a work in progress

panorama of Vancouver/English Bay in summer

Month: January 2015

Iberostar Cozumel - 2003

Creating a ‘Travel’ page

I’m going on vacation next month so it feels like the perfect time to start building out the ‘Travel’ section of this site. Since this site runs on WordPress.com rather than personal hosting, I’m limited to their functionality around how to build dynamic pages. I’ll be using WordPress’s ‘Category Pages’ instruction to build the travel section.

We’re going to be going to Belize for a few days (to pay some property taxes and chat with our delightful realtor Kyle Thomas) and then we’re headed to the Iberostar Cozumel for 10 days, to laze about and dive with the almost unbelievably highly rated BLUE Project shop (for the record, all our contact with them so far lives up to those amazing reviews).

We’ve been to the Iberostar Cozumel twice before, once as part of a 2-week/2-hotel deal that the Iberostars offered (1 week at a resort in Playa del Carmen, then 1 week at the one on Cozumel), then we stayed there again in 2003 (the featured image on this post is the pool bar in 2003. Bill is doing lengths in the very shallow pool, but is currently underwater).

[I’ll also figure out what it takes to only post snippets of Travel posts to the home page, so as to not overload this primary. My initial guess is that it’ll require creating a ‘Main Page’ category page & making that the home page. But I’ll describe the process when I figure it out]

They say I’ve become a… runner? That can’t be right.

In addition to picking up the FlexiPass and using the local community centre gym and Vancouver pools, I’ve started up the “Couch To 5K” running program again. I started at week 3 this time, which has the core pattern of “Run 2 min, walk 2 min, run 3 min, walk 2 min” repeated twice.

I love this pattern. The fact that it’s only repeated twice means it feels like I get to the ‘halfway’ audio cue much earlier than usual (although the first day I forgot that the second run of the loop was 3 minutes & wondered if I’d accidentally paused the app before I remembered). It’s been really easy for me to do – so much so that I’ve done it for the last 3 days in a row.

Yesterday morning I was feeling really sluggish & dim, so I thought “I should go for a walk.” Some weird new voice in my mind said “y’know, that run yesterday was pretty easy and we felt great after that – why not make it a run?”

So I did. And sure enough, I felt great afterwards and my brain was revved up.

So when I got up this morning, despite the fact that it was drizzling out, I thought “I wonder if it would work again?”

So I did. This time, my brain is happy but my shins & calves are a bit pissed off. They have some analgesic cream on them now and they’re much happier.

I’m not going to set any firm goals around this because there’s no better way to kill off a fledgling new habit than to ‘harden up’ about it; the first day you don’t do it, you’ve blown it and stop completely. But since exercising in the morning tends to suppress my appetite for a while it does have me thinking about combining this with intermittent fasting. Again, I’m not planning any firm goals here but I’ll see how it goes & let you know as I find out.

Personal sprint – week 1 – retro

As so often happens in life, things did not go according to plan. Not the actual sprint, nor the retro and subsequent plan for the next week. There was a time in my life when I would have marked this experiment down as a complete failure, deleted the posts out of shame, and never gone back to it. That’s not what I do these days – let’s roll with reality and learn from it.

Straight-up completion ratio on the first sprint was < 50%. That’s cool – this is an iterative, learning process. Let’s dig into what got finished, what didn’t, why, and what to do differently.

Let’s start by looking at the high-level categories I put the tasks into.

Home Projects (6/9 tasks completed)

By far the task which ended up being a much bigger job than expected was ‘Knit one hat’. It was also the only item that I had externally committed to someone else, so that made it higher priority than things I was doing just ‘for myself’ (there’s an interesting bit of self-inquiry to take away from this as well, about whether or not I prioritize my own goals highly enough relative to those of others).

  • slippery wool that fell off the needles a few times,
  • a pattern than ended rounds in yarn-overs which made it seem like I’d lost a stitch until I figured out what was screwing up my counts
  • ‘frogging’ and restarting no less than 7 times until I remembered to drop lifelines in the lace.

Being honest with myself here, though, I also WANTED to finish that damn hat. That’s a task with a tangible result (unlike tasks like ‘study for 4 hours’). That emotional need helped drive my actual behaviours for the week.

Learning (0/4 completed)

Why? I don’t have any real goal driving that study path, so it’s very hard to get motivated to do it (especially when there’s an unfinished Bad Hat smirking at me from the side table). In fact, if you asked me right now why I want to complete that tutorial I wouldn’t have a good answer. One future possible ‘retirement career’ for me is web development, but right now I don’t feel very strongly attached to it. I need to re-evaluate what my objectives around the whole learning category are. If it’s general self-improvement and growth, it may make more sense for me to block out sessions of time during the week but not necessarily prescribe in advance what I’ll be learning.

Fitness/wellness (Week 1: 7/13 completed, week 2: 12/13 completed)

My fitness and wellness tasks are intended to repeat weekly, which is why I am ‘cheating’ on the pure week 1 retro and including the improvement in the second week. The biggest problem I was facing on the fitness front was a logistical one. The gym I belonged to was 45 minutes away by walking, or a 15 minute drive (with pay parking). If I walked to the gym, that meant I was using up about 3 hours of my day (all in, with showering). If I drove, I was spending money on parking and… driving for no really good reason (which feels very selfish and wasteful). If I took the bus, it was a blend of those two – paying and taking much longer.

I had to face that this gym wasn’t working for me.The Vancouver Parks & Recreation department is offering a New Year/New You sale on their ‘FlexiPass’ which gives you access to pools and gyms (and a few other things). Since I was already spending $5.75 twice a week for pool drop-in, it was a very easy decision to switch to that.

And it worked! I got the pass last Tuesday at swimming and used the local community centre gym twice that week! The only goal I missed on this one this past week was the run yesterday morning.

Writing (3/8 completed)

This one is tough to admit to myself. First of all, I realize that I need to make this a ‘publish’ goal rather than just a ‘writing’ one because I have about 14 posts with a decent chunk of text in them sitting in Draft form. Something is holding me back from actually publishing them. Some of that is perfectionism (it won’t be good enough, I don’t want to open myself up to criticism, people will laugh/yell/point/throw things at me) but some of it was sheer load (remember, there was A Hat that week). By setting myself up to write every day when previously I hadn’t been, I had taken the fun out of it and made it work.

Other people who are maintaining sites that they hope to turn into businesses in future seem to commit to a couple of posts per week – say, Mondays and Thursdays. I think that’s reasonable but it means I need to pick one site and focus on it. Do I want it on my eponymous site or on the one I created specifically for that purpose. Phrased that way, you’d think it would be an easy decision, but it’s actually not – I have more personal investment in karamcnair.com and it is less mental effort to write here. I’m going to set the goal for 2 posts to Beupstry per week and set no goals for karamcnair.com. If that doesn’t work, I’ll reverse them.

Meta (2/3 completed)

My three words for 2015 are:

  • Gratitude
  • Generosity
  • ‘Yes’

[there will be another post later on that topic and what I mean by selecting those words]

Aaaand I am doing my retro with this post – so it’s late according to plan but it’s getting done. While it’s important to set targets and work to meet those, when the targets are somewhat arbitrary and not necessarily supporting any clear goals, doggedly sticking to a plan that doesn’t make sense anymore can be demotivation and cause anxiety.

Sometimes it’s completely fine to step back & reassess your priorities and pay attention to what you actually want to do. This is more of the ‘easing up on myself’ I mentioned at the top – when there are no actual negative consequences to doing something later, it can be sensible to do so.

Earning opportunities are still a bit thin on the ground. I will try to do some brainstorming this week, but I think it’s probably time for me to update my resume.

[Side note – I have recently come up with an idea for an information product on how to make updating your resume fun AND motivating, so I guess I have completed 1/3 of that last task. 2.333… out of 3 it is!]


Out of this exercise, I learned:

  • The artificiality of doing a personal sprint as a solo activity feels very awkward  to me. And other than the fitness/wellness aspect, the tasks weren’t clearly tied to goals – I defined these ‘bottom-up’ instead of ‘top-down’ and that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
  • External commitments are more powerful motivators than promises to myself (this may warrant adjustment)
  • Even if I might think a reason for not doing something (going to the gym) is ‘dumb’ and that I should just ‘power through’ it, it can be MORE powerful and effective to honour that reason and find another solution that does work for me.
  • If you don’t have a good reason for putting a task in the sprint, why are you doing it? (Aside: I spent 4 hours working on that Rails tutorial today and really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment and learning. Some weeks are better for that kind of task than others)

That last one is a big deal. I did do part of a plan for 2015 in early January and I think I’m comfortable publishing it here, so I’ll work on finishing it and sharing the goal -> task breakdown here.

Week 1 retro delayed

I completely forgot that I had signed up for Level III of the Shambhala training this weekend and because it started this evening, I’m not retro’d yet. I’ll post it tomorrow evening. Preview results: mixed. I need more external accountability and I need to get out of the house EARLY every day or I end up reclusive.

We need another dimension for bra sizes

I’m guessing that most people are familiar with the standard components of a bra size (at least in Canada & the US – I don’t know international sizes). There’s band size – a number, ostensibly in inches (e.g. 38) that represents the circumference of the ribs below the breasts, and there’s cup size – a letter or string of letters (AA, A, B, C, D, DD, etc*) which is based on the difference between the band size and the circumference around the broadest part of the breast (generally right over the nipples).

I needed some new bras and since it had been a long time since I had bought any, I figured I’d get sized. I went to Victoria’s Secret (since I assumed they’d know what they were doing) and they did the standard measuring. I picked out some bras I like (I prefer “T-shirt style” – no visible seams + underwire).


They’re torture.


The problem is that those two degrees of freedom, band & ‘cup’ don’t adequately cover all possible shapes, especially where there’s an underwire.
We also need ‘radius’.


Let’s say we have two people with the same circumference under the breasts & across them. Let’s also say they aren’t clones, and actually are shaped fairly differently:

Note that the underwire curve of each person is rather different.

Different underwire curves

These are not the same

So guess what happens when we don’t take that into account when building bras?

It’s 2015. We can do better.

*interestingly, some schemes stop adding new letters at D and just keep adding more Ds, (i.e. DDD=E, DDDD=F)

Personal sprint – week 1

Unlike many of my colleagues, I’ve never been a ‘personal process’ type of person. I’m happy to use Agile planning & project management at work, but it always struck me as being a bit artificial to plan one’s own life the same way one planned team projects.

Now that I’ve been off work for a while, I see more value in it. Not going to an 8-5 job means that suddenly where I had structure, I don’t, and it’s much harder to make progress on things I want to achieve (or indeed, to do anything that doesn’t involve getting sucked into social media for an entire day).

So, inspired by a few posts I’ve read I’m going to do a weekly sprint plan on Sunday afternoon, and will do a retro Friday afternoon (Saturdays will be ‘free’ days – I can still do things on Saturdays but it’s a bonus day, not a normal day). To raise the level of accountability, I’m going to post the plan & retro notes here. This week’s plan is a bit rough and I expect to add to it as I go, but like the lady says: “Do It Anyway

[The actual organizational scheme I’ll be using in Trello will probably change – there are posts out there that suggest ‘the best way’ to use it, but I will review and tweak as I go. At the moment, I have included a list for Fitness/Wellness, but I’m not sure that makes sense – it may be more appropriate to just fit those into a repeating schedule rather than re-entering those same cards every week]

Here’s this week’s plan (as of right now):

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