Silent Meditation Retreat

I’ve wanted to do a meditation retreat, but between the cost and the time commitment, I’ve never gone. So I decided that I’d try to recreate the retreat experience in my home. I settled on a period of three days and, with lots of help from a friend, made up a schedule and ground rules.

Overall it was a good experience. I definitely had some trouble with distractions. Staying in my home made it easier to be tempted by the internet and books. Even cleaning was looking like a fun activity. But it was good to spend a lot of time meditating. I didn’t have any “breakthroughs” or anything, but I did have some productive journaling and introspection.

The main type of meditation that I did was a mindfulness meditation. I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation regularly but not daily for several years and typically do a 30 minute session. One of my goals was to find out what a longer mindfulness session felt like. In my original schedule, I planed to start at 60 minutes and then two 90 minute sessions, a 120, and finally a 180.

That first 60 minute session felt really long. The first 90 minute session was also on the first day and I was not able to complete it. I just couldn’t stay focused and it felt like my “attention” muscle was worn out. After that I changed the schedule to have 60 minute sessions. That worked better, but it was still difficult if I wasn’t fully awake at the beginning of the session.

On the third day, my second hour long mindfulness meditation went really well. I was able to stay focused and my mind was mostly clear. After most sessions, my mind feels a bit more clear and relaxed, both tired and energized. This session had that same feel, but to a much greater degree. I also felt a new sensation of being extremely focused and present. All my actions and even physical movements felt like I was doing them with 100% intention and I had no distracting thoughts. That effect lasted for about 10 minutes and was very cool.

Something that I didn’t like were the noises of my apartment. I’d like to try another day of meditation somewhere with no distractions and no noise.

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New Photo gallery

I’ve updated the look of my photo gallery and changed how the photos are stored. My goal is to make the gallery work better on mobile devices and modernize the look and feel. I also moved the hosting of all the photos from my website to Amazon S3. I’m planning to switch my web hosting to a private server and it will cost less if I don’t store my photos on that server.

Here’s a comparison of the look of the old gallery to the new:

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Fall Fun

I’ve done some short trips this fall with friends. In September I went down to Colorado Springs for the balloon festival.

In October I went to Glenwood springs.

I’ve also been to a couple shows at the center for performing arts: Verdi’s Requiem and Barber of Seville. Both were quite good!

For Halloween I dressed up as Spock:

Divorce

My divorce was finalized last week. Bill has stayed in the house while I moved to an apartment.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that getting divorced after a 25 year relationship has been emotionally and logistically difficult. Dividing up our stuff and money, transferring accounts and titles, switching utilities, and moving have taken a lot of time and energy. I’m thankful that I wasn’t working during this period.

I’m changing the name of this blog from “Assistant to the Lounge About” to “Act III”. I’m thinking of Act I as childhood and education; Act II, my years with Bill. This all very arbitrary, but life feels different now, and the changes feel similar to how it felt when I graduated college, moved into an apartment and got a job.

I’m also changing the sub-title. This blog started as the chronicle of my retirement: “The fun begins when you quit your day job.” But that doesn’t fit anymore, so I’ll be updating the sub-title to match my current activity or goal.

The first sub-title is “letting go”.

Hostgator: New webhost and review

I recently switched web hosting companies from HostMoster to HostGator. I have a fairly large website with two sub-domains, several mySQL databases, and lots of photos. This post will describe the transfer process and give a brief review of my experiences with HostGator.

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Netbrix/Lego Review

I’ve been wanting to put together a large Lego set, but I don’t really want to display or keep the finished product, so I gave netbrix.biz a try. It is a Lego rental service – kind of like Netflix for Legos.

I rented a Technic Excavator set and the large London Bridge set.

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Fitbit Charge 3 review

This Christmas I got a Fitbit Charge 3 fitness tracker that tracks steps, heart rate and sleep quality. It has a grey-scale touchscreen that displays the date and time along with steps or heart rate when tapped. It can also display text messages, calls, and email from a phone.

I really like having a fitness tracker that also displays the date/time. I also appreciate having heart rate data for workouts and getting notifications on the watch.

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Year in Review – 2018

2018 was a good year for me. I took two big trips, my brother and his family came out for Christmas, and I kept myself busy with touch table conversions, reading and movies.

Trips

In July I went to Scandinavia with my parents. I enjoyed seeing some of Scandinavia and learning about their history, art and food. I really like the art by Munch and Vigeland and was surprised by how much I liked the scenery in Norway.

In September I went to Cape May and Philadelphia with my parents and my brother’s family. Highlights from that trip were time on the beach and the Barnes museum.

My brother and his family came to Colorado for Christmas and we spent the week at my parent’s house. It was fun to spend time with my niblings again. The youngest is 2 1/2 and I was impressed by how much he had changed since this summer.

Programming

I made seven games for the touch table this year: Notre Dame, Azul, Medici card game, Automobile, Settlers of Catan, Between Two Cities, and Galaxy Trucker. Automobile is probably the most fun that I’ve had doing any conversion, and I’ve also enjoyed doing some larger games this year. As we make more games for the table, each game gets a little less play. Automobile and Settler’s of Catan in particular are games that we were basically done playing before they were converted.

Bill also made a few touch games this year:

  • Caylus – Strategy game where players compete to build a city and castle
  • Stop, Squat and Roll – A territory claiming and press your luck game also know as “Claim It”
  • Codenames – Players compete to get their teammates to pick the correct pictures based on a one word description.
  • Ocean Raiders – A press-your-luck style treasure hunting game

Activities

In March I was lucky in the ticket lottery and got to see Hamilton in Denver. Even after all the hype I was still surprised by how good it was. It is the best musical that I’ve been to by a decent margin.

Also in March our residential Solar panel installation was completed. This really hasn’t changed anything, but it has been fun to see how much time-of-year, time-of-day, clouds and snow change the power generation.

We took the touch table to two events this year: The FoCoBoCo in Fort Collins and the B-Con in Denver. It is always fun to show the table to new people and get their reactions to the game conversions.

We got a Cricut paper cutting machine in September and Bill has spent a lot of time making decorations and cards for friends and family:

I went to a few other cultural/arts events this year

  • A friend introduced me to the Kirkland museum, and I highly recommend it. It is an art and design museum packed with very fashionable and artistic household products.
  • I went to a couple of the “One painting at a time” discussions at the Clyfford Still museum. They were just OK, but I really enjoy the museum itself.
  • My brother got me season tickets to the opera and I really enjoyed La Traviata. Their second show will be Marriage of Figaro in May.

Other

Creating touch games is how I spend most of my free time, but I still only spent 650 hours making games this year (not including bug fixes or updates to old games). The rest of my free time is divided between computer games, books, Netflix and Violin.

I played quite a few computer games this year: Opus Magnum, Stardew Valley (again), Surviving Mars, Far Cry 3, Heat Signature, Sniper elite 4, Superhot, Pillars of Eternity, Bomb Squad Academy, and Wing Commander (again). Like the past few years, I’m spending less time on computer games than I once did. I still enjoy it, but games don’t hold my attention like they used to. The best games that I’ve played lately are Stellaris, Witcher III, Heat Signature and Stardew Valley.

I did more reading this year. I get e-books from the Denver library. The wait list is usually long, but it is super convenient. My favorite books this year were the Mistborn series, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Rebecca (my grandmother’s favorite book) and Little Fires Everywhere.

I also watched a lot of Netflix. Some favorites from this year: The Good Place, Infinity Chamber, Anomolisa, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brigsby Bear, Personal Shopper, Bojack Horseman, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. In particular Bojack Horseman has made some of my favorite episodes in any series. One episode this season made it into imdb’s top 10 episodes of all time. Unfortunately, you really have to watch the whole series to enjoy it, and some of the episodes are weak. The Good Place is also both funny and well made. Here is a fun video about why it’s such an interesting show.

I continue to work on learning violin. I played for 310 hours this year – basically an hour a day when I’m home. But I don’t feel like I’m making as much progress as I used to. Part of it is that 300 hours isn’t as big of a percentage of my total time as it used to be. But I also feel like my progress has slowed since I stopped taking lessons, and that if I wanted to improve I’d need to spend more than an hour a day practicing. I spent the first half of the year working on Suzuki book 9 and the second half on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I’d learned Spring and Summer before, so this time I tried to be more accurate and faster. I’m currently about 2/3 done learning Autumn which is harder than Spring or Summer. Sometime in 2019 I’ll hit 5000 hours of violin. Here I’m playing the last part of Four Seasons – Summer:

2019

I don’t have many solid plans for 2019. We’d like to make a trip to Mexico and will probably sell the house there. We might also make a trip to New York to visit my brother.

I’m tentatively planning to do the “Tour De Vineyards” bike ride in Palisade CO this year. I’ll need to get road tires for my bike and find out if my time biking in the gym translates into road biking stamina.

There is a chance that my family will travel to South Carolina or Illinois, but that will depend on my brother’s schedule and my dad’s health.

I received a Fitbit fitness tracker for Christmas. I’m enjoying it so far. The biggest improvement over my old Jawbone is having a watch and getting notifications from my phone. So my first programming project for the new year will be getting Fitbit data into my Timeline program.

I don’t really have any big resolutions for 2019. I want to continue spending my time the way I have been in 2018 with maybe a little more effort toward hiking/biking this summer and a few more trips downtown for a symphony or other show. The light rail line to Union Station has made trips downtown much more enjoyable for me. I always hated finding and paying for parking.

Trip to Cape May and Philadelphia

I took a trip to Cape May New Jersey and Philadelphia with my parents and my brother’s family. Like our trip to Montreal last summer, the primary purpose of the trip was to spend time with family. We stayed in two AirBnB houses, had some time on the beaches and saw some sites in Philadelphia.

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Trip to Scandinavia

My parents and I took a trip to Scandinavia this summer. We visited Sweden, Denmark, and Norway with a tour group. The trip was a lot of fun. We saw some beautiful scenery in Norway, learned about Scandinavian history and saw a lot of art.

You can see the rest of the photos in the gallery.

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