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Into June, caught up on the 2017 challenge

My sister and I are doing well on our 2017-in-2017 challenge. As of the end of May, I’m caught up, and even a little ahead. If everything goes according to plan, I should hit 1,000 km by the end of June.

The bar has been raised

Let the word go forth from this time and place: the appropriate gift to bring back from Ireland is not, repeat not, a t-shirt. Instead, it is a personalized bottle of Irish whiskey.

Let it also be said on this day that Miss Two-Cats is a marvelous human being. I am touched beyond my ability the express myself. I mean, how freaking cool is a bottle of whiskey with your name on it?!

Oh, crap…

…I’m one of “those people.”

The pressure is mounting

My “end of training” language proficiency test will take place three weeks from today. Several people in my cohort have already tested, some as early as two months ago. Their “arrival date at post” determines when they have to stop language class and leave for post. I am very lucky in that my arrival date is later than many people, so I will get the benefit of more instruction before testing.

So far, everyone has passed their test. So, I’m not worried about passing. But since my goal is higher than merely passing, I’m still feeling some pressure. The possibility of language incentive pay is a strong motivator.

Since so many people have left for post, and since everyone else who is still round must achieve a higher score (because of their job classification), the classes are getting more intense. Among the regular classes, I am in a classroom one-on-one with a teacher for two hours every day. It’s very tiring, but incredibly useful. I think I’m improving.

I have to add here that my wife is incredibly supportive. Besides her usual wonderfulness, she’s been picking up a lot of the housework that I usually do (which isn’t much, I have to admit). For example, she hates washing dishes, so I try to jump in and do the dishes whenever I can. Lately, though, she’s been shooing me out of the kitchen and telling me to go study. “Lucky” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel to have such a terrific person at my side.

Back to studying.

Out with the old…

…in with the new. 

I still love this brand of pen

‘Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ Author Robert M. Pirsig Dies At 88

From NPR:

Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his “novelistic autobigraphy,” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.

Here’s the book:

College might be when many people first read this book. I met a few people who read it as part of a course. In my case, I stumbled on that book when I was 19. The title was intriguing, so I bought it. No one prepared me for it. Wow, what a mind-blowing book. “Changed my life” is a cliche, but in this case, it’s true. It’s fair to say that after reading this book, I was inspired to go think about things differently, try different things, go different places, think different thoughts. That book really did change my life.

The book didn’t inspire me to take a cross-country motorcycle trip, but I was inspired to go on another kind of journey. The concepts in philosophy that this book introduced me to inspired me to take a philosophy class the next year. Another milestone in my life.

The comedian Steve Martin had a throwaway line in his stand-up routine from the 1970s. It went something like: “in philosophy class, you learn just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life.”

He was right, minus the hyperbole. My small taste of philosophy didn’t screw me up, but it did expose me to some ways of looking at the world that now, more than 30 years later, still resonate with me.

And I have Persig’s book to thank for that.

Rest in peace, Mr. Persig. Your book taught me to look for, and to value, Quality in the world. Thanks for sharing your inquiry into values. My world is bigger because of the ideas that you exposed me to.

Minor milestone, less behind

My 2017 kilometer challenge is still underway. The deficit is still there from when I was in Vietnam for the two-week language immersion, but it’s gradually being shaved away. Last week I hit a personal record of 55 kilometers, running for 15 kilometers on two days. The running total shows another milestone: I hit the 600-kilometer mark today.

My goal was to eliminate the deficit by the end of April. At this rate, I’d have to run 10 kilometers every day for the rest of the month in order to hit that. I think I could achieve that, but I will have guests come this weekend, and I won’t be able to run while they are here. So I will start May still in the red, but I will be able to get back in the black by the end of first week of the month.

I hope.

Took a study break, wrote an app

How do nerds blow off steam? By shifting the stress over to computer code, of course.

I’m studying hard for (yet another) progress evaluation in the Vietnamese language, and I promise that I’m working hard. But I needed a little study break, so I put the final touches on a little iPhone app that I started last week. The app takes a photo with the phone’s camera, then uploads it to my server. Finally, it emails the photo to me.

The app isn’t ground-breaking in concept. I just wrote it as an exercise in learning the technology.

Here’s a little movie showing the app in action.

Yup, I’m a nerd.

After two months of my 2017 challenge, still winning

I’ve run 375 kilometers so far this year. I’ve “banked” 48 kilometers, which I will need, because I’m taking a two-week trip next month and there won’t be much time for exercise. The time away from my regular running routine will put me in the red, and I’ll have to make that up when I return.

My sister’s on track for her writing challenge, too. We are keeping each other accountable, reporting our progress to¬†each other regularly. To be honest, though, the fear of public humiliation at not meeting my goal is a motivator at least as strong.

Why I don’t celebrate my birthday

I like to keep my birthday private. The reason is pretty simple.

It’s not because I feel old. I am actually old, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m at peace with my age. One more birthday marks one more year of a life that has been pretty fantastic. A birthday is a reminder to reflect on the past, and to plan for another year of adventures. My life is pretty terrific.

And it isn’t because I’m embarrassed or don’t like attention. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a shy person.

At one of my former jobs, there was a tradition of doing a cake on a coworker’s birthday. It was sort of nice for a few years, but then it started to feel like an obligation. It started to feel like this scene from the movie “Office Space:”

This is the reason that I don’t celebrate my birthday. That scene is painful. It’s clear that no one wants to be at that party. No one wants to be singing, no one wishes that terrible person a happy birthday. This is my nightmare. I would rather chew on broken glass than be the focus of a birthday party like that.

That is why I don’t tell people when it’s my birthday. It isn’t because I don’t want people to make a fuss. It’s because I don’t want people to think that they have the obligation to make a fuss.

I love it when people send me texts and emails on my birthday. I’m touched that people remember. But, announcing that it’s my birthday would make me feel like I was fishing for a birthday greeting. I don’t make a deal out of it. This way, when I do receive a “Happy Birthday” from someone, I know that they genuinely wish me a happy birthday.

If you ask if today is my birthday, I will say no, it isn’t. But if you wish me a happy birthday, I will say thanks, and I’ll mean it from the bottom of my heart. And a big thanks to JMC, AK, AMK, JME, and everyone else. You guys are the best.