Saturday, January 31, 2009

Decluttering Musings

While throwing out more stuff today, I got to thinking about why getting rid of stuff is so hard for me. It's because my stuff is reliable. It was the one constant when my family moved every couple of years when I was growing up. It's always been there for me. If I have a bad day, it doesn't tell me that I'm over-reacting or having a pity party. It won't judge me. It doesn't tell me what to do. It doesn't blame me for things that it did or get mad at me for things that I did. It's there to fall back on when the rest of the world is unfriendly and upsetting. It just sits there quietly and patiently while I sort out my thoughts and feelings. I can look through souvenirs and other stuff I've collected over the years to remember better times. I can read books to escape somewhere else. I can work on projects I've started and lose myself in their progress for a time. I can find inspiration from various objects I've saved. Of course, there's a balance between having enough stuff to create a cushion between myself and the world and having so much stuff that I'm buried under it. In the past few months to years, the balance point between too much and enough has shifted. I now need a lot less stuff to be cushioned. I think this is good progress.

Getting rid of stuff means that I have less to fall back upon when things don't go so well and, sooner or later, things won't go well. Sure, everybody is supposed to have friends to fall back upon, but my experience is that people are undependable. When you need to lean on them most, they suddenly have no time or are unsympathetic. They tell you that being friends with you is worth time and effort, but then they never actually have the time or energy when you try to actually do something with them. I wish people would just say what they mean instead of saying what they think they're supposed to say, but that ability seems to be very rare.

Getting rid of stuff also means saying good-bye to parts of my past and letting go of things. This is scary. It also tends to aggravate people too. I have discovered that people don't like their friends to grow and change very much, especially if they themselves are stuck or unhappy. Change in others reminds them of their own unhappiness and their failure to change. They tend to ridicule, criticize or undermine these changes in others in an attempt to feel better about themselves. This is where the saying one thing and doing another comes in again. People will say that it's great that you're doing X, but then make comments about how things used to be or how silly it is to do something different or new. Of course, these people often didn't say much which was supportive about how things were previously, but now will make it sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Clearing out the clutter and old baggage in my life, literally and figuratively, is a risk, but it's the only way I know to make way for new opportunities and the only way to not get held back by the past.

Reminders for Myself:
  • It didn't take a weekend to collect all this stuff. It's going to take more than a weekend to make a dent in getting rid of the excess.
  • Contrary to what the advertising industry would have me believe, I am *not* my stuff and s/he who has the most stuff doesn't always win.

Single Points of Failure

Processes and systems are often streamlined in an attempt to improve efficiency, increase productivity and reduce expenses. This can also help reduce mistakes by eliminating the variety of options from which to choose. On the other hand, there's the little issue of single points of failure. If there is only one path and only one option, when something happens to disrupt the path, the endpoint cannot be reached. It's the age old problem of putting all one's eggs in a single basket. One trip and the whole shebang is broken. Here are some real life examples:

Google Mistakenly Labels the Entire Internet as Malware
Earlier today, all Google searches returned results which were flagged with the notice "This site may harm your computer." Clicking on a link to a search result didn't take you to the result link, but directed you to a warning page telling you to go back to the original search page and choose a safe link. The warning page did provide a link to an explanation page, but that link only returned 502 errors. In order to actually pursue any of the search results, you had to copy/paste the URIs into a browser window. This mess was later cleared up, but it's a fine example of a single point of failure in action.

Google later explained that it is trying to make the Internet a safer place for everybody by having a company called stopbadware.org vet all the search results so as to prevent Google search users from being exposed to malware. I'm really not ok with that system. I don't need someone else deciding for me to what I should have access. Sounds a like a close cousin to censorship to me. I would imagine a very similar system of pre-approving search results is what has been used in China to keep residents from easily finding things which would be embarassing to the Chinese government.

Storms Cause Phone Outages for Thousands of "877" and "866" Phone Numbers
Cynergy apparently doesn't have redundant systems for one of its switching centers. Not a big deal if you don't live in the area? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends upon where you call goes when you dial. The outage is also affecting credit card processing and impacting the ability of customers to make credit card and debit card purchases. I understand individual customers not having phone service due to local transmission lines being damaged. I don't understand large-scale infrastructure failures. I would have assumed that there would be a second switching center somewhere else that would have been able to take the load and things would proceed as usual. Apparently this is not the case.

Now, not all systems require redundancy. It would be impractical to have two electrical lines from two separate power grids run to my house or multiple engines in my car. However, a large facility like a data center or a hospital might be on two power grids and also have automated backup generators. When the consequences for failure are high, redundancy is even more important. Yes, complete and utter disaster is rare under normal operating circumstances, but sometimes normal circumstances vanish. The engineers were absolutely certain that the Titanic was unsinkable so no plan was made for the unthinkable situation of having her sink. There were life boats and life preservers on board, but in insufficient numbers for the number of passengers and crew on board. Even today we have Titanic Syndrome. Data backup systems can be automated to prevent data loss, but often aren't set up. Multiple staff can be trained to perform various duties in case someone becomes ill, but often people specialize and cross-training is viewed as a nuisance. For a while, continuity of operations plans were a big buzzword, but now they're falling by the wayside. Sooner or later that will bite organizations and corporations in the behind.

Compared to cleaning up after something has gone spectacularly badly, preparing for the rare possibility of a disaster is cheap and easy. Think critically about your system or organization and identify those points that are most subject to failure. Figure out how you can devise backups to those critical points and implement them before you need them. Also, test the backup systems periodically to make sure they can withstand the load they may receive. Don't just write down what you'll do on paper, then never try it. I also recommend periodically reviewing your plan and verifying that the proposed backup plans are actually still viable--sometimes changes in circumstances and personnel render a plan useless. It would be best to figure that out before the plan is put to the test.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Snacks Obtained! Commence Weekend Now!

I found some Wholly Guacamole in the grocery store this evening. This is the absolute best commercially prepared guacamole that I have ever eaten (and it tastes a whole lot better than the stuff I've made). I also bought a package of corn tortillas to make baked tortilla chips to go with the guacamole. I've already got salsa for a little variety. I'm all set for a festive and tasty Super Bowl party on Sunday.

Things To Do
I'll have another weekend of clearing out clutter. I've got a stack of recipes to put in the computer, then I'll tackle the GoodWill pile and get it stuffed in the car. I might have another crack at weeding out the bookshelves or the desks (stuff on top and stuff in the drawers). I think it's time to let go of sentimental attachments. Stuff is not people or memories. Not having the stuff doesn't mean I don't like the people or the memories. It just means I don't need the clutter clogging up my life. Space for having a life now seems like a good idea, don't you think?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ZOMG! The Prez Didn't Wear a Jacket at Work!!!

Ok folks. Does it *really* matter whether or not the President (or anybody else in the White House) is wearing a suit coat when he or she is working? I wouldn't consider the lack of a jacket as a sign that serious, productive work wasn't being done or that only informal work was being done. I'd consider it a reflection of ambient temperature or comfort. The way some news reports are discussing this development, you'd think the President was showing up in his pajamas for formal meetings and/or failing to do any work at all. It's just clothing folks! Just wait until someone finds out that the President might do homework in bed or work with his feet on his desk. I just hope the boxers vs. briefs discussion doesn't come up again. *sigh*

Today's Highlight
I have been working on the EARS project I mentioned previously, converting chief complaint information into symptoms. I wasn't sure what format the programmer needed the data in, so I sent her a question about it. She recommended one line per symptom. That would have worked fine, but the complaint data file is already 40,000 lines long and most of the complaints have multiple symptoms. The file size would have rapidly gotten out of hand.

When I first started working on the conversion, I put the complaints in one column and then started putting symptoms in column number 2, separating each symptom with a comma. Apparently the programmer hadn't thought of that and thanked me for finding a much easier way to import the data. I didn't have thought of doing it any other way, knowing that SAS can import comma-delimited data. This whole data manipulation process will be a lot of work, but the programmer assures me that it will be worth it to have a better transfer of complaints to symptoms to syndromes. I'm all for better data at the other end.

Getting Stronger
I can really tell that working out is making a difference in my strength and body. Lifting a box of paper is a piece of cake. Hauling a 40 pound bag of sunflower seeds is nothing. I can lift that with no trouble at all just with my arms. I like it. I'm hoping that muscle definition will continue to emerge all over my body as I keep going. I haven't set any strength training goals. I don't know if I will. I have set a running goal of 3-5 miles a day 4-6 days a week. That may or may not be realistic for my body and joints, but it's something to aim for and it certainly is a step along the way to getting another marathon under my belt.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Death 2009!

It's been raining lightly all day. By 10pm this evening, that's expected to be freezing rain. Sometime in the overnight hours, there is an expectation of the freezing rain to change into sleet and snow. With a predicted high temperature of 31 degrees tomorrow, this might prove to be a very "interesting" day. I will be sure to watch for vehicles sliding out of control out of the hospital parking lot across the street. The whole parking lot slopes rather steeply toward the street. Fortunately, there is a sturdy guardrail on the opposite side of the street to keep vehicles from plummeting into the creek. I predict there will be at least three accidents at that location if the streets are icy.

After dropping off the recycling, I thought I'd stop in the grocery store, just to watch the panicked masses clearing the shelves like hordes of starving locusts. I was rather surprised to find the store rather empty. There was almost a 1:1 ratio of employees: customers. Plenty of bread and dairy products were left on the shelves. I'm now all stocked up for the next week for the grand total of $26, including a bag of onions and a fresh bottle of extra virgin olive oil. One thing I didn't get was a bag of oranges.

Tonight's dinner was a steaming bowl of mixed bean-barley soup (with a healthy dash of Frank's Hot Sauce). Tomorrow for lunch I will have some spinach-chickpea curry (from Vegan with a Vengeance) served over rice. That ought to warm my belly quite nicely.

May You Attract the Notice of Important People
Three times in the past week, I have either been pointed out to or caught the notice of persons at the Centers for Disease Control. The first incident was having an e-mail message forwarded by a colleague to a colleague of his at CDC with the statement that the information contained therein was quite useful. The second was reviewing a study protocol for a project that may occur in my geographic area. Finally, it seems that I'm one of the beta destroyers testers of the upcoming version of EARS, which is a syndromic surveillance application developed by CDC. I'll spend a bit of time this week mapping chief complaints to symptoms and then clustering symptoms into syndromes.

The Closing Highlight of My Day

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

And I didn't even study for the test!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

October is Aging Month!

At least, according to this assortment of Oprah magazines it is. As part of my cleaning out the house, I tossed out several years worth of various magazines that I've been meaning to read Real Soon Now. Some of them I flipped through briefly and either read or removed interesting articles for later perusal. It was interesting to see how regularly various topics came up as major cover headlines. Aging showed up in October four times. Weight loss was either in January or May. Discovering who you are was usually in early spring or fall. I've noticed similar schedules in other women's magazines as well as fitness magazines. It would seem there are a limited number of subjects that attract readers successfully.

In reading through several dozen magazines over the past week or so, I have come to the conclusion that I really need none of them. The answers to who I want to be and what I need to do to create the perfect life for me are not in a magazine. I already have those answers. I merely need to be still and quiet in order to hear them. And to remember to seek them periodically since I expect my answers to change as I grow and change myself. Changing my life is merely a matter of deciding to do something different and seeing what happens afterward.

Food!!
Also in the interest of cleaning up my house, I have started wading through the folders full of recipes that I've clipped or copied from various magazines, books and websites. I'm finally typing them into my computer so I can sort through them later and possibly actually COOK them. There's a concept. My one complaint about having a stockpile of saved recipe clippings is that I have no way to easily search them and they rarely stay organized. Many years ago I started typing up all the recipes in my paternal grandmother's recipe box. Unfortunately with big changes in operating systems and computer platforms, I'll be starting over again but that's ok. My goal is to have the collected recipes printed and bound into a family cookbook. If I get a start on that task now, I might have books finished by Christmas 2009.

My tastebuds are apparently on a sesame kick these days. This week's additions to the recipe repertoire are sesame noodles and broccoli slaw with a ginger-sesame dressing. Brunch today was oatmeal pancakes from the Laurel's Kitchen cookbook. I mixed in a good dose of blackberries for fun. I ate three pancakes when I was cooking, then saved the rest for dinner tonight. My goal is to only eat when I'm hungry and to work to stop eating when I stop being hungry, rather than eating until I'm full. The line between full enough and way too full is a narrow one and I have a tendency to cross it with some regularity. Time to start modifying that behavior.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Moderation and Changing Behavior

I am an irregular reader of Tara Parker-Pope's NY Times Wellness blog. On December 22nd, she wrote about ways to make holiday food treats more healthful, including how to make lower fat latkes. This apparently angered a great deal of people, based upon the comments and on the article she posted on December 23rd. People wailed about how horrible it was that they were now not being allowed to gorge themselves and that eating very badly for a few days of the year isn't very bad at all. TPP pointed out that
While it’s true that eating any food in moderation is fine, the track record of most Americans is that we don’t eat in moderation, and the holiday season is typically a time of gluttony.
Given that most people say they eat in moderation and the majority of Americans are also overweight, it may be safe to say that what is generally considered "moderate" is probably, on an objective level, not terribly moderate at all. We've adjusted what is considered "normal" in terms of food intake and exercise levels so that the balance results in a higher body mass than is healthy. (I think we've also adjusted what is considered "normal" body mass too, given that the majority of Americans are overweight to obese, so the minority who are actually at an appropriate weight or body mass are often labeled "too skinny".)

Though I try to always eat things in moderation, I do have my weaknesses. It is difficult for me to not nibble at cookie dough when I'm baking. Oddly enough, it is much easier for me to resist the baked cookies. I also have trouble eating just part of a frozen pizza. My solution to these weaknesses is to indulge them very rarely and to time them so that they do not coincide with any other indulgence. I also ask myself if I'm willing to accept potential setbacks or delays in my health/fitness goals in order to eat whatever it is that I'm considering eating. That's often an excellent reminder for me to make healthier food decisions.

Changing Behavior
Of course, one of the barriers to establishing a different setpoint for "moderation" is behavior change. I suspect that behavior change is just about the most difficult thing a person can do, depending upon the behavior to be changed. I think at least some behavior changes can be made easier by a simple change in attitude. When people find out that I'm vegetarian and very close to having a vegan diet, they ask me how I can stand to give up eating all that food. I don't think I'm giving up much at all. To be vegetarian, I am only giving up eating meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. That is *four* things I am giving up. If I were to become vegan, I would also give up honey, dairy products and eggs, which brings the grand total to seven. I still get to eat pasta, dozens of fruits, dozens of vegetables, plus nuts, seeds and buds. I choose to focus on the plethora of things I can and do eat. This makes not eating meat, poultry, fish and shellfish no burden to me at all.

I also decided, when I went vegetarian, that what I would accomplish with this change was more important to me than keeping my previous eating habits. I want to keep my bloodwork values at the low end of "normal" and well within the "low risk" categories. I would rather not follow the local trend and have a cardiac catheterization by age 50 (which is considered "normal" and expected here). I also don't want to ever be on hypertension, diabetes or cholesterol medications. Controlling these things with medication doesn't seem to necessarily result in reduction of risk for heart disease and other complications, not to mention the side effects of the medications themselves. Personally, I would rather just not have those conditions. So now I exercise 5+ days a week and eat a low-fat vegetarian diet with few animal products at all.

With every New Year, there are always a plethora of magazine, newspaper and blog articles all about change and how to not only start it, but maintain it. Certainly new years are a big event, often cause for introspection, and traditionally a time for incorporating change, but I don't think that change should only wait until there is some big event or day. Every day is the start of a new year. Change is just a matter of deciding that you are going to do something different and then sticking to it. The part that makes it hard is to consistently practice the new behavior until it becomes a habit. If you fall back into the old behavior by default, just be more mindful of your actions and choose the new behavior next time. Repeat as needed until the new behavior is the default behavior. I read somewhere that it takes 28 days to establish a new habit, but it seems to take me longer to get into a habit than that and only a few days to fall out of a habit.

Thought for the Day:
I am not bored. I am merely between activities/actions for the moment. I have decided that I'm going to avoid the statement/complaint "I'm bored". Whenever I feel uninterested in everything around me, I tend to whine and complain about supposedly having nothing to do when I'm really just not interested in getting off my behind and starting something that would be interesting if I'd just do it. It seems rather silly to waste time being miserable, so I'm not going to do it any longer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Losing It

For some reason, I have lately started forgetting stuff, mostly where I put things. Today I forgot where I left my travel mug (at home in the dishwasher). I also forgot why I left my cube once (I think it was to goto the bathroom). Tuesday, I lost a document I had just copied (never did find it) and I left my lunchbox at work. I'd blame it all on getting old, but over the same three days I also managed to remember my grocery list, to bring in some medication samples for a co-worker's kid and to turn off the humidifier. It's amusing to me that I'm able to remember the stuff I normally forget, but can't remember the things I normally do remember.

On a similar note, I managed to shed some size and weight while on vacation. This was somewhat surprising, given how much I ate. I wouldn't have thought that walking 2-3 miles a day at an amusement park would have made up for that. I'll definitely be working to keep up the positive changes on that front. I shall also work on paying attention to just how much food I am eating. Tonight's decision to eat two small bean burritoes was not one of my better decisions. One burrito would have been plenty. On the other hand, I did eat only 1/2 of my entree at lunch yesterday, so that was good.

Back to Working Out
I've avoided the gym so far this week. I did put in a decent weight circuit this evening, so that's a good start. I didn't expect to workout on Monday and was willing to play Tuesday morning by ear. This morning I was all ready to go workout, but once I got dressed and ready to go, I was suddenly taken over by a cloud of tiredness. So I had breakfast, took a 10 minute nap and got ready for work. Perhaps tomorrow morning will be a bit better.

Although I don't have a race to train for, I am going to continue working on the 5K training program I found a while back. I think I'll start at week 1 and see how I do at the end of the program. Then I'll pick a 10K program or something longer. One of the questions I got from my family after finishing the 5K was if I was going to do the half marathon next year (it is probably going to be on my birthday too). I think that will depend more on my finances and vacation time, rather than my training/fitness.

Vacation Summary
So, here's what we did. Sis spilled coffee on herself on day one, then snerked it out of her nose on day two. I didn't have anything to do with the coffee spill, but did cause the snerking. All I did was innocently read out loud a sign I spied along the road to Disney World that said:
Passenger Drop-Off
Kennel
The trick was that I strung it all together into one phrase: passenger drop-off kennel. For some bizarre reason, this was utterly hilarious to my sister, who had, by chance, just taken a swig of coffee. Once we got past the first two days, neither of us spilled or spewed anything else. I did, however, have a day where I kept flinging coins across the car whenever I pulled something out of my pocket.

We spent a whole day at Kennedy Space Center and saw part of a solid rocket booster inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. We also saw the payload canister sitting outside the ISS Processing Building, awaiting a trip to the building where it would be flipped to be vertically oriented in anticipation of loading into the orbiter cargo bay. Other sights at KSC included alligators, armadillos, a turtle and a bald eagle.

The rest of the week we spent in the four main Disney theme parks, mostly riding rides. One day was interrupted by rain, but we had planned for that and went to lunch off-site at a Panera Bread with wi-fi. My sister teleconferenced her family and I caught up on e-mail. Once the rain passed and we dried out, we headed back to a park for the rest of the day. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, we learned how to draw Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell, which was cool. My Tinkerbell is a bit of a mutant, but the Mickey turned out pretty well. We watched fireworks on site and from the window of our condo. I even managed to take some good photos of fireworks with Cinderella's castle on Saturday. Saturday was also the night of the full moon, which made for more spectacular photos.

At amusement parks, my sister and I have an unspoken "agreement" where we tend to grab or poke each other during suspenseful moments of scary rides, just to make each other scream like little girls. There were two rides where we didn't quite get that done. One was during Everest Expedition, which made Sis very motion sick and was on the verge of making me nauseous too. I don't mind twisty roller coasters, but twisty roller coasters going backwards in the dark was a bit much. The second ride we didn't poke each other in was the Tower of Terror. We were laughing and screaming too much to poke each other. We laughed ourselves silly on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad too. It would seem that the park staff polished the seats just prior to our arrival. At the first hard turn, we both slid across the seat and squished into the outside of the car. Fortunately the ride turns in both directions so one of us didn't bear the brunt of the squishing alone.

The flights out and back were uneventful for both of us. I took a lot of photos of clouds out windows of the planes and spent a lot of time searching for landmarks on the ground, like I always do when I fly. It had never occurred to me that there might be multiple layers of clouds, so that it might be possible to fly between an upper and lower layer of clouds. For a while, it looked like cloud islands or mountains were rising up out of a sea of smoother white clouds.

Some knitting was accomplished on one or two evenings at the condo, but I got exactly no knitting done on either of the travel days. I had picked up a small book called The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. It was quite engrossing once I started reading it. It's a suspenseful ghost story which was well written, albeit somewhat predictable. The ending wasn't quite what I expected though which was a nice surprise. If you're looking for a fairly quick read that's just a bit creepy, this is a good choice.

Now we need to figure out what we're going to do for my sister's next birthday that ends in zero. We've got four years to plan and save for it. Right now we're thinking California or Hawaii. We'll definitely be getting another convertible and we'll probably spend a whole week together again. Running a race may be optional. I think for my next zero birthday I'm going to aim for some place in Europe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Sad Mac

Well, it's not really sad. It is blind. Whenever I am away from the house for more than a few days, I shut down and unplug my computers. I have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), but a UPS isn't substitute for actual power. It's just meant to give you time to shut the computer down properly and to avoid losing unsaved data. So when I'm not home, I shut things down. Only this time when I brought the system back up, the monitor didn't fire up. The computer is clearly running, but the monitor is dead. I have shut it down and re-started it several times. I have unplugged the monitor cable several times. I have even tried percussive maintenance techniques (aka whacking the monitor) to no avail. I'll miss that big, shiny LCD monitor.... *sigh*

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'm Baaaaaack!

Can you guess where I went?
Our trip was a blast. My sister and I hung around the Disney Parks for 6 days total. On my actual birthday, we were in the Circle of Life 5K race at Animal Kingdom. That was fun, although we would have been ok with a later start to the day. (We had to be on-site by 6:15am for a 7am start.) We can't really complain though as the half and full marathons had start times of 5:50am so the runners wouldn't impede the normal operation of the parks.

I'll post more later. Right now I'm just exhausted. We were up a bit too late packing and chatting, then had to get up extra early to return our car and get to the airport. The trip home was uneventful. It was a most excellent vacation trip. Now I need to work on either making it possible to have a permanent vacation or to figure out how to work for Disney (among other places).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vacation Time!

I'm out of town this week. My sister and I have run away for a week to celebrate my birthday. I do have knitting with me (a black wool/angora version of the One-Row Scarf, aka the Boy Scarf), but am not getting much done. I didn't even knit on the plane, mostly because I got sucked into a pretty good book and/or was busy taking photos of clouds out the window.

Anyway, hope you all have a good week! I'll be back soon.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

These are my "resolutions" for 2009. These are not really new behaviors, just reinforcements of current behaviors.
  • Stop trying. Start doing.
  • Stop complaining (See here for more information.)
  • Stop hoping. Start believing.
  • Continue working out 5-6 days/week, consider running another marathon in 2010
  • Decruft my belongings, recycling/freecycling/donating where possible and practical. If I haven't used it in two years, I don't need it. I think I may start with a goal of eliminating 25-50 items from my home every month until I feel less cluttered and crowded.
  • Deplete my fiber/yarn/fabric stash by >25% through use, donation or sale
  • Keep ahead of the weeds in the veggie garden
  • Build my webdev skills and use them to supplement my income
  • Write rough draft of one chapter per month for non-fiction book I've outlined
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Encourage persistence
  • Never be bored. Boredom is the enemy.
Overall, my goal is to largely just improve my attitude and my quality of life. It seems like those two things are the underpinnings to everything else, don't you think? More importantly, there is no punishment for "failure". The idea is to encourage movement in a positive direction, not beat myself up for not being perfect. Every day is the start of a new year, not just January 1.

Saying Good-Bye to 2008
Turner Classic Movies has once again produced a year-end obituary, TCM Remembers, to honor movie industry folks who died in the past year. On a lighter note, Dave Barry has published his year in review column. Several bloggers, columnists and other pundits have described 2008 as one of the worst years ever. Perhaps they invested some or all of their assets with Mr. Madoff. I didn't think that 2008 was all that bad. Certainly it had some unfortunate moments, but on the whole I thought it wasn't too bad. Gas prices have come down. I've started working out regularly (and my clothes fit better). I'm eating more healthfully. I have excellent bloodwork numbers and I've hardly been sick. I also still have a job, a house and a car that are all pretty ok too. No, none of it is stunningly spectacularly great, but it's pretty good and I'm definitely not going to complain. I will, however, get to work on making 2009 even better. I cannot realistically expect 2009 to do the work for me. I just don't see how it could possibly have the time to do a good job. There are, afterall, billions of other people waiting on it to make their lives better too.

A Toast to 2009
This was posted to a knitting listserv by MMario, who is a friend of the author. He did not give the author's name, so I am unable to give credit where credit is due. This is not my own creation.
Here's to the health of our daughters and sons
Here's to success for less fortunate ones
Here's to the friends we've been lucky to find
the shoulders we lean on, the arms warm and kind.
May we live, may we love
May we dream, may we dare
May we look in our own hearts and find our strength there!
May we all live with laughter
and love without fear
May we all have a Happy New Year.