Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday and Beyond!

Today is my birthday* and the last of my 20's which doesn't really bother me or seem significant. I'm lucky enough to have an eclectic group of friends and coworkers who throw the "traditional milestones" that define my age out the window. Some friends are older, single, have successful careers, and enjoy life like they are fresh out of college. A few of them are starting families well into their 30's and early 40's. Other friends are younger, raising large, happy families but haven't really started their intended careers. And then there are friends who are in one of those categories but wish they were in the other.

Essentially, I know some respectable "twentysomethings" who fit my childhood perception of "thirty/fortysomethings" and vice versa. And neither path is "right" or "wrong", just different. As such, age really means nothing to me. As long as you are happy with life and where it takes you then age is but a number.

And for something that doesn't bother me much, I've already wasted two paragraphs on the subject. Time to put it away, enjoy my new birthday cartoons/clothes/candy and look forward to another fantastic year with friends and family!

*written on time, posted late

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Months of photos

And I return! October flew by and before I knew it November was here. I have a backlog of posts to add and the vast majority of them will be photo based since the following events happened in the last 4 weeks:
Two 10 year high school reunions
2 week trip with the family
A trip to the World Series
Halloween party madness
An "escape the stress" trip to Southern California
and smaller events too...

So even though it is November, you will soon see some quick posts from October and September (all the posts I wrote before I left for the 2 week trip in Arkansas/Texas) appear below this post. After a week the newer posts will appear and then we are back on track to follow up with the passions!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A tale of two (World Series) cities

I had a (likely) once in a lifetime sports opportunity happen this week: a sports teams from each of my two hometowns competed against each other in the championship game of the sport (and I could afford a ticket to the game)!

I grew up in the Dallas, TX area and moved to the San Francisco, CA area seven years ago. In both cities I attended the local sports events but never thought I would see my dual allegiances challenged in the ultimate game for the sport. In some sports the event can't happen since both teams are in the same division and could only play each other in the playoffs. In other sports, one team or the other, to put it bluntly, has no chance to play in a championship game in the foreseeable future.

When this year's baseball season began I thought the latter would be true. The San Francisco Giants had never won a World Series, and the Texas Rangers had never even made it to the World Series. Yet, as luck would have it, both made it to the Fall Classic and played in the opening game just minutes from my house. I couldn't miss this opportunity, bought the first available ticket, and was on my way to the game of my life.

In the end, my heart leaned towards the Rangers as I had been to more of their games and wanted closure with them so I could move on to the Giants. But the Giants won the game (and the series) and I am just as proud for my new home team. Plus, I can actually see the winning ceremonies here in town (and I don't have to bear the ire of my California co-workers if the Rangers won)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Steak a la Pizzaiola

One of my good friends and co-worker is a phenomenal chef who loves to experiment. She invited me over one night for some cooking and musical fun and that night we decided to create a new dish. Technically it is Steak a la Pizzaiola, but what made it fabulous was the mashed potatoes mix which contained numerous ingredients (such as cayenne pepper and thai spices) that don't normally go into a Southern potato mix but tasted wonderful. Below you can see the end result, along with a few of my steps to get there:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

You Will ads

I cam across these videos at work today and realized at how much has changed in the short span of time since they aired:
I remember seeing these ads during the Cowboys Super Bowl games of '93 and '94. At the time the features shown in these ads seemed so far off, yet now many of them are so common place that we forget about living in a world without them (well, other than the phone booth aspect). When I was 13, the "3d character animation for motion pictures and games" industry didn't even exist. And now I train people who live thousands of miles away from that industry, and we do it while seeing each others faces in real time. Similarly, I can call my family and see their faces from my phone and send them movies and photos at the same time. And I can even write this post and update it to a digital blog from the comfort of my bed without having to worry about wires, monitors, overheating, or any of the other early 90's computer annoyances.

With advancements like these, I wonder what we will be taking for granted in another 17 years when my children graduate...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Passion: Healthy progress

When I created this blog I stated my different passions and goals, one of which involved my health:

A decade ago I was underweight and couldn't gain weight no matter much I ate. 2 years ago I was overweight and lazy. Through hard work and dedication I was able to lose 40 pounds and get back into decent shape. Now I want to really work on being fit and being able to get the most out of life.
At the time of my first post I had run a 5k and 10k at roughly 10 minutes a mile and was proud of my growth from couch potato to amateur runner. One year later, I am running unplanned half-marathons for fun (also at 10 minutes a mile but my first 10k is at about 9 minutes a mile, the last one kills me). I've brought my 1 mile speed down to sub 7 minutes from 9 minutes and will get it even lower by this next year (it would be great to see a mile in the 5 minute range). And overall I've just had fun with running, something I never thought would be possible.

As for my weight goals, I began working out more. As mentioned above, I had lost 40 lbs before beginning this blog, but it the process lost a lot of muscle too. Below you can my transformation from 10 years ago to 3 years ago to last year at the time of my first post:

While I am not at the "fit" point that I want to be I am on the right path. I have gained 15 pounds since last September, yet my pants size has dropped one size so most of the weight is now in my upper body. My workouts now have me lifting double/triple the amount of weight I was a year ago. My max pull ups doubled, I went from roughly 10 max "perfect push-ups" to over 50!

I am building a future post (likely for 2011) on this subject that will include more embarrassing before and after photos so I won't go into too much here. Without giving too much away, here are some photos one of running buddies took, without me knowing, of my obsessive relationship with pull ups (both overhand and underhand): If I see a workout bar on the street, you can expect to see me at least pump out 10 pull-ups. You can even see the sequence where I drop down and suddenly realize they were taking photos. Not shown: the severe beatdown I gave to them afterwords. But hey, at least I have something to show now, right?

I am on my way to a fitter Jay!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Goals: my blog's 1st year

So last week marked the one year anniversary of this blog. At the time I was busy running an impromptu half-marathon and was unable to address it, but my plan in creating this blog involved a yearly check-in to verify I continued to meet my theme:
This blog will document my passions, progress, and random musings so at the end of the day I can look back and see that, while I have not reached everything I have hoped for, I am further than when I started. And tomorrow is always another day on the road to a new Jay.
So how did I do? Well, for base stats I posted 220 stories in 365 days, blogging for roughly 60% of the year. While this is far from a 100% posting rate I had imagined, it is a vast improvement over the 1 post per year rate I had previously. I also noticed a trend of 3 months off and on for my posting habits. I was really strong September and October (literally posting everyday) and then posted only 30 times over the next 3 months (having a new baby may be a good excuse though). I then did well from Feb-April, but disappeared from May until July. Although at this time I was stuck on the notion of emphasizing the posting date over the completion date, and many of April's 29 posts were actually written throughout May and June. I then picked it back up for July and August and have maintained roughly a 60% monthly average since. Not bad, but it could be better.

Then again, one hypothesis that I am looking into this year is whether posting too often about productivity is detrimental to my actual productivity. Maybe I need that other 40% of time for my projects? Or maybe not. We'll see how my numbers are in September 2011...

My most common themes were:

Jay (53) - it is a blog about me, so this is not surprising
photography (53) - did not expect this, but in retrospect it was far easier to spend a weekend with the family and a camera to create 5 posts than it was to animate for 3 weeks to get 1 post
animation (44) - it is my job and hobby, but not enough of these posts were showing progress in my work, they were informative articles or links
family (41) - a vast majority being photography of my frequent trips to visit the family. These will be fun to look at over the years
music (34) - surprised it was this high, I feel like I didn't create enough performance videos this year
theme (33) - a somewhat nebulous category since the majority of my posts do involve my theme of progression, I just got tired of tagging them all and only tagged the major milestones.

So that is a brief look at my first year in blogging. Over the next month I will create a retrospective post for each of my passions to see reallly how much I progressed during this year...

And with that, I shall end this much like I began it: it's my blog and I will do what I want!

(and I have)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Die Pennies, Die

I admire this man's passionate diatribe against pennies, plus he gives some very good points as to why pennies are no longer needed:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Streaks - the Seinfeld methods meets the iPhone

Exactly one year ago I wrote about Jerry Seinfeld's method of marking a calendar each day he worked towards a goal and trying to create a visible "streak" each month on the calendar. I implemented this into my workflow and found it very helpful. But I did have months where even though I did work on my projects each day I never wrote them on my calendar since I wasn't near it when I completed the goal. Recently I was told about an app for the iPhone that recreates this goal method perfectly called Streaks. The app is very simple: you have a calendar with a task title, such as "Work Out", and each day you do the assigned task you mark it in the calendar. The app then tracks your streaks each and lets you know how many times in a row you have done it! You can create a separate calendar for each of your various tasks and track them all.

If you are serious about tracking your work towards a goal then I highly recommend picking up this app, otherwise pick up an actual calendar and try it the "old fashioned" way.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parallel Parking

This 30 sec short should help to remind everyone to always pay attention to the street signs before parking, else you could end up like this:

Parallel Parking from Yum Yum London on Vimeo.

Nice stop-motion style to the piece too, kudos to the creators.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Glee-fully Looking Back at Children in Eternity

Welcome to another pseudo-Jay's Playlist! Today's topic is about confused familiarity with new musical themes.

The other day I was watching the first few episodes of the show "Glee" and heard a theme I recognized. As two characters (who are destined to be together as the season progresses) begin shyly flirting with each other a simple, beautiful piano theme plays in the background. Each time I heard it I racked my brain trying to determine where I heard it from. A quick Google search brought up the song "Looking Back" by Kerry Muzzey: (beginning with the theme used 0:56)

While the mystery of the song title was solved, a new one presented itself: I had never heard of the piece before, so why was it so familiar? How could I hum the upcoming notes to the piece even before I had even heard them the first time?

The answer came when a began listening to my "favorites" playlist with all my top ranked singles. One of my favorite pieces from 1996 suddenly called up emotional Glee scenes in my mind as it played:

Soon after that, my Final Fantasy piano playlist began, and it happened again:

It is amazing how a simple melody pattern can appear so often in my emotional favorites list, and in roughly the same key no less. "Looking Back" and "Eternity" both use the B-flat, A, F to B-Flat, A, E-flat pattern (Eternity pulls the e-flat from the baseline though while the treble still plays the F), and Children does the same pattern but with A-flat as the starting note.

Upon hearing this many people may call it plagiarism, but really it is just a coincidence. In the end, there is a finite number of melodic combinations of the 12 chromatic notes, so the same combination is bound to appear in numerous pieces. Malcom Gladwell addresses this in his essay on "Plagiarism":

Ferrara once served as an expert witness for Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was being sued by Ray Repp, a composer of Catholic folk music. Repp said that the opening few bars of Lloyd Webber’s 1984 “Phantom Song,” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” bore an overwhelming resemblance to his composition “Till You,” written six years earlier, in 1978. As Ferrara told the story, he sat down at the piano again and played the beginning of both songs, one after the other; sure enough, they sounded strikingly similar. “Here’s Lloyd Webber,” he said, calling out each note as he played it. “Here’s Repp. Same sequence. The only difference is that Andrew writes a perfect fourth and Repp writes a sixth.”

But Ferrara wasn’t quite finished. “I said, let me have everything Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote prior to 1978— ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘Joseph,’ ‘Evita.’ ” He combed through every score, and in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” he found what he was looking for. “It’s the song ‘Benjamin Calypso.’ ” Ferrara started playing it. It was immediately familiar. “It’s the first phrase of ‘Phantom Song.’ It’s even using the same notes. But wait—it gets better. Here’s ‘Close Every Door,’ from a 1969 concert performance of ‘Joseph.’ ” Ferrara is a dapper, animated man, with a thin, well-manicured mustache, and thinking about the Lloyd Webber case was almost enough to make him jump up and down. He began to play again. It was the second phrase of “Phantom.” “The first half of ‘Phantom’ is in ‘Benjamin Calypso.’ The second half is in ‘Close Every Door.’ They are identical. On the button. In the case of the first theme, in fact, ‘Benjamin Calypso’ is closer to the first half of the theme at issue than the plaintiff’s song. Lloyd Webber writes something in 1984, and he borrows from himself.”

In the “Choir” case, the Beastie Boys’ copying didn’t amount to theft because it was too trivial. In the “Phantom” case, what Lloyd Webber was alleged to have copied didn’t amount to theft because the material in question wasn’t original to his accuser. Under copyright law, what matters is not that you copied someone else’s work. What matters is what you copied, and how much you copied.

In this case, it doesn't matter whether the composers knew they were "copying" each other, the end result is the same: three beautiful, emotional themes. So the next time I hear a new theme that sounds familiar, I should listen to my "favorites" playlist as I may have discovered yet another pattern that emotionally resonates with me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

World's Scariest job

Saw this video and found it quite interesting and vertigo-inducing. It is great reference for climbing, especially for those of you animating for first person games. And even though the video is just a small square on my screen, my body still cringes and reacts as if I was the one doing the actions:

Boy am I glad my job keeps me grounded...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marathon at the Bay: a photo story

Have you wanted to run a 1/2 marathon but were unable to do so due to health/weather/rabid coyote concerns? Or, if you are not a runner, have you ever wondered what walking next to a bay at sunset looked like? Then this post is for you!

One day I walked outside and said "I am going to run until I cannot run any longer". After 13.1 miles, 2 hours and 24 minutes, and numerous stops for photos passed I walked into my house and collapsed asking myself why I ever decided to do such a thing. Now you can enjoy the experience without all the annoying knee pains, gasping and wheezing lungs, and sore legs which refused to go up or down stairs for a week afterwords!

Below you will find my final course through Emeryville. While I didn't originally plan on running a marathon when I started, I ran these various trails enough to know their distances and by mile 9 decided to take a detour to reach that 13 mile marker (final total was 13.4 miles). The numbers shown below are actually locations of pictures for reference (not miles). Click on any photo for a larger, more detailed photo. Sometimes the tiniest/furthest parts of the photo are actually my next destination in the run!

For full effect, press the play button to hear the music I listened to for most of the run, a piece which is perfect for watching sunsets.

1. Looking West towards Marina -
At about the 2nd mile I was stunned by the beauty of the oncoming sunset and took the first photo. The little tree in the center of the road is about 1 mile away at marker 2.

2. Looking West towards San Francisco - the first of many shots showing the sun slowly lowering towards the horizon, which for this vantage point is the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is the land in the center.

3. North towards Berkeley Marina - The brown land mass in the center of the photo is the Berkeley Marina (marker 9); one hour later I would be standing there taking a photo of my present location.

3.2 East towards Berkeley - in about 20 minutes I would be running along that path bordering the water on the other side of the bay

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Girls at the airport!

My first joy each time I fly to see the kids is seeing my children waiting for me at the airport. And the feeling is shared by them:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plight of the Bumblebee

Recently, a lost Mickey Mouse cartoon appeared from 1951 has been liberated from the literal Disney animation vault (not the fake one used to create artificial supply and demand). I love seeing seeing animation from this era in a non-finished form, the art behind the animation is in full view and we are left wondering why something like this has hidden away for 60 years. What is amazing is that the animation is 99% complete and the alleged reason the animators never finished was because the short was considered too long. Since the directors refused to cut anything out of it the fickle Disney execs just canned the crew and threw the animation into the vault with no intentions of anyone ever seeing it again. But 60 years later someone digitized the prints found in the vault and now Jack Kinney's Plight of the Bumblebee is available for everyone to see:

Update: or not :(
That's the nature of secret animations, they appear and are pulled down faster than you can write about them. But now that the cat is out of the bag, it is bound to re-appear. When it does then it will be properly linked. Until then check out pics from the short here:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Talkers and Doers

Get Rich Slowly posted a fantastic article on the difference between Talkers and Doers that mirrors many of my own ideas. Essentially people, especially those new to productivity ideas, tend to fall into a "talker" group rather than the "doer" group. The Talkers know what they need to do, even tell their friends what they need to do, but never actually do it. Some go as far as giving advice to others on how to do things that they themselves aren't actually doing. The Doers take their own advice and actually accomplish what they set out to do (or learn from the journey and update their end goals)

Derek Sivers dives deeper into the Talker mentality and gives a wonderful, short presentation on why talking about your goals is actually detrimental to completing them:

By telling others about their goals, the Talker receives the satisfaction of "completing" the goal without actually doing it. They tell a friend they have decided to lose 50 lbs and everyone congratulates them on it before they even start losing weight. They then may begin the process of losing weight but after a few weeks give up because (well, one reason) mentally they've already received the kudos from those around them; a satisfaction usually reserved to those who have actually completed their goals. (my recommendation: post to your goals to a blog, receiving comments on a post is a lot different than verbal congratulations, and the persistent and public nature of the blog should inspire you to keep going)

Get Rich Slowly also breaks down the steps to convert yourself from a Talker to a Doer:
  • Make time for the things you want to do. One of the keys to getting things done is setting aside time for the things you want to accomplish. You have to make time to get stuff done. As the Kevin J. Anderson article I mentioned above demonstrates, you don’t just become a best-selling author or an Olympic athlete. Talking doesn’t make it so. You have to carve out time to do this stuff. You have to put your Big Rocks first and fit the small stuff in around them.
  • Have a goal in mind. I truly believe that the biggest reason I used to struggle with getting stuff done is that I didn’t have any sort of plan. I had no goals. Goals give you purpose. It wasn’t until I became committed to digging out of debt that I was able to actually start moving in the right direction. Part of my current problem is that I’ve recently achieved a bunch of big goals, but now have nothing planned for the future.
  • Don’t take on too much. While it’s important to set goals, don’t take on too many tasks at once. I try to set just one or two major goals at a time. Any more and I find I can’t pursue any of them effectively. This year, my one goal is to lose 50 pounds. I’m on pace to do that. Why? Because I don’t have anything else on my schedule competing for time. This is my Big Rock.
  • Don’t let failures deter you. This is huge. One of the reasons I used to talk so much without acting is that I was afraid of failure. I’m not sure where I learned to be afraid of defeat, but that’s the way I was. And when I did try something but failed, I’d give up. This is no way to get stuff done. Talkers let fear of failure keep them on the sideline; Doers overcome fear and move on, and when they fail, they simply try again.
  • Don’t find reasons that something can’t be done; instead, find ways that something can be done. This is a pet peeve of mine. I hate when people come to me for advice, but when I give it, they tell me all of the reasons it won’t work for their circumstances. (This often happens when I suggest people take a second job to boost their income, for example.) One of the biggest difference between successful people and those who aren’t is that the successful don’t make excuses. If something looks difficult or impossible, they find ways to make it happen anyhow.
So the next time you set out to do something, ask yourself if you want to be a Talker or a Doer and then go out and conquer (but possibly keep it to yourself)!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vaccines rant

One of my major pet peeves (I don't have many) is the use of misinformation or irrational ideas to scare people into doing or avoiding specific actions (This is probably why I don't get along with politicians very well). One of the more recent ideas that infuriates me is notion that vaccines are harmful and should be avoided. This is especially infuriating because the original article that started this movement has not only been proven to be wrong many times but the journal that printed it has retracted the article and distanced itself from the disgraced scientist who wrote it to help "prove" a notion in a lawsuit. Despite all of this, people still refuse to vaccinate due to a misguided conspiracy theory and children die because of this choice. And not only are the children who are not vaccinated at risk but anyone around them is at risk due to them being carriers (vaccines don't protect from viruses 100% of the time but they do prevent the spread of the disease so those who aren't fully protected by the vaccine never come in contact with the virus).

Anyways, Penn and Teller recently did a piece on Vaccines and they put it far more bluntly than I ever could: Even if what was said was true about vaccines (it is not) those risks are far better than the thousands of deaths and disabled children caused by not vaccinating.

You can find the entire show here and here (warning, some harsh language and random nudity at the very end)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This month I tried a new mobile productivity program called Evernote to keep up with my ideas, ramblings, desires, and tasks. So far I really enjoy it and can see it becoming useful in certain situations (and not as useful in others). The great thing about Evernote is it syncs online automatically so whatever notes I create on my phone are automatically on my home and work computers when I sit down at my respective desks. And using the iPhone I can take photo notes or audio notes for future reference as I explore. These functions are wonderful for noting gift ideas (such as you are at a store and see the perfect gift for someone in 6 months, take a photo of it to remember) or if you hear a song you like but don't have time to figure out what it is (record it and use Pandora later).

Since I always have my phone on me I know if I come across something I need to remember, or just have a random good idea to follow up on at later time, I can open the app and note it for later. It also recognizes text in images so if you take a photo of an sign (such as a UPC code of a gift item) you can run a search for it later to easily recall the note. Some of the notes I've created so far:
  • Gift ideas for others and myself (if you see something you want or someone else will enjoy, photograph to use come the holidays)
  • Conversation reminders for the next time I call a person ("oh, I need to talk to them about that")
  • Document the changes in my To-do list dry erase board each week
  • Photo of a restaurant that I should try the next time I am in the city
  • Note a website link that I want to access when I am out (such as a specific computer to buy at Fry's)
  • Photos of artist names in movie credits to look up their blogs
  • Take a photo of an outfit that may look good on me the next time I go clothes shopping
  • Note animation ideas and possible dialog pieces to analyze
  • Photo of my car in a large parking lot to easily find it again
  • Website links for blog topic ideas
  • Photo of my printer so I can remember exactly what type of ink to get next time I am in a store
And others as well, but you get the idea. The one thing that I hoped Evernote could help with but has let me down on is a comprehensive To-Do list. The tagging feature of Evernote is great for grouping common themed notes, but since the notes are all "live" until you delete them there is no easy way to sort your To-Do items into separate groups for "Completed" and "Pending". Instead you have to tag the items as "To-Do" and each time you search for the tag it brings up everything you have done in the past too. You could probably add other tags for "completed" tasks but then it just becomes tedious to track them all. And there is no date sensitive option for reminding you of notes on specific days. You do get the option of adding check boxes to notes but those features are not available on the mobile version, you can only add them on the computer.

As a note taking option Evernote is awesome. If I were still in school it would help immensely for research papers and other project tasks. It is great for documenting ideas that you have on the spot, and a good resource to remind yourself of specific details when you are away from home. But as a day to day task manager it doesn't quite meet my goals, so instead I had to turn to another program which I will post about later after I've tested it more. If you constantly find yourself coming up with ideas and are nowhere near a pen and paper (or computer) to jot them down, I highly recommend adding Evernote to your repertoire of productivity suites!

Friday, August 20, 2010

July Trip 2

After the birthday celebrations we took the girls to my old lifegaurd-stomping grounds. Rae remembered visiting the amusement park from the previous year but this was Mia's first visit. For a tall 2 1/2 year old, she handled the rollercoasters quite well! They both had blast and couldn't wait to come back again. Maybe next year!
At home, Elliot was beginning to stand up and suddenly wanted to be included in everything we were doing. He has become so expressive in the last few months!