Really taking up the challenge of minimalism

Yesterday, I talked about use of time. Today, I am talking about space.

I have too much stuff.

I know that. I’ve known that for years. I’ve not been happy about it. But I’ve also not been happy about getting rid of my stuff. When I got married, I had to get rid of probably half of my stuff, to make space for Abby to move in, but I did not part with them happily.

And I still have too much stuff. I’ve been promising to get rid of more, but have dragged my feet on the project.

This time is different.

Front cover of The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

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Disagreement on the use of time?

On Sunday, I went to the monthly meeting of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Recorder Society. I stopped by the room where beginner lessons were being held. I don’t go to those lessons any more, because I would say I’m an intermediate recorder player now. Fred, our director, was working with two women on soprano recorder. One of them was Rhonda, who had actually joined the local group at exactly the same time as me, back in March. I hadn’t seen her in a while and asked where she’d been. She said she had been playing French horn in the summer, so was getting back to recorder now. She happened to joke to the other woman, an older woman, that I was really serious and had been practicing an hour every day since starting out.

To my surprise, the other woman (whom I don’t remember ever having met before) immediately launched into some remarks I found snarky. She said, “Well, that’s probably an hour he’s not washing dishes.” I paused in shock, and then she continued, “Or an hour he’s not taking out the trash.”

I was not quite sure how to respond.

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The Joys of Convict Conditioning: Bodyweight Exercising

I spent the vast majority of my life completely, utterly sedentary. Let’s put it this way: I was on the phone with my father yesterday and he said he went to some free senior citizen fitness program in a mall and ended up getting sweaty, and seemed concerned. I said, “I’m glad you got some good exercise!” In other words, I was raised to never get sweaty.

But when I neared age 30, and was getting heavier and heavier, and almost certainly going prediabetic, I decided to completely change my life. I took up running, karate, dancing, and weight lifting.

What I always ended up having trouble with was weight lifting. I’d go to the gym and mess around with the machines since they were there, but although I built up some muscle, the whole process was boring, I never felt like I was really accomplishing anything, and I felt out of whack. It took years of trial and error to come to some sort of strength training regimen that I actually enjoyed and felt really benefited me.

Probably my first step out of the confusing world of strength training was the book Core Performance. I still find the advice and exercises from the book tremendously useful, and highly recommend checking out the tips and videos free at the Core Performance web site. (I will blog more about Core Performance in the future.)

However, I found that when pressed for time, I would not necessarily be in the mood to get to my balance ball and free weights and do exactly what was in Core Performance.

Recently, I gravitated toward a whole philosophy of “exercise anywhere, anytime, with no equipment necessary” that removes all excuses and mental friction. Welcome to convict conditioning!

Convict Conditioning cover

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Pittsburgh software developer communities

In the past couple of years, I started to get involved in various local Pittsburgh groups of people who are committed enough to the art and science of software development to actually meet up outside of work to share ideas and experiences. Now and then, there has been talk of bringing the different groups together for special events, to share even more (especially outside the boundaries of particular computer language communities), so I felt it was a good time for me to compile a list of the different groups whose meetings I have attended or at least have heard about.

I welcome additions and corrections as well as further discussion of this list. I will update the list upon feedback.

(Last update: 2011-10-18)

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Snapshots of Pittsburgh From a 12-mile Run

Today in Pittsburgh was a beautiful day for a run: sunny with clear, blue sky! So I went for a leisurely long run, with no particular route in mind, just going wherever I felt like going. I brought along my camera, as I did on Monday’s run, and took a bunch of photos.

View of Pittsburgh

Can you guess where this view of Pittsburgh came from? The answer will emerge below.

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Agile Anti-Patterns

On Wednesday, I left my regular meditation session early, to rush off to a meeting of the relatively new Pittsburgh Agile meetup group. Andrew Cox gave a very informative talk on Agile anti-patterns. (He has put up online his slides with presentation notes.)

Around ten other people attended (a small turnout compared to some past meetings of the group). I have been to two or three of this group’s meetups so far, and have found them rather useful, prodding me to reflect on my own software development processes and start to make changes to them.

What I like about this group’s meetings is that there is a lot of informal discussion and contribution by a diverse array of people who share stories from their work experiences. Some of the participants are new to Agile; others have officially adopted it but seek guidance for how to implement it better; others are trying to introduce Agile into an environment that is skeptical of it.

I enjoy learning about anti-patterns when getting started in new endeavors because they are a distillation of hard-won experience in how not to go about things, and also how to “refactor” back out of a bad practice into a good practice.

Here are just a few of the discussion points that particularly spoke to me, along with my own analogies that I found useful.

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Why Dennis Ritchie Is Important

I first heard of the death of Dennis Ritchie yesterday, through a link (from Twitter or one of my blog feeds) to Rob Pike’s short announcement on Google+.

(Rob Pike has another post up now.)

My first thought was, “I don’t even know when the last time was that he was in the media at all”. He was so private. In my entire career in computing, I barely remembered the occasional interview of him, since he never said anything outrageous or self-aggrandizing.

My second thought was, his impact on my life was profound, but in such a different way from the impact on my life by, say, Steve Jobs. Whereas Jobs by personal example and creation of consumer products inspired me to get into computing, Ritchie by his quiet contributions laid the very foundations for the work I actually do.

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I Love Trail Running in Frick Park

After finishing my road racing “season” for this year a while ago with the Run Shadyside 5K that, frankly, left me quite exhausted, I returned to my true love, running easy in the trails of Frick Park, just minutes away from where I live.

On Monday, enjoying the strangely warm and dry weather, I did my usual five-mile route in the morning. The autumn leaves were not yet in full glorious color, but I took along my camera (for the first time ever on a run), to capture some of the experience.

I began by jogging slowly to the closest entrance of the park, the blue slide playground.

Frick Park: blue slide playground

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Communicating Through Dialogue

Today I attended a “Learning and Development” seminar at CMU that I had signed up for several weeks ago. I’ve enjoyed attending many of these seminars in the past years. The one I attended today was “Communicating Through Dialogue”, by Ron Placone (many of whose seminars on other topics I’ve attended).

By sheer coincidence, this seminar, which I had registered for just out of curiosity long ago, was just what I needed at this very moment in my life!

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Is Mormonism a Cult?

Recently, Robert Jeffress, a pastor at a Baptist church, and supporter of Rick Perry for the Republican primary race for 2012, referred to Mitt Romney’s faith, Mormonism, as a “cult”. This caused a lot of rebukes by various conservatives and a clarification by Jeffress, who tried to distinguish between a “sociological” and a “theological” cult.

That’s a load of crap.

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