Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End Of 2010

Another year has come and gone. Time to write another retrospective on the year. Turn back now if this is too self-serving or boring!

Any year in which you maintain your health, family, and economic base is a good one, so 2010 was a good year.

My mother is ensconced in her new home. I thought we'd be doing well if she was transitioned by spring, but she's well ahead of that deadline. She sounds happy in the new place whenever I talk to her. What a relief! She's a marvel of good humor and optimism. I hope I can follow her example through my life changes to come.

My youngest sister had her second child, a boy. What a happy occasion! My oldest sister's son announced that he and his wife are expecting their first child in the spring of 2011. It'll be my mother's first great-grandchild. We're all happy to see the first of another generation arrive.

I was lucky enough to change groups at my current employer. The new gang is doing work that I enjoy a great deal more and the people are terrific. It's such a pleasure to work with folks that actually smile and laugh once in a while. There's a lot to be done, but I'm grateful for the chance to do something good with people I like.

My oldest daughter has moved to New York City to work and go to grad school. She's doing a great job of figuring out how to manage herself as an adult. My youngest daughter continues to make progress towards her undergraduate degree. We're still on track to get both of them through school without debt.

This fall was the first time my wife and I have been alone in the house for an extended period since our eldest was born. I was concerned at first: would I be enough? Would my wife be happy with the children gone? I was relieved to find that everything was great. My wife still has the capacity to surprise and delight me, even after 29 years of marriage.

As usual, my athletic and technical goals were the most measurable things I did all year.

I had my best swimming yardage total ever in 2010, topping my "unbeatable" record set in 2008. I started the year off with a bang: I had "best month" totals in seven of the first eight months of the year. My attendance was stellar. I had resolved to make 2500 yards my new daily standard, and I kept to it. "90% of success is showing up" rings true in this case.

I was on a pace to exceed 600,000 yards for the year back in June, but I tailed off in the last third of the year. The last four months weren't nearly as good as the first eight. Work pressures start to get in the way.

I expect that the trend will continue in 2011, but that's not a bad thing. Rather than pushing myself to greater heights, I'm planning to take another direction. A yardage total exceeding 400,000 yards would still be in my top five totals ever, so that's what I'll be shooting for.

Instead of merely piling up yards, I'd like to change the way I swim. One thing that I did this year was train myself to breathe every other stroke. I've always been comfortable with breathing to either side, but now I can do waltz time over long distances. I think it makes my stroke more balanced and efficient.

I tried an experiment before the holidays: if breathing every three strokes is good, would every five strokes be better? It takes greater lung capacity and discipline. I did a set of 20x50 on 1:00 one morning, breathing every fifth stroke. It was hard, but I was able to do it. I counted strokes per length the whole time. I found that my stroke count ranged between 16-19; my three breath stroke usually takes 19-21 strokes per length. Making five strokes per breath my new standard will be a goal for 2011.

I'd still love to work my way up to 200 yard butterfly. That's a stretch goal.

Mostly I'd like to weave more cross-training into my life. I've maintained my yoga practice all year. It's making my flexibility, balance, and core strength better. I think I need to work in some strength training. Muscle mass is something that declines with age. I need to start fighting the good fight on that front.

My cycling fell off a long way when compared to 2009. I still rode to work with my friend Michael, but not nearly as much as I had the previous year. My cycling mileage dropped by almost 50% in 2010, and it was a small fraction of the 2,500 miles that Michael logged for the year. I'll try to improve on that next year.

I had a pretty good technical year. I made a lot of progress in learning Python. I have a new IDE in PyCharm to help. I've been poring over some good books. I wrote a lot of code on my own. Now I need a focused effort at an application to pound it into my head. I've got some ideas that are worth pursuing. I'll see if I can bring that home in 2011. In the meantime, I'm glad to have more of a development role during my core hours. It helps to not have to do all my saw sharpening on my time.

I had a fine year with Toastmasters. I achieved "Competent Communicator" status by completing ten speeches, entered and won a competition, and was elected an officer of my club. I'm actually a mentor for two newer members of our club. I hope to complete my "Advanced Communicator Bronze" and "Competent Leader" designations for 2011.

The economic debacle that I feared back in 2008 didn't happen, but I'm concerned that nothing significant has been done to prevent it. We're in a holding pattern, convinced that our past behavior can continue without change. The alterations to come could be neither orderly nor our choice. I don't want to find out how deadly hyperinflation can be. I fear the rise of the political and religious right in our country. 2011 will bring a new Congress to power in the United States. I hope they don't accelerate our slide in the coming year.

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