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High Fives Markel!

Seiwa-en in Fall

We took a family walk around the Missouri Botanical Gardens yesterday, and it was exactly what I needed. The air was nice and cool, there wasn’t too much wind, and the sun was out just the right amount. You had to work pretty hard to take a bad picture of the gardens that day.

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The fall color in the Japanese garden, named Seiwa-en (清和園), was perfect. If you are in the area, you should make time to go and just walk for a while. Sit and enjoy the color and the sounds of the garden.

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Spring—during the cherry blossoms—in undeniably my favorite time in the garden, and winter holds its own beauty as well, but I think right now, many of us need these kinds of breaks. The world is becoming more chaotic, and sometimes you need to get away from it to retain perspective.

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It is good to be reminded sometimes that we are part of something that is larger than ourselves.

(Colleagues: St. Louis is a great spot for your next meetup.)

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To Revisit a Picture

I posted this very recently, but I would like to talk about this image, which in my mind is the best image of me that has ever been taken:

What you see here is me with almost ten years less and certainly several pounds less. For that alone, I could love this picture.

But there’s so much more to this.

The small human you see on my shoulder is our first child. You can see the sleep deprivation on my face and the joy that lies behind my eyes. I see strength in myself as a new father and someone ready for the next great adventure, but also the frailty of that “OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL DO WE THINK WE’RE DOING” just beneath the surface.

There are things about it that aren’t ideal; my lip is a mess from my anxiety, the exhaustion is clear on my face, and the light is harsh. But I love the subtle set of my jaw and the feeling of my being on guard for this little person.

So many things have changed since this was taken. Joshua is an older brother to three siblings and one yet to come. I have been through no less than three career sharp turns, with what was once a situation of despondence and worry turning into the greatest opportunity of my life to help change the world. There have been immeasurable joys and unimaginable sorrows.

I have learned that life is an amazing adventure and I do not know where it will take me even still.

What would I say to the man in this picture? I’m not sure I even know. But I know that he couldn’t have imagined the wild ride that was in front of him.

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Objects in Motion, Objects at Rest

Yesterday was my 30th birthday.

To say that it was an exciting and momentous occasion in my life would be somewhat of an understatement. My birthday was like a carefully focused cone of chaos and change. I had a nice dinner with my family and best friend, received some amazingly thoughtful gifts, ate the delicious cake you see in the picture above, and put into motion some really amazng things.

It also gave me some time to think and to set some internal goals for myself for the next year. I don’t necessarily like New Year’s resolutions, but rather think my birthday is a good occasion for considering where I am, what I’m doing now, and what I’d like to be doing the next time I celebrate another year of life.

Here’s some of the stuff I’d like to do over the next twelve months. (Some are more trivial than others.)

Less of Me

I haven’t been happy with my health for some time, and it’s time I did something about it and stuck to it. Over the last three months or so, I let a plan that I had already put in motion slip and disappear from my personal schedule, and now I have very regrettably watched my weight push back even higher than it was before.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but it’s frustrating and embarrassing. It irritates me that I have somehow let this one thing defeat me in a way.

So my goal is to get that under control, and to do it with simple, sensible measures. Less eating and eating at weird times, and more activity, both on my own and with my family. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this over the year.

Earn That Nerd Merit Badge

Those of you who know me professionally and may know me closely personally know that I have always wanted to learn more about coding, but have never been able to push past the basics or to involve myself on a deeper level with a programming project. More and more of my professional life now involves working with applications.

I also have learned a lot more about open source in the last year than ever before in my life. I’m a true believer in the power and the freedom that come with open source software and in the communities that form around them. (WordPress is of course a prime example for me.)

So the goal before I turn 31 is to work on my coding knowledge and skills to the point where I am able to submit at least one accepted commit to an open source project. Maybe it won’t even be some PHP. Maybe it ends up being some style or a small tweak to something else. But I’ve been using open source software for so many years and feel the time for me to give back has come.

Build an Office

I have a huge basement. It’s full of boxes.

I also need an office in my home—a technological hermit cave.

The goal is to finish at least one room in my basement before this time next year, slap a desk and a way to listen to music in it, and sit down for a day’s worth of work in my new home office.

Play More Games

No; not video games. (At least, not only.)

I believe you learn more about people when you play a game with them than at any other time. You can watch them deconstruct the rules, find a strategy, and learn how to out-think each other. We used to play games relatively often in our home, and I’ve let that go away too easily. It’s a good way to learn more about my children and to teach them critical thinking skills, and a great way for me to spend time with my wife. It’s also a great way to interact with our friends and family.

So I’d like to play a game—no matter how simple—with each of my family members at least once a week.

(And on the video game front, I have a backlog longer than you would believe. I should work on clearing some of my “pile of shame.”)

Pen, Meet Paper; Hands, Meet Keyboard

I don’t write as much as I used to, which is a shame because writing is something I love and something I can always become better at.

It’s also how my friends and family keep up with what I am doing and what I think. Sometimes they go too far between updates. :)

The goal here is to simply write more often. It doesn’t have to be more words, and it doesn’t have to be something horribly insightful or profound, but I just want to practice the craft of writing through repetition. I don’t want to set a goal for this, because I think quota-writing defeats the point, but I want to make a determined point to sit down and deliberately write more often.

(It pains me slightly to say this, but I’d also like to learn—gulp—Dvorak typing.)

That’s It; It’s a Short List

I’m sure some of these things will be easier than others, and some are simply more involved or ambitious.

But on the day I turned 30, a few things changed. I sat down and thought about it. And this is where I landed.

Thanks for all your support and your birthday wishes yesterday. This will be one interesting year.