Several vet and emergency vet trips for Amina. Ultrasound rules out Addison’s disease. We start a food allergy test.

April

  • Ten years in our house.
  • Amina’s endoscopy. Results come back as severe inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Lost my cell phone at the farm.
  • 2 1/2 weeks late on state inspection = ticket on the drive into work.

May

  • We celebrate Amina’s 9th birthday while she starts to show some bad side effects due to her medicine cocktail. Late in the month, we try a reiki treatment.
  • Poplar Spring 5k (sixth one!), finished in the rain at 25:13.
  • Michael Franti/Spearhead show at Wolf Trap.

June

  • Amina has a physical therapy appointment to try and get some relief from the medicines’ side effects. She also swims for the first time (she since we adopted her) while trying some water therapy.
  • Las Vegas.
  • Amina passes.
  • Pick up a dog in Vegas wandering on the side of the road and take him to the Nevada SPCA. He’s adopted two days after he debuts there.
  • Huyen goes to Vietnam.
  • Juniper passes.

July

  • Earthquake!

August

  • Large nearly-dead tree #2 removed from our backyard.
  • Serial killer strikes multiple times within a mile of our house.
  • Ordered a Vita-Mix. Becomes my new best friend.
  • Trip to Asheville, NC.
  • Met Jim Perry!!!

September

  • Pantry moths!
  • A comment of mine is read on WNYC’s Soundcheck.
  • First 10k race (53:31).

October

  • Ran 60 miles.
  • A horse bit my boob.
  • Turned 35.

November

  • Worked the polls again.
  • Rasine’s first ear infection.
  • Charlie Hunter @ Jammin’ Java
  • Adopted Shepp.
  • Thanksgiving in Corolla and at Stace’s house.

December

  • Shepp wears women’s underwear.
  • NYC trip.
  • Got a Cr-48.
  • Started The Great Beard Experiment of 2010.

Favorite new teas of the year

Over course a good Silver Needle White or Tung Ting Oolong will do the trick for me, but here are a few new favorites I discovered this year.

  • Shangri La White Silvertips (Nepalese white, from Tea Trekker)
  • Yue Guang Bai (Chinese Green from Tea Trekker, pre-qing ming)
  • A 2009 pu-erh that was stored in a tangerine skin, brewed with pieces of the skin. Tried this during a tasting.

RIP

Stores and web services in parenthases.

  • Chas Balun
  • Zelda Rubenstein
  • Yabby You
  • Apache
  • Andrew Koenig
  • Guru
  • (Couch Potatoes)
  • Dorothy Height
  • Lena Horne
  • Markey Fresh
  • Gary Coleman
  • Dennis Hopper
  • (Lala)
  • Rue McClanahan
  • Amina
  • Juniper
  • Fred Anderson
  • Rammellzee
  • Sugar Minott
  • Abbey Lincoln
  • Yojinbo
  • (Amie Street)
  • Hadley Caliman
  • Greg Geraldo
  • Uncle Don
  • david bailey
  • Eyedea
  • Marion Brown
  • Gregory Isaacs
  • Noah Howard
  • Leslie Nielsen

Books I Finished Reading This Year

In order finished.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Home Land: A Novel by Sam Lipsyte
  • The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin
  • Cringe: Teenage Diaries, Journals, Notes, Letters, Poems, and Abandoned Rock Operas by Sarah Brown
  • The Smart Traveler’s Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers by Erik Torkells
  • The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto by Baisao
  • What Matters Now by Seth Godin
  • Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus
  • Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon
  • Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton (audiobook version)
  • I Got Somebody in Staunton: Stories by William Henry Lewis
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
  • The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas by Mary Lou and David (?) Heiss
  • In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim
  • iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak (audiobook version)
  • Living And Dying In Zazen: Five Zen Masters Of Modern Japan by Arthur Braverman
  • Your Money: The Missing Manual by J.D. Roth
  • Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between by Brad Warner
  • Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor
  • Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music by Greg Milner
  • Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe
  • The Korean Way of Tea by Hong Kyeong-hee and Brother Anthony of Taize
  • The Elephant Vanishes: Stories by Haruki Murakami

Movies I Watched and Re-watched This Year

In order watched.

2009: My Year-in-Review

Being that I wrote barely any real entries in the blog this year, how about I sneak a year-in-review one in at the last second?

Here was my 2009 in a nutshell, certainly leaving out an awful lot. Thanks to twitter, Google Calendar, Flickr, and this blog for helping remind me what the heck I did this year.

January

  • A new president is sworn in. Didn’t go downtown, but did watch streaming video at work during lunch.

February

  • Went to see the new Friday the 13th with my sister. First time we saw a movie in the theater together since we were kids.
  • Took Rasine bowling for the first time.

March

  • One Sentence won the 2009 Bloggie for “Best Microblog.”
  • Stayed with my mom in a hotel in Philly during the worst snowstorm in years (to that point) as my Dad had surgery.
  • Race #1 of the year: Stupid Little 5k (24:26)
  • Demi Moore tweeted about One Sentence

April

With Ricky

May

  • Race #2: 5k for Kailee (25:08 mine, 25:21 official)
  • Race #3: Poplar Spring Run for the Animals (5k) (24:50 mine, 24:58 official)
  • Had my first neti pot experience.
  • Spoke at a Board of Supervisors meeting in support of some local farms (along with 50 other people). If you look hard enough, you can find video online.
  • Closed up shop on ADDreviews after almost eight years.

June

  • Jesus, did nothing interesting happen in June?

July

  • An armed robber takes a family hostage a mile or so from where we live. Huyen sees the helicopters searching for him. He’s caught later that night.
  • Newsweek tweets about One Sentence.
  • Brad Warner big ups Rasine.
  • Started the refinancing process, which would (when completed) save us $500 a month.
  • Took Rasine to a carnival.

August

  • Went to a Half Pint show at Merriweather Post Pavillion. Hung back stage and watched Bob Marley’s grandchildren play ping pong with Squidly Cole (the son of the man credited with recording the first reggae song), saw Snoop Dogg play basketball, and got dissed by Stephen Marley.
  • Launched a long-in-the-works redesign of Half Pint’s site.
  • Had my bottom two wisdom teeth removed. The pain lingered for weeks.
  • A block away from our house, a dog mauled and killed another dog and a man in his home.
  • Went to a long-time friend’s wedding and met a guy that was in the original Sleepaway Camp.
  • Got bootleg Golden Palace DVDs in the mail.
  • Started our vacation in Northampton, Massachussetts. Ate great food, sat with a local sangha, met the authors of the amazing The Story of Tea, and enjoyed the city where almost no one accepts credit cards.
  • Continued the vacation in Boston for college friend John’s wedding. Met up with Eric Prescott just weeks before he opened Peace O’ Pie.
  • Then we made our way to New York City for non-stop fun. Ran twice in Central Park, including a 7-mile loop that included “Heartbreak Hill.” We ate absurd amounts of food, including a burrito the size of Rasine’s head and a huge variety of vegan sushi with master bluesman Brownbird Rudy Relic. Our time in NYC this year was so much fun, it’ll probably turn into an annual event.

With Pint

September

Last Subway Ride

October

  • Five years vegan.
  • 34 years alive.
  • Finally finished the mortgage refinancing process.
  • Took Rasine to her first (high school) football game. She dug it, especially high-fiving the mascot.

Daddy with his Daughters

November

  • Worked election day.
  • Helped an older woman break into her house.

December

  • First new haircut style in entirely too long.
  • GIANT F’ING SNOWSTORM!
  • Talked to my best friend from 5th grade today for the first time in 20+ years.
  • 15 years of web publishing.
  • Killed Urban Ambiance (the site and the LLC). Launched Laze Makes Things.
  • Actually wrote a post on twist of fait.

New hair!

Books I Finished Reading This Year

Not a single work of fiction finished this year, though I did read a little.

  • Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic. by David Nadelberg
  • Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma by Brad Warner
  • Mortified: Love Is a Battlefield by David Nadelberg
  • The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Ellen and Robert J. Heiss
  • WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling by R.D. Reynolds
  • Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg
  • Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief by Dale McGowan
  • Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis
  • Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries by Noah Levine
  • The Empty Mirror by Jan Van De Wetering
  • The Vegan Monologues by Ben Shaberman
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  • It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong
  • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
  • Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff (my sole audiobook of the year)

Deaths I Tweeted

Other notes

  • I delved way deeper into tea than I ever have before. This was the year I discovered the beauty of Japanese greens after having dismissed them for so long and the amazingness that is Tung Ting oolong. Bought an insane amount of great tea from trips to NYC and MA and have loved almost all of it.
  • Launched/re-launched a total of four sites this year.
  • Dealt a lot more with depression this year than previous years. Working on the root causes.
  • I am working on another Music Year in Review post. This weekend, maybe?
  • Though I didn’t run a ton this year, I did hit the pavement for more miles than any previous year. That’s something, right?
  • Was sick this year more than usual.
  • Finished up the year on some positive and hopeful notes. 2010: big tings a gwaan!

5ks and Goose Poop

It’s been a nice weekend thusfar, starting off with a visit from Alex. He came by for dinner on Friday and joined me and helped out at the farm on Saturday morning. Thi also came into town for a few days and was Rasine’s best buddy on Saturday. This morning, I got up before the sun, headed out to Berryville, and ran my fourth Stupid Little 5k. I guess the bit of running I’ve been doing recently has helped out, as I felt fine throughout the whole run (even if it was 32 degrees) and ran a personal race best (I think it was my second best 5k, including training runs, too) at about 24:26 (which comes out to a 7:50/mile average). I scored first in my age group, but that may not actually be completely true depending on the age of the folks that finished in the top three overall.

Then, this afternoon, the whole family headed out to the park for a nice picnic lunch. Rasine dodged goose poop, as this video shows:

Where I write more than 140 characters, for once

I’ve been thinking about some stuff recently. Like how I’d like to get back to writing in my blog more frequently. And how I want to twitter a little less and a little less stupidly. And how neither the blog or my twitter stream really belongs on my Facebook profile.

So, I’ve been up to a few things.

For one, I’ve gotten back into running. I’m still definitely not a heavy runner, but at least I’m logging a few miles a few times a week and have a couple of races coming up. The first one is Sunday’s Stupid Little 5k, a great first race of the year since it’s a flat course and a very low-key atmosphere. Plus, it’s cheap. Then, in May, I’m running my sixth Poplar Spring Run for the Animals. This year, I’m gathering sponsors and have set a goal of raising $2000 for the farm. If you’d consider donating a few bucks, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Second, I’ve been dipping my toes back into the music thing. I finally launched the two-year-old redesign of Urban Ambiance (thanks, Arquay!), even if the site’s really still not ready. I’ll be progressively touching up the content and organizing things for the release of a new mix in a few weeks titled Conspicuous Presence. The mix is coming along really well and should be a worthy successor to Conspicuous Absence from 2004. I’ve got a few new beats just waiting for the finishing touches, too, so hopefully I can get that album out this year. I need to get some verses and cuts from people and finalize a few instrumentals.

Other than that, I’m: just hating American Idol, enjoying 24, needing to call someone about getting the birds out of our attic/ducts without hurting them, chipping away at taxes, thinking I need to call about refinancing really soon, glad Amina seems to have stopped her morning puking routine, laughing at the fact today Rasine set the house alarm and covered herself with postage stamps, and thinking I absolutely need to get up to Chiller Theatre this year.

First Fail of the Year

Sometimes the universe conspires against you when you promise something and you just need to roll with it.

Remember my heartfelt pledge to “get over the fear” and launch two sites, write three book reviews and two posts, and finish a year-end music post? Remember how a few of you chimed in an yelled, “Huzzah! We know what you’re feeling!”?

It’s 49 minutes until the new year and I’ve done none of those things. Not a single one.

So, here I am blaming it on a combination of having a cold while traveling over the holidays, unexpectedly having to work a lot during my week off, catching a stomach bug, and the planets not being aligned.

Just means I’ll have to put those short-term goals a tad bit further into the future. Oh well… those darn attachments, right?

Happy new year, pals.

Getting Over the F’ing Fear

I’m a resolution maker. I find the new year a good time to reboot and refocus my attention, which has inevitably gotten away from me by December. This year, one of my main resolutions was to tie up loose ends on the myriad projects I’d started but never finished. But, here we are, mere weeks from 2009 and most of those same projects are still sitting there, incomplete. Sure, they’re a little further along than 11 months ago, but they’re not done. They’re not out there, being consumed.

It’s not like I’ve been lazy. In fact, I’d say that the 2+ years since Rasine was born have been the busiest of my life. I can’t remember the last time I lamented being bored and having nothing to do. But the post-kid time crunch can only be used as an excuse for so long.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more sensitive to criticism. Sometimes this fear shows itself as an attempt at self-deprecating humor in an effort to deflect criticism before it’sever lobbed my way. More often, though, that fear keeps me from putting out something imperfect, which means I don’t put anything out there for people to see.

It happens in small ways, it happens in big ways. It might be a post or a song that I’ve finished but haven’t posted or released because it just doesn’t feel like it’s quite there yet. It sits there and eventually becomes too outdated to even consider publishing. Or, it could be something larger, like a web site redesign that sits at 80% finished for 18 months. I’m pretty sure this sort of thinking caused me to subconsciously self-sabotage the book I was working on for a couple of years.

I know I’m not alone in this. Merlin Mann discussed this in his great “Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking” post:

Nobody likes feeling like a noob, especially when you’re getting constant pressure on all sides to never stick out in an unflattering way. And, in this godforsaken just-add-Wikipedia era of make-believe insight and instant expertise, it’s natural to start believing you must never suck at anything or admit to knowing less than everything — even when you’re just starting out. Clarinets should never squawk, sketch lines should never be visible, and dictionaries are just big, dumb books of words for cheaters and fancy people. Right?

I think finding your own comfort with the process (whatever that process ends up being) might just be the whole game here — being willing to put in your time, learn the craft, and never lose the courageousness to be caught in the middle of making something you care about, even when it might be shit and you might look like an idiot fumbling to make it. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, you could quit, because it’s too hard to make stuff you aren’t already great at. You could convert all that pointless effort and practice back into MySpace updates and the production of funny cat pictures. No, it’s not technically the worst thing that could happen, but it’s a damned common pathway for fear to molder back into an emotional impulse to put on jammies and watch Judge Judy.

Jay Smooth also discussed it over at Ill Doctrine in a video series about his “Little Hater.” He describes the “Little Hater” as such:

If I go too long without putting work in and it feels like that connection is broken, there’s a little voice inside my head that starts playing tricks on me and trying to convince me that the connection was never really there.

And I think this is true for all creative people, that we each have a “Little Hater” that lives inside our heads and tries to set up traps for us. And the first trap he sets up for me is always perfectionism.

Whenever I go a few days without making a video, I start thinking to myself, “I need do something extra special to justify that time away.” And then the Little Hater starts telling me that none of my ideas are good enough to meet that standard. Then, I don’t want to work and I fall into the second trap, which is procrastination.

Procrastination is what they call it when you confuse being busy with being productive. And that’s a trap that’s really hard to avoid when the work that you’re doing involves the Internet.

So then I’m feeling really stupid and guilty for letting myself fall into these traps and I tell myself I’ve gotta make this stop. But since I’m feeling like a loser who never gets anything done, I can’t build up the confidence…

I’m not expecting to get back to the levels of creative productivity that I had in high school where I was releasing 1-2 albums a year. Or college and “the Falls Church years” where I was churning out web sites and content like a madman. I’d be perfectly happy with just having something new to show every month or two, whether it’s a song, a few decent-length essays, or maybe even something in a completely different medium.

So, one of my resolutions for 2009 is to Get Over the F’ing Fear and Just Make Stuff. And I’m getting started on that resolution a month early.

My goals for the next two months are, as follows:

  • December: Re-launch two web sites that have been “just about ready” for a year or more. Deal with any incompleteness later, post-launch.
  • December: Get at least three book reviews and two other substantial posts written for The Veg Blog.
  • December: Write a massive music “Year in Review” post like I did last year.
  • January: Release a follow-up to the “Conspicuous Absence” mix CD I did in 2004. I’ve got the track list 95% done, have started soliciting drops from the artists represented, and started talks with Corey about design.
  • January: Re-launch one more site that’s about 65% to where I want it to be now.

The stuff may be—no, will be—imperfect. And that’s going to be OK with me. Make it, move on. Get the momentum going, develop a rhythm, and be productive, not just busy.

I just need one promise from you: give me feedback along the way. Even if it’s critical. Because I can take it. I need to.

Crappy old videos = good new content

Recently, I snagged a Dazzle DVD converter from Woot for a mere $30. Since it arrived, I’ve been busy digitizing old videos, so I thought I’d share a few here.

TV Tech: Car Ad Recreation

Created during my high school Media/TV Tech 1 class all the way back in 1994, in this assignment, we had to take an ad and edit ourselves in wherever there were people. This video’s brilliance lies in the amazing computer generated fake snow and the length we went to match our facial expressions to the original commercial.

The original ad runs first, for comparison, followed by our edited version of the ad.


TV Tech: Car Ad Recreation from laze on Vimeo.

TV Tech: Trash… It’s a Mess

Here’s a story assignment for my high school Media/TV Tech course in 1994. This piece of hard-hitting journalism dealt with the issue of trash on the floors of our school.

This piece includes an interview with the infamous “Body Parts Lady” (a custodian who we always assumed was wheeling body parts around in the trash can she pushed).


TV Tech: Trash… It’s a Mess from laze on Vimeo.

The People’s Court

Here’s my brief appearance on the December 1, 2000 edition of “The People’s Court.”

… more to come

Election Day 2008

Last week, I worked as an election official for the fifth year (and the eighth time, I think). The precinct where I worked edged just slightly towards Obama. Voter turnout was good – turnout the day of was about 57% of registered voters with another 20% having voted absentee. That 20% absentee is what made the day somewhat surprising.

When I arrived at 5am, there were already people camped out waiting to vote. They’d been there since 4, apparently. We opened the doors at 6 and for the next 90 minutes, people poured in. The traffic patterns were odd: the line for last names beginning with H to O (yes, that led to about 800 comments about “H2O” and one “HO. I guess that’s my line!”) would be 30 deep when the other two lines were literally empty. Yet, the A-G book had the most people come through by day’s end.

By 7:30am, the traffic had dwindled significantly. Around 10am, another small rush hit for about 30 minutes. We all waited for the next rush to come. But it never did. Not at lunch. Not at 5pm. Not right before closing. The rest of the day was people trickling in little by little. Sometimes 30 minute stretches would go by where one section of the alphabet wouldn’t have a single person come through. It was amazing how slow it was.

Paperwork was filled out and we were headed home by 9:30pm, which is really good. Only one small vote tally issue, but we got that straightened out without too much trouble. It was a really simple day. A little disappointing, in that respect, really.

I usually have stories about weird people that came through, but this time there was only one person worth noting. Of course, it was someone I had to deal with. It was a woman who’d come to the wrong school to vote, a common mistake because there are two schools right next to each other for people in neighboring sections of the town. But when I told her she’d have to go across the parking lot to the other school to vote, she was livid. “It’s absurd that being one school off matters! Why can’t I just vote here?” I showed her the precinct map, explained it calmly, and she still stormed out. I’m guessing that she went home rather than driving 30 seconds to the adjacent school.

And that, my friends, was Election Day 2008.

(Previous election day recaps: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

A (very) brief political statement…

I had something significant written up about Obama’s victory, but I decided to save it rather than post it. So I’ll just say that for the first time in many, many years, I feel like something positive might actually happen in Washington. It’ll be really interesting to see how the flickr/Twitter/Facebook-aware Government 2.0 changes the way the political machine runs over the next four years.

Seven

To my awesome wife: happy anniversary!