2012 New Year’s Resolutions

Well, the end of 2011 is near, and that means time for New Year’s Resolutions.  This past year has been half productive and half not.  This last semester was particularly bad.  I’m beginning to feel burnout, after having been in school for 9 years (after high school) straight.  I’ve convinced myself to give it one more semester before I call it quits or not.  I currently have a pretty sweet situation, and having to look for a job is not something I want to think about right now.  It’s a complicated dilemma, because I’ve already invested a lot of time, but I never really wanted a Ph.D. or to do research anyway.

So that’s one resolution, I suppose.  To give this next semester a good strong go for my research.  But I don’t really count that.  This year I’ve decided to do two sets of resolutions, a year-long set, and a set that I’ll work on every few months, similar to what I did this past year.  So, here we go:

Year-Long Resolutions

  • Get down to 125 pounds – This goal has been off and on for the better part of my twenties.  I ignored it last year in favor of trying to eat healthier, and it seems my weight has stabilized at about 175.  However, that’s still overweight, and so I’m giving myself a whole year to try to lose the weight.  I’m using an iOS app called Fatwatch.  It’s a neat little program; instead of you dealing with the ups and downs of individual daily weights, it looks at an overall trend, and tells you how many calories you are over what you need to maintain and also how many calories you need to cut to stay on track with your goal.  It also has a built in “mini” exercise program, meant to be done in 15 minutes.  It’s based on the Hacker’s Diet, a book written by a programmer on how he lost weight.  He basically espouses a calorie counting, calorie restriction only diet, which I’m not interested in.  But I did like the idea of the trend line, and using your daily weights to help calculate if you’re maintaining, gaining, or losing weight.  The maintaining part is particularly important, because I don’t want to yo-yo.   The 125 number is based on being in the middle of the “healthy” weight range based on BMI (which I think is bunk in most cases), and I don’t know if I’ll actually reach it, but we’ll see how far I get.
  • Continue to follow the Real Food Lessons – I’ve still been following the lessons on GNOWFGLINS, albeit slowly.  I still think they’re a great learning tool and a great learning experience for me.  In fact, Wardeh is having a free webinar on how to transition to eating Real Food.  I’ve already registered.  I’m going to keep working through the lessons throughout the year, and hopefully slowly integrate them as habits.
  • Zazen – During Ango, I was great at first about doing zazen every day.  Toward the end I trailed off, and then I tried a two-day retreat in December.  I didn’t get through the whole two days, but it is important to my spiritual practice that I develop this habit.

Tri-Monthly Goals

  • Fashion Makeover – I recently purchased a mini-makeover pdf from Sally at Already Pretty.  I’ve been unhappy with my fashion/style for a while now, and while I’ve done a couple closet purges, I still don’t feel like I have a cohesive style.  It feels like it jumps around from super casual to super formal.  I’d like to get it a little more together, especially if I might be looking for jobs in the not so near future.
  • Crafting – This was a goal last year that didn’t happen.  While I need to do some crafting in the first three months for my juggling club, those aren’t personal projects.  I’m hoping to work on carving out some time for this, as I have a lot of hobbies.
  • Piano – This is another goal from last year that didn’t happen.  I got an electric piano as a graduation present , 5 years ago now.  I took piano lessons once upon a time, but it’s been a long time since I played.  I’d like to get back in the habit, especially if I have to give up some of my other hobbies in the future due to research or jobs.
  • Getting back in touch – I’m horrible about keeping in touch with friends.  I’ve gotten better, using Facebook and Google+, but lurking and reading other people’s posts and making the occasional post myself isn’t really communication.  I’d like to get back into a regular email or chat habit with friends who I used to be close to.
I think that’s more than enough on my plate for 2012.  I might add in a workout habit, but I want to wait and see how I feel about that.  And that’s not counting all the other things that might happen to completely change my plans.  What are your resolutions for the coming year?  Or do you not believe in making resolutions?

Holiday Season

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So, the holiday season is upon us.  It took me until this week to get my Christmas tree up.  The photo is deceptive.  My tree is just a little table-top tree.  I don’t have enough space in my little apartment for a full-size tree.  There will be presents underneath it soon enough as I acquire them.  I’ve got a few already, but I haven’t started wrapping yet.

Now, I feel I should put a disclaimer here.  I’m not a Christian.  I was raised Christian, but discovered after I went to school that my beliefs are actually more in line with Zen Buddhism.  However, I don’t feel that this means I shouldn’t celebrate Christmas.  It’s an important holiday to my friends and family, and I believe (as I think they would) that in a way, Christmas is about being together with friends and family.  Just because I no longer share their beliefs doesn’t mean that I can’t be respectful and celebrate with them.  We can be respectful of other holidays while not necessarily sharing those beliefs: Hanukkah, for example.  So I see no conflict of interest.

Also, Christmas is a part of my culture, as much as Buddhist holidays are a part of the culture of Japan.  To try to cut the celebration of this holiday out of my life is to try and cut an important part of who I am away.  I can’t separate my past or the way I was raised from who I am now.  I say this so that everyone reading this will understand where I’m coming from when I’m talking about Christmas.

Enough serious philosophy stuff.  I want to share one of my favorite parts of the holiday season: Christmas music!  Now, when it comes to Christmas music, I’m a bit of a traditionalist.  I don’t like modern pop artist renditions of old favorites.  Part of that could be that I don’t like much modern pop.  You give me some Frank Sinatra crooning, and I’m happy.  Now, despite this, I do like instrumental remixes.  For this reason, I really like Mannheim Steamroller (more than I like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which is another favorite of a lot of people).  Almost any of their Christmas albums are good, but here’s a few of my favorite albums:

  Mannheim Steamroller: A Fresh Aire Christmas  – This was actually the first Mannheim Steamroller album that I heard.  It has a few of my favorite carols like Greensleeves and Carol of the Bells, but the thing that makes this album for me is the second track, Veni Veni.  It’s O Come, O Come Emmanuel, but done in Latin as a Gregorian chant.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Link to Amazon.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Live – This one has a nice variety of songs, with only a little crossover with the previous album.  Of note is Pat a Pan, Gagliarda, and two renditions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.  Given that God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is one of my all time favorite carols, that there are two versions here makes my heart sing.  Link to Amazon.

Carol for the Planet – Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t seem to have a track listing for this CD.  There are several lovely tracks:  Good King Wenceslas, Sing We Now of Christmas, Carol of the Bells (again), and a track called French Carol.  The CD is entirely instrumental except for the final track, which is a dramatic reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas.  It’s my least favorite track, but a nice performance, none-the-less.  Link to Amazon.

I tend to listen to these three CDs, plus a few others I have around, on repeat for most of the Christmas season.  It’s the only time I can without someone saying “You know it’s not Christmas, right?”  Of course, sometimes I want something different.  For that, I use Last.fm.  Last.fm is a online radio, similar to Pandora.  (I was exposed to Last.fm before Pandora, hence my preference.)  You do need to register for a free account to listen, but once you do that, all you have to do is type in “Christmas” and it will generate a radio station entirely of Christmas music.  This is great if, like me, you can’t listen to local radio in your apartment (thanks, really old apartments), but your internet connection is always stable.

To me this is the first start to getting into the holiday mood.  What are your favorite holiday CDs?  I’m always looking to try new things.