2010: Year in Review

Back in the olden days, when Folded Space was new, I used to post annual reviews. Okay, maybe I only did this twice three times: in 2002, 2003, and 2006. But I always liked the idea, and I always meant to continue it. So, after a seven-year hiatus, I’m going to do another year in review.

This past year was one of the best in my life. It didn’t start out that way, though. On 01 January 2010, I was fat, tired, and unhappy. Let’s look at what changed me into a happier and healthier man.

Your Money: The Missing ManualThis was a great year on a professional level. At my personal-finance blog, I completed the shift from being the single author to instead being head editor with a staff of writers. This is very important. I was headed for burn-out at Get Rich Slowly, and if I hadn’t found some sort of solution, the blog would have fizzled. I still write several times a week, but now I have other people sharing the burden. (I happen to think this makes the blog more interesting, too.)

Meanwhile, I published my first book: Your Money: The Missing Manual. Your Money: The Missing Manual. This isn’t the “J.D. book” I’d hoped to produce, but in a way that’s fine. I got a chance to learn how the publishing process works, so that when I do write the J.D. book, I’ll do a better job. Besides, I’m proud of Your Money; I think it distills a ton of information into a minimum of space.

Finally, at the end of the year, I picked up a monthly feature in Entrepreneur magazine. I’ll be writing the “Your Money” column starting with the January 2011 issue (which is out now). I look forward to seeing where this takes me.

All the same, I have no professional goals for 2011. I’m ready for a year without ambition!

A year ago, I dubbed 2010 my personal Year of Fitness. Though I was slow to start, I followed through with this promise. Once my book was finished, fitness became my top priority, and has remained that way for nine months.

Because I’m J.D., I’ve tracked copious amounts of fitness data over the past year. Yesterday, I spent some time compiling all of this info into monthly and quarterly summaries. Here’s the quarterly table:

J.D.'s fitness stats for 2010

A few explanations may help interpret this. Most of the numbers are quarterly averages. The chest, waist, and hip measurements are end-of-quarter numbers. (And I’ve been measuring my hips wrong. Now that I know how to measure them, I can say that my current hip measurement is 37 inches, not 36 inches. I’ll change methodology for 2011.)

I have a fancy scale that sends an electrical impulse through my body to make estimates regarding fat and muscle composition. That’s where those numbers come from. VF and Age are also from the scale. VF is “visceral fat”, a numeric representation (with no unit of measure) of how much fat I have between organs. Age is my “body age”, an estimate of how old my body is (kind of like in Wii Fit). “Rest” tells how many calories my scale thinks I burn for basal metabolism.

My Body Bug also measures some interesting data. The burn column represents the number of calories it believes I’ve burned during a day. Sleep is how many hours it thinks I slept. MA and VA measure my daily minutes of moderate activity (walking) and vigorous activity (running), respectively.

Of course, fitness isn’t just about the numbers. Sure, I’ve lost weight, but more than that, I’m faster, stronger, and healthier than I’ve ever been. It’s awesome. I hope to continue this trend into 2011.

But plenty of people (including Kris) are tired of me talking about fitness. So, let’s move on to another area of my life…

Kris and I were bitten by the travel bug during our 2007 trip to England, Ireland, and New York. We’ve been meaning to do more of it, but it wasn’t until this year that we were actually able to follow through.

As soon as I turned in the final manuscript for Your Money: The Missing Manual, we flew to the jungles of Central America, where we spent a week in Belize.

Cave tubing in Belize

In April, I spent a long weekend with Chris Guillebeau. I got a lightning tour of Chicago, then spent 48 hours riding across the U.S. by train.

Geeks on a train

Mac joined me in May to journey north to Alaska, where we spent ten days plying the Inside Passage with my neighbor, John. We caught fish and shrimp, stole crabs, soaked in a hot spring, and had close encounters with whales. Nature is amazing.

Boating in Hobart Bay and Tracy Arm

In July, I spent a weekend outside of Denver, Colorado, where I was the keynote speaker for a small blogging conference. I didn’t get to see enough of the surrounding area, but that’s okay: I had a great time meeting the other bloggers.

J.D. speaking at the Savvy Blogging Summit
Photo by Debba of Girlfriendology.

Our big trip came at the end of the year. Kris and I flew to Europe for nearly four weeks of touring France and Italy. That was too long. We had a great time — and I look forward to seeing more of Italy in the future — but it was certainly good to get home.

Lunch in Paris

On top of all this, I enjoyed several weekend vacations, including the annual trip to Sunriver, the annual hiking trip to Opal Creek, and the first annual book group weekend at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Based on my rough calculations, I spent 56 nights away from home this year. I wonder if I can get a discount on the mortgage…

Note: With so much time spent away from home, it’s no wonder that Kris and I have become obsessed with travel gear. We’ve learned that traveling light is the only way to go. We’re constantly searching for smaller luggage and lighter clothes. We both now use just one carry on, and that’s smaller than the size limit. (We each have a small personal bag, too.) And I’m seriously debating whether to take just one pair of pants and one button-down shirt for our three weeks in Africa. I can’t see any reason to take more…

What does 2011 hold for us? Soon we’ll leave for safari in southern Africa. In July, we’ll spend a week in Alberta, Canada. And later in the year, I may or may not fly to Abyssinia (again with Chris Guillebeau), or there’s a chance I’ll hike England from coast to coast. We’ll see. (Looking even longer term, Kris and I want to visit Patagonia before long, and I hope to take another trip to Europe with my cousin Nick.)

In past years, I haven’t just rounded up my activities. I’ve also charted various stats and trends in my life. Here are a few for which I could find lots of past data.

Weight on December 31st
173 (2010), 213 (2009), 199 (2008), 195 (2006), 199 (2003), 198 (2002), 198 (2001)
I covered this in detail above, so I won’t dwell on it. It’s interesting to note that my weight last year would have been about 193 if I hadn’t gained 20 pounds while writing the book. Let’s see if I can remain disciplined and not allow myself to balloon back to the mid-190s in the future…

Books read
~25 (2010), ~40 (2006), 43 (2003), 56 (2002)
Ah, but this is a sad category. Consider that I read 90 books from mid-September 1997 to mid-September 1998. But that was back before I lived my life on a computer. Still, I think can do better than just 25 books in a year. I’m not foolish enough to aim to read 100 books in a year like Trent (who I think doesn’t realize how much time that’ll take), but I could certainly try to read one book per week. Maybe this should be a resolution?

Favorite Books
2010: Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
2003: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
2002: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Weblog entries (Folded Space only)
87 (2010), 87 (2009), 123 (2008), 200 (2007) 214 (2006), 261 (2005), 289 (2004), 329 (2003), 203 (2002), 74 (2001)
I’ve been writing Folded Space for nearly a decade. Clearly, I used to write much more. In fact, I was writing about six times a week in 2003. Even as recently as 2007, I wrote here about every other day. Though it seems like the numbers are in decline, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Over half of this year’s 87 posts at Folded Space have come in the past ten weeks. In fact, since the middle of October, I’ve resumed a pace similar to the Olden Days. At this rate, I’ll make about 237 posts in 2011. You know something? I’m committed to doing it, too!

Expensive Toy
iPad (2010), Nintendo Wii (2006), Nintendo Gamecube (2003), Apple iBook (2002)
Every year, I fall sucker to some expensive gadget or other. This year, it was the iPad. I have mixed feelings about the device. At first I couldn’t find a good use for it. I’ve since found a use, but that use is non-productive: It’s a great machine to play games on. I’m inclined to get rid of my iPad (and my iPhone, actually), but Kris has asked me to keep them, so I won’t. Yet.

Favorite Film
2010: True Grit (I didn’t see much else this year, but this was great)
2003: Spellbound (a little-known documentary)
2002: Amélie (which my brother Jeff hates)

I could keep writing this year-end review for hours, apparently. I’ve already been at it for two. I’ll let it go.

How was your 2010? Did you accomplish everything you wanted? Have you made progress in important parts of your life? What were your favorite memories from the year?

A Brief Message is Better Than No Message

Recently, I met Charlie Gilkey for lunch at Jade Teahouse. Over noodles and vietnamese stew, we talked about blogging. (Charlie runs a site called Productive Flourishing, which contains “strategies for thriving in life and business”.) And we talked about e-mail.

Junk food may be one of my biggest weaknesses, but e-mail is nearly as bad. I get a lot of e-mail, and I do a poor job of processing it. I try to reply immediately to friends and family, but it usually takes me far too long to reply to everyone else, even when the messages are important.

As I described this weakness to Charlie, he was sympathetic. I told him how I’d watched Chris Guillebeau blitz through e-mail during our cross-country train trip in April. Chris is a master of efficiency (thanks in part to Text Expander, which allows him to type “/WDSreply” and immediately get a prepared three-paragraph reply).

Charlie gave me some quick tips for handling e-mail, including:

  • Use filters. I already filter many of my messages. Get Rich Slowly e-mail is routed to its own box. Comic book e-mail is routed to its own box. All of the e-mail for Kris’s liberal causes is routed to its own box. (Or, in the case of MoveOn.org, directly to spam.)
  • If you open it, act on it. Instead of opening a message and then hemming and hawing about it for the next few days, act on it immediately. If it requires work, put it in a separate folder. But if it gets opened, it gets pulled from the inbox.
  • And, most of all, make e-mail responses brief. Except when rambling to friends (like when I’m writing to Mac and Pam about running, for example, or when I’m writing to the geeks about Tron), the best way to expedite e-mail is to write short, meaningful replies.

As an example of how Charlie implements that last rule, take a look at this post, in which he explains why he writes brief e-mails. (He links to this post from the signature of every e-mail he sends.) After our lunch, he wrote an expanded explanation of his method.

To quote Charlie:

My brief email message is just me…ensuring that I don’t bottleneck the conversation. I’m happy to have deeper and extended conversations with you, and you aren’t something I’m trying to get out of my Inbox. Please continue the conversation if it’s appropriate, and feel free to write in whatever length and style that feels comfortable for you. I don’t want my anti-bottlenecking practice to bottleneck you.

All of this is to say, I’m moving to the brief e-mail model. I’m going to do my best to give folks timely replies to their e-mail, but my responses may be short. It’s not because I don’t care, but because I do care.

Junk Food: A Character Flaw

I have no self-control.

This is the fundamental reason that for so long I was fat, in debt, and unable to do anything productive. Instead of doing what I ought to do, I always chose what I wanted to do. These rarely overlapped.

When I decided it was time for me to get out of debt, I had to find ways to short-circuit my lack of self-control. That meant setting up automatic payments and deposits, whenever possible. That meant finding ways to make frugality fun. That meant removing temptation when I could.

For example, I cut up my personal credit card. Without the ability to spend charge my purchases, I was less inclined to buy on credit. (I still found ways, but they took work.) And one of the best methods I found to stop spending on stupid stuff was to steer clear of the stores where I was most likely to do so. For a long time, I wouldn’t go into a comic shop, for instance, because I knew that doing so was dangerous.

Another example: I have no self-control when it comes to videogames. If they’re installed on my computer, I will play World of Warcraft or Starcraft II to the exclusion of all else. In fact, I wasted much of this past August playing Starcraft II for 6+ hours each day. How do I stop? I have to uninstall the games. Lately, I’ve been playing iPad games 1-2 hours per day. To short-circuit this lack of self control, I’m taking my iPad to the office and leaving it there.

The same problem holds true with food. I have no self-control when it comes to sweets. If there are cookies or candies in the house, I will eat them — sooner rather than later. And I have a tendency to indulge every craving my body has. Hungry for donuts? Boom! Have three! Want some cookies? Bam! Here’s a package of Oreos.

I’ve lost forty pounds this year. That’s great, but the truth is, I could have lost fifty with ease. How? Exercising self-control.

Last week, Kris bought two packages of Oreos to re-purpose for Christmas truffles. (She makes an Oreo truffle that everyone loves.) I found these cookies, and I couldn’t help myself. I had nine Oreos and a glass of milk. Thirty minutes later, I had another nine Oreos and a glass of milk. Before the end of the day, I had another nine Oreos and a glass of milk.

This isn’t healthy, but it’s how I operate. And I know it.

Because I know my self-control is weak, I’ve taken steps to thwart myself. Since I can’t be disciplined on a micro level, I try to be disciplined on a macro level. Translation: Since I know I’ll eat the Oreos if they’re in the house, I try not to have Oreos in the house. Or breakfast cereal. Or ice cream. Since starting my diet in April, I’ve done my best to keep the house junk-food-free.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have junk food. I do. I just don’t have as much.

I often think of the conversation I had with Sally Parrott Ashbrook when she came to town in 2007. (She and her husband were the first GRS readers that Kris and I ever met.) She had recently begun her regimen of “self-care”, and as part of that, she was trying to give up junk food, too.

“I try to tell myself that I don’t need this cookie or ice cream,” she told me. “If I really want ice cream, I remind myself that I can have any ice cream in Atlanta.” What she meant by this was (I think): Instead of keeping store-bought junk food in the house, she gave herself permission to occasionally go out and buy some good junk food. So, instead of having always-on-hand ice cream, once in a while she could go get the best ice cream in town. Or the best cookies. Or the best cake. The key was to ditch the everyday temptation.

That’s what I’ve tried to do this year. For the most part, it’s worked.

Mind Games

Here’s one way I’ve made this work: Whenever I have the urge to eat junk food, I try to tell myself that I can eat anything I want. If I’m driving home from Crossfit and I crave donuts (which happens often), I consciously think to myself, “J.D., you don’t have to eat that shit. You can stop now and buy any food you want, as long as it’s healthy.” So I do.

My definition of “healthy” is broad in this instance, but it rules out breakfast cereal, cookies, cakes, donuts, chips, and soda. It includes fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and meats. As a result, instead of donuts for breakfast, I’ll often eat a $15 filet mignon. No joke. Yes, it’s expensive, but I’m okay with that.

The point is, I’m trying to train myself to forget about the shitty food and eat stuff that’s better for me. When I remember to do this, it works like a charm. (But I’ve been forgetting recently.)

Why this rant about self-control? Because my friends and family have unknowingly sabotaged me this Christmas. They’ve kindly given me Life Savers and jelly beans and candy bars and cookies and, best of all, a giant Godiva brownie containing over 5,000 calories. I’m grateful for these gifts, but I have no defense against them.

I see the jumbo bin of jelly beans, and I grab a handful. I eat them mindlessly. By the end of the day, I’ve had three or four handfuls, for about about 500 calories of pure sugar. And so on.

As I say, I have no self-control.

A part of me wants to keep this food around the house because my family and friends have given it to me. To show my appreciation, I want to eat it. But I can’t. I have to draw a line. I sent some of it to work with Kris on Tuesday. She took the big barrel of jelly beans today. All that’s left in the house is the gigantic brownie — and soon that will be gone, too. (But that’s because it’ll all be in my belly, not because I’ve magically developed self-control.)

Maybe someday I will have enough discipline to not eat the junk food in the house. But that day isn’t today. And it won’t be tomorrow, or anytime soon. It’ll probably take years. I’m okay with that. For now, I’ll continue to exercise self-control on a macro level since I don’t have it on a micro level. We won’t have junk food within easy reach. When I crave junk food, I’ll give myself permission to have anything healthy that I want. And if I absolutely have to have it, I’ll let myself go buy the best ice cream (or candy or cookies) that I can find in Portland.

For now, though, I’m going to go pour myself a glass of milk. There’s one last brownie to be eaten.

True Grit

When I was a boy, VCRs did not exist. You couldn’t watch old movies in the comfort of your living room. (Well, you could, but to do so was prohibitively expensive.)

Instead, there was a thriving industry of second-run movie theaters. And not just second-run theaters (which still exist today), but theaters that only showed old movies. Old movies were a going concern.

I can remember my parents taking us to a handful of these theaters to watch old movies, such as The Wizard of Oz and The Incredible Shrinking Man (which may be the source of my brother Jeff’s fear of spiders, actually) — and westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and True Grit.

I don’t actually recall much about the John Wayne version of True Grit. I remember John Wayne with the patch over one eye, and I remember the girl who wouldn’t be bossed around, but that’s about it. The film was released in 1969, and I must have seen it in 1975 or 1976. Still, I have fond memories of the movie.

So, when it came time to decide which movie we were going to see this year on Christmas Day, there was no doubt in my mind: We were going to see the new version of True Grit.

Note: I’m not sure when Kris and I started our annual tradition of seeing movies on Thanksgiving and Christmas — Schindler’s List in 1993? — but it’s deeply entrenched now. Lately, Tiffany (Kris’ sister) and Paul have been joining us. And in the evening, we gorge ourselves on Chinese food at Sungari downtown. It’s a fine, fine day.

For those unfamiliar, True Grit was a 1968 novel from Charles Portis. It tells the story of Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl from Yell County, Arkansas. Her father has been shot down in cold blood by a farmhand named Tom Chaney, and Mattie wants revenge. She travels to nearby Forth Smith (on the edge of the Oklahoma Territory, which is Indian country) to settle her father’s affairs and to prod the law to bring Chaney to justice.

The law is reluctant to help. There are plenty of outlaws that need hanging, and Chaney is but one more. Mattie takes matters into her own hands, hiring a drunk and violent U.S. Marshal called Rooster Cogburn. Together — and with the help of a Texas Ranger — they pursue Chaney and the gang he’s fallen in with.

True Grit is one of those remarkable novels featuring a clarity of voice and vision that makes every page a joy to read. Portis, of whom I’d never heard before last weekend, carves the characters through their speech and actions. And every little scene is a delight in some way.

I knew before we saw the new True Grit on Saturday that I would love it. And I did. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in many years. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, you might rightly be concerned the film would be quirky and ironic. It’s not. Instead, as Kris said when the film was finished, it’s a good old-fashioned film, the sort they don’t make anymore.

Note: Before the movie, we sat through eight previews, each one stupider than the last. Transformers on the moon! Boxing robots! Johnny Depp as an animated lizard! Yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film! (Because the last two weren’t bad enough.) This menu of monstrosities is a clear example of how low Hollywood filmmaking has sunk. It’s all a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. So, to then be treated to a good, old-fashioned movie like True Grit was a pleasant surprise.

I enjoyed the Coen’s True Grit that yesterday I watched the 1969 version. Much to my surprise, it holds up well. I prefer the modern version, but John Wayne and his cohorts do a great job of telling this wonderful story. In fact, I was so impressed, that I immediately downloaded the audio book. I listened to it for an hour before bed last night, and then again an hour this morning.

True Grit is a fantastic book.

Here’s the first paragraph. This alone should tell you whether the book would interest you, and should tell you immediately why the films are so good:

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Why are both versions of the movie so good? Because the book is so good. Through the first quarter of the story (up until Mattie rolls Cogburn’s cigarette outside the courtroom), both films are remarkably true to the book. Both films pick and choose things to include or leave out, but neither takes gross liberties.

I’m dying to know now: Are there other overlooked books like this that I ought to know about? I’d especially like to discover books that served as the basis for well-respected films. I have Cool Hand Luke and To Kill a Mockingbird, and these are exactly the sorts of books I’m after. If you know of any, please let me know. I want to find other books with sand.

Comic Book Christmas Covers

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas, everyone. To celebrate the season, I’ve brought you just what you wanted: a small collection of Christmas-themed comic book covers. Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you.

First up is a comic that adapts an actual 1964 film.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Sound like a bad comic? It was apparently a bad movie. In fact, it’s considered one of the worst films ever made.

Next, here’s an issue of Superman back when Superman comics were bad. They stunk. (I know this because I’m actively reading issues from this era right now.)

Superman 166

Note how the kids talk. I hate this. For some reason, DC comics of this era always have kids who mix up nominative and objective cases. I’ve never known any kid who does this in real life, so it baffles me why it’s a standard prop for comics from the fifties and sixties. (Also note that the kids often drop their “to be” verbs, which is another thing I’ve never heard…)

Here are some older comic covers, including a couple of Batman covers.

Action Comics 105

Batman 27

Batman 33
Silly Robin. He should have asked for Batman’s help.

Apparently Batman likes Christmas. Here’s a Batman cover from the early 1970s:

Batman 239
Batman Claus? Santa Batman?

Finally, here’s a comic I can remember actually buying in the grocery store when I was a boy. It’s notable as John Byrne’s last issue on X-Men and as Kitty Pryde’s first solo adventure. I think it’s also the first appearance of the Brood. (That means nothing to most of you, I know.)

X-Men 143

Have a merry Christmas, everyone. Be safe and kind and well.

Olga Kotelko and Aging Well

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:

  • Yesterday at the gym, I was able to back squat my body weight, 175 pounds. That’s 40 pounds more than my previous best. Plus, I did 195 sit-ups and 198 box jumps, nearly keeping pace with Dan and Dana. It was a good day.
  • Today at the gym, we spent twenty minutes alternating between: run 400 meters, do as many pull-ups as possible. When we last did this in early September, I managed to do seven rounds with 24 pull-ups. I did seven rounds again today, but I only managed 11 pull-ups. It was a bad day.

Sometimes, days like today can get me down. Two weeks ago, I let a bad day put me in a deep, dark place and had to take a break from the gym. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to remind myself why I’m doing this.

Why am I doing this? Why am I getting fit? Since returning from France, I’ve taken the long-term view. I’m doing this because I want to be healthy for the rest of my life, not because I want to do 25 pull-ups on the 21st of December 2010. I want to be an athlete when I’m eighty. And seventy. And sixty. And fifty.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times magazine (which I still wish I could receive separate from the paper) published a story about Olga Kotelko, “the incredible flying nonagenarian“. Kotelko is a 91-year-old Canadian who is still competing in track-and-field events. Well, “still competes” is misleading. She didn’t start competing until she was 77. Now, “she is considered one of the world’s greatest athletes, holding 23 world records, 17 in her current age category, 90 to 95.”

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. Reading about her accomplishments, I realized something. Although I was never an athlete when I was in high school, or college, or a young man, or even now — maybe I could become an athlete in middle age, and on into my sixties, seventies, and eighties. I’m not joking. I love physical activity, and I love competition. Where is it written that I can’t say, “To hell with the past, I’m going to live for the future.”?

So, that’s what I aim to do. Sure, I wish I’d done more than eleven pull-ups today, but I’m not going to let that faster. In February or March when we do this workout again, I’m going to do 25 pull-ups. Or more. And when I’m an old man? I hope to be setting — and meeting — similar physical goals.

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

Okay, to counter my last post, which praised music that some might consider…well, a little girlie…here’s another song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s the polar opposite of “When I Grow Up“, and I hope it restores my reputation for manliness.

Actually, I’ve never been one for thrashy metal stuff, but I have to admit: It’s great music to work out to. I’m making a “Crossfit playlist” right now that’s packed with songs like this. And I like it.

Here’s something else I like: A yellow-naped Amazon (like the parrot we had when I was growing up) singing the song above. I think this is absolutely hilarious:

Let the bodies hit the flooooooooooooorrrrrrr!

When I Grow Up

How has this song been out for over two years and I only heard it for the first time last week? No worries, I suppose. I downloaded the song and have listened to it non-stop for the past few days. If I could wear out an mp3, this one would be toast.

I was oh-so-pleased to discover that I can dance to this song in Dance Dance Revolution 3. I’ve done so plenty recently. For good or ill, this is exactly my kind of music. In fact, I think this may be the perfect song.

A Brief Tour of Foldedspace

Since I’ve decided to make Foldedspace a priority again, I realized that I should probably provide some context for new readers. Which is most of you.

This blog has existed in one form or another since 16 March 2001 — and its roots go back to 1997. When you consider that I’ve had a number of blogs over the years, I have tons of material scattered across the internet on a variety of subjects. Ultimately, my goal is to bring all of that material — except my personal-finance writing — here to Foldedspace, uniting it in one blog. (And I even have some great old posts from USENET I’d like to retrieve someday.) That’s going to take a lot of time and effort, though. It’s one of my Big Projects for 2011.

Why are things scattered all over the web? The main reason is that Moveable Type sucks. When I started this weblog, I used Blogger. That was too limiting, so I changed to Moveable Type in early 2002. I loved it. I still love what it was. But in time, MT became bloated. And then in 2005, my MT installation went down hard, and lost access to my database. Because MT creates static pages, I still have access to all of my content, but only the code itself. I can no longer get into the database, which is what I need to edit the old blog.

That crash effectively killed Foldedspace. It disconnected the old content, and made me think about starting other blogs. Which I did. Using WordPress instead. I love WordPress, and I don’t regret switching from Moveable Type, but I have to manually move the old MT posts into WP if I want them in the same blog. It’s a nightmare. I hope to make the time to write some scripts next spring, though, scripts that will automate the process of moving the old MT entries to WordPress. Fingers crossed.

The Geography of Foldedspace

So, at Foldedspace, you have access to all of the basics. For example, you’ll note the tabs at the top of this page. They lead to the following:

  • Home takes you to the front page of the blog. The root of the site is a landing page to help new folks find what they need. (Which is usually Get Rich Slowly.)
  • Archives leads to just that: the site archives. There, you can currently access posts by month or by category. This will become more robust as time allows.
  • Classics is a stub right now, but eventually it’ll contain links to my favorite articles from the past decade. It’ll be a list of “greatest hits”.
  • The About page is woefully out of date. I think it’s from 2005. The list of links should really be moved to “classics”, and the bio itself should be revised.

That covers basic navigation, but what about all the junk in the sidebar. That junk has a long and storied history! Let’s cover each piece in detail.

  • First of all, the masthead/logo thingie has been around for years. It’s no great shakes, I know, but I made it myself. The name Foldedspace, by the way, originated in 2000, when I was searching for my own domain name. I was walking with my friend Andrew Cronk through downtown Hillsboro, and we were brainstorming names. He suggested “Folded Space”, which I loved. It’s a geeky science fiction reference, and it applied to my life as a box salesman. (I don’t care which you call it — both Foldedspace and Folded Space are fine.)
  • The subscribe button allows you to subscribe to this blog’s feed, if that’s something that interests you. If you don’t know what that means, it’s no big deal. (Trivia: Get Rich Slowly has 87,000 subscribers; Foldedspace has 373.)
  • The photo box contains rotating images, most of which are photos of me, my family, and my friends. Others are some of the favorite photos I’ve made over the past decade. And some are just goofy images that I like. (On certain rare posts, the photo box will actually contain an image — or movie! — related to the post. Cool, huh?)
  • Under the brief Welcome, there’s a search box. It works exactly as you’d expect.
  • The Twitter feed contains my latest tweet. Again, if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it. It’s just a sort of microblog of my most recent activity.
  • The Recent Comments section lists the last five comments on any Foldedspace post. The format is: Comment author (with a link to their site, if any), the first 20 or so words of their comment, and a link to the post they’re commenting on. I know some people find this feature useless, but I like it. It’s been a part of Foldedspace since Day One.
  • The Miscellaneous Flotch is a feed of the last five items I’ve bookmarked at Delicious. When my blog was based on Moveable Type, the Flotch was actually a second blog that integrated into the main site.
  • Recommended Reading contains a list of blogs that Kris and I read. These are mostly from family and friends. (If yours isn’t on there, it’s because you haven’t updated in ages, because your feed is broken, or because I forgot to include you.) For each blog, I yank the titles of the last three posts. Handy, huh?

The old blog, back when it was actually at foldedspace.org, had lots of little sub-sections, most of which weren’t obvious. If you’d hung around for a while, you knew how to find them, but new readers wouldn’t realize there was a recipes section or a section of photos. That’s not true here. Yet. But, as I say, I hope to get everything moved over to jdroth.com in 2011.

Make It So!

I really am re-energized about Foldedspace, by the way. Can you tell? I’ve posted for more than a week straight. I talk about it constantly, as Kris can tell you. For the first time in five years, I’ve even gotten into the flow of Foldedspace. That is, I remember what it’s like to have a personal blog and how to write for it.

As I go about my day, there are often little things that occur to me to share. Sure, most of these are trivial. If they’re really trivial, I post them to Twitter or Facebook. But if I think they’re fun and other people would like them, I’m beginning to remember to write them down so that I can post them here.

It’s going to take months to get this site to where I want it to be. But when I’m finished, I’ll have incorporated all of my writing for the internet since 1994, and it’ll be easily accessible. That’s cool for me, even if nobody else cares.

Ice King

For years, I’ve taunted Kris because she gets cold so easily. Driving in the car, she needs the heat up. Sitting around the house, she needs the heat up. When we go out to dinner or a movie, she needs to bundle tight because she knows she’s going to get cold. Even in the summer, she’s often cold.

When we used to spend most of our time with Mac and Pam, Mac and I would call our wives “Ice Queens”. One (or both) of them was always complaining about how cold they were, even when temperatures were balmy. Mac and I would be quite comfortable at the bridge table, when one of the Ice Queens would go crank the heat, making us sweat. Once while spending a weekend playing games with Mac and Pam in a yurt at Champoeg Park, Kris made me drive back to the box factory to pick up a space heater so that she wouldn’t be cold. I thought that was ridiculous.

But a terrible, terrible thing has happened, my friends.

This winter — and remember, winter hasn’t even begun yet — I’ve been cold. Very cold. I can never really get as warm as I want to be. When I get out of bed in the morning, I’m cold. When I go to the gym, I’m cold. When I take a hot bath after the gym, I’m warm enough, but as soon as I get out, I’m too cold. At the office, I’m cold. And in the afternoon and evening, back here at home, I’m cold again. More often than I care to admit, I take a second hot bath in the afternoon. (And sometimes — yes, it’s true — even a third.)

“You know why you’re cold all the time, don’t you?” Kris said the other day. “It’s because you’ve lost weight. Without all that fat to insulate you, you’re just as cold as everyone else.” I think she finds this amusing. I just find it cold.

I had dinner with Mac last night. In the restaurant, we were both too cold. “I’ve been cold all winter,” he told me as we sipped our hot tea.

“Me too!” I said. “You know what we’ve become, right?”

He knew. “Ice Kings,” he said. It’s true.

Mac and I have become that which we once mocked — and we have no control over it. The horror! I’d write more about this cruel irony of fate, but I can’t. I’m cold. I need to go take a hot bath.