Resolution: Tracking

Jerry Seinfeld is attributed with popularizing the “don’t break the chain” method of developing habits/stopping procrastination/personal motivation. He denies doing or inventing this. (Choose your own reference.) No matter, his name is attached and people are marking calendars. Me too, kinda.

So what is this? There’s something you want to do, to get better at. You want to do this whatever every day. Get a wall calendar. On the days you do it, mark the day with a red X. After a few days you’ll be motivated to keep growing that chain of Xs.  That’s how it was described to me.

Therefore my (only) resolution for 2018 is to track ten activities I wish to develop into daily habits.

At the start of 2017 there were eight daily habits I wanted to develop. I adapted the practice. In a sketchbook journal I ruled out a grid on the last page, fitting a full month to the page. On days the activity was performed, an X was entered. Of the eight, four have become daily habits. Two are more than once a week habits. Two still need attention.

It worked well. So my only resolution for 2018 is to track the ten activities I’ve identified as desirable habits to strengthen. I am not resolving, for example, to exercise each day. I am resolving to note every day whether or not I did exercise.

A daily review of “did I …” is a motivator to do. Especially on days when most of the items merit a check mark. There’s an impulse to “do them all.” Tracking induces action.

This photo shows the tracking sheet for part of last February. Yes, the third from the right needs some attention. It’s on this year’s list.

Habit Tracking sample, February 2017
Habit Tracking sample, February 2017

First Loaf

Many people obsess on their 401(k) and IRA balances when preparing for retirement. They would do well to obsess on activities. This was central to my planning. The finances were on auto-pilot. The what to do and when to do it took a lot more thought. It’s more personal than financial planning. We each have a fairly unique set of interests.

One of the activities I’ve planned is more cooking. Lots more cooking. This loaf, Irish Soda Bread, is a start. I’ve not baked bread in years, may be even decades.

First loaf of Irish Soda Bread, December 27, 2017.
First loaf of Irish Soda Bread, December 27, 2017.


Time to write! It will go badly, and there is so much I SHOULD be doing around the house and there are 2 distracting 8 yo boys + 2 dogs in the living room and I need some exercise, but am going to write, because shoulds are shit.

~ Anne Lamott

Don’t should on yourself.


Throughout Latin America it is high tamal season. Remezcla has an article featuring ten diverse examples, A Journey Through Latin America’s Diverse and Delicious TamalesOnly ten?  As you might expect the comments are filled with questions, Here are the first few:

Josue De Avila Colombian tamales???
Santiago Nariño Y los tamales colombianos que? (Hay tres tipos más en Colombia)
Giovanni Duenas No Salvadoran Tamales? BUNK
Mabel Sanchez Paches de Guatemala and tamales negros!
Janet Irene Panameno Where are the Salvi Tamales???
Erika Alatorre What about the huchepos? de michiocan?
Marty Marty Tamales de elote! Don’t forget those!
Josue Baires Y los tamales pisques o los tamales Salvi?
Juan Carlos Vega I’ve tried a few on this list.some are delicious but nothing beats my favourite..salvadoran tamales

I’m hoping some of those people will visit here an brag on their favorites.  If we’re lucky…

Learning to Walk

After three months the doctor says, “you can walk. Take it easy. Start around the house.”

After three months it’s not easy. The right leg is weak. Coordination is lost. Balance is not certain.

After three months there are small pleasures to enjoy. Standing up in the shower beats using a bench, even if I’m wobbly when leaning my head back to rinse shampooed hair. Getting out of bed onto feet that can be used to go to the bathroom instead of onto a bench to strap on a boot.

After three months I’m learning to walk like a normal adult and returning to normal life.

Doggie in the Window

A bit of photo geekery here. This is an unmodified photo from a Pixel 2XL phone. The tonal range is jaw dropping. The dog is pretty cute too.  This post was created to share the image with some photo friends.

Fritzi in Window
Fritzi looking out the window. Demonstrating tonal range captured by Pixel phone

So you don’t get lost

I’ve been reflecting on So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood, a novel by French author Patrick Modiano. What seemed a quiet tale is revealed as a gripping mystery.

This mystery unfolds at a languid pace. A lost address book is found. The finder would like to return it in person. Oh, and he has questions about one of the entries.  Lies are uncovered and memories restored. Jean Daragane is disturbed and removed from his life of total solitude in his Paris apartment. He searches out people from his past. It ends in a place that puts the reader on a cliff of unknowns.

So you don't get lost in the neighborhood
So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood

P.S., GoodReads synopsis and reviews for other perspectives.

Play well with others

The iPhones of 2016 and Google Pixel phones of 2018 do not have a headphone jack. Boo! Hiss!

In 2001 or so, this type of headphone jack saved me. Read on:

In Praise of Standards

I’m going to convert some cassette tapes and vinyl albums I have into digital format.

Any warnings or recommendations from someone who has been there and done it? The software I’m going to try first is referenced in Linux Music And Sound. (a good book then, it’s now out of print and out of date.) I still need to find out what the differences between “line in” and “microphone in” are and what the differences (besides stated device attachment) are between the two outputs.

Part of the motivation for this was a compilation tape sent to me by a friend. My ghetto blaster now has non-functional (ok, broken) speakers and it is the only cassette deck in the house. Before going to my car and driving around to listen to the tape I decided to try and pipe from the blaster into my PC and out. It worked. It worked even though I was using a computer sound system with components manufactured in 2000, a ghetto blaster from ~1983 and a stereo receiver/amplifier from the mid-70s. Here’s the whole

Tape from friend -> ghetto blaster -> line in on SB128PCI card -> mixing software on PC -> 70s era receiver -> speakers -> ears -> enjoyment.

All the connecting wiring was done with mini din plugs. Without the standards in the audio world, I would have never been able to plug it all together and have it work. With the standards, I was able to link together physical devices that shared nothing except a common interface, the mini din stereo jack.

PCs were unknown when the receiver was designed and built and not yet a consumer item when the ghetto blaster was built. When the PC was built they certainly weren’t thinking about compatibility with 25-year-old consumer analog audio equipment. It still worked. And worked well.

FootNote: It has been pointed out that they are no longer called ghetto blasters. That may be, but when this twin cassette desk, 4 band radio, amp, equalizer, and speakers were manufactured they were called ghetto blasters. I feel that using the slang for the box from the time it was made is fitting.