Journaling and Time Management

Hello once again!

Okay, I admit it, time management is not my strong suit. However, thanks to a lot of hard work and solid mentorship, my time management skills have gone from “absolutely abysmal” to merely “horrible” in only 37 short years!

As I’m sure many of you do, I suffer from the predations of those two eternal foes of using time effectively; procrastination and distraction. Procrastination is something that I never really noticed I had a problem with until I was out of my parents’ house, and didn’t have my Mom to keep me in line anymore. At the Academy, and later on once I graduated and was living on my own, there were a lot of things that I would often let slide like writing papers, doing taxes, or for that matter, laundry. However, as I discovered over time there wasn’t nearly as much room for that sort of foolishness in the Fleet. So, professionally my procrastination was getting quite effectively hammered out of me. Despite that, or perhaps even because of that, I still have a tendency to procrastinate where my personal life is concerned (just ask Gwen!). I mean, ARS is a perfect example, as I’ve gone literally years without posting updates here.

Distraction is a related but, in my mind, different beast. By and large, the biggest venue for distraction for me has become the internet, especially since I’ve had ready access to it in my pocket since I got my first iPhone back in 2009. A well-documented phenomena is the act of “going down a rabit hole,” which is where I start looking at the Wikipedia page for Brent Spiner, then end up reading an off-color Penny Arcade strip about VR that features Star Trek TNG, which then led me to look up a review page for a Star Trek video game…and three hours later, I’m reading about size inconsistencies for Klingon Birds of Prey. Going down these rabit holes has become so much easier since I can just pull out my phone and do so at will. I noticed that it was starting to creep into every nook and cranny of my everyday life. Waiting for food at the drive thru? Time to pull out the phone! In the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment? Phone time. Waiting for a movie to start? Yep, here comes the phone again! I’ve made some strides in this area (I’d like to think), but no doubt about it, distraction is always just a swipe or click away.

Having had a lot of time to ponder my weakness when it comes to time management over my recent deployment, I’ve hit upon a couple of techniques to help curb my time-wasting tendencies. First of all, I’ve been keeping a journal, trying to hold to writing entries at least 3 times per week. I have long wanted to take up journaling, but I could never get myself into the routine due to my aforementioned distraction issues. However, I’ve met  some better success recently, and what I discovered after more than a year of solid journal writing is that taking a moment to note down major events as they happen has a way of helping me to realize where and how frequently I’m falling down on the job, as It were. I have to admit, its also fun to flip back months or even a year to see where I was back then, and reflect on what has happened since.  Journaling has helped me to be more mindful of where I am spending time, which in turn has helped me to better recognize and guard against my distractions.

The other big technique I’ve found to be useful is creating a daily plan. Not a detailed, down to the minute schedule, mind you, but rather a loose set of routine tasks that I want to get done on a given day of the week. Things like “Read a book,” or even “Write a Blog Post.” I actually use a page of my journal to lay out this weekly plan on the first day of each week, and then mark it up as a go. This has allowed me to take a lot of those things that I tell myself I’ll get to eventually, and making sure that eventually doesn’t turn into never. I find that flexibility is key, here; if I miss an event scheduled for one of the days of a the week, instead of obsessing over it I either get it done the next week, or just note that I didn’t complete it and move on. The key for me isn’t so much that I absolutely, positively get everything done. Rather, the key for me is having a more concrete idea of what I want to get done when, so that I don’t fall as easily into the procrastination and distraction trap.

Now that I’m back home, of course, there is going to be even more of a challenge to keep myself on the “straight and narrow!” I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to continue with my new-found good habits, though. Until next time!

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Well, Hello there!

Here we are, years since my last update, and I’m once again posting. At this point, some (most? all?) of you might be wondering why I’m bothering. Well, the simple fact of the matter is that I just can’t bring myself to part with this little personal web playground of mine. For the next best thing to 20 years, I’ve been keeping this extended experiment in web design, content creation, and stubbornness going, and it feels like a shame to stop now.

Also, I still find myself fondly looking back through some of these pages, almost as if it’s a digital scrapbook. 20 years is a long time, and I’ve documented quite a few of my major life milestones here. This is especially important for those that took place before about 2009; prior to that, I didn’t have a smart phone, which means that lot of the pictures and stories that are documented here would not have been documented at all, or else more easily forgotten about. And while Facebook and other social media fulfill a lot of this role these days, I still like the idea of having more control over my digital presence by “owning” the entire website. I don’t have to worry about someone reporting and/or otherwise deleting my posts here. Don’t tread on my website!

So, why have I been so scarce the last couple of years? Well there are a couple of big reasons. The first is that I reported to the USS BATAAN (LHD 5) for sea duty in May 2018. Being on a ship, even if (perhaps ESPECIALLY if) it is in the yards automatically means I have been much busier that I otherwise would have been. For the last year on board, I was underway for 240 out of 365 days! Add to that, Gwen and I welcomed our third son, Andrew, to the world in March 2018. I have finally come to realize that my previous opinion about babies was deeply flawed, and that babies are, in fact, awesome. As awesome as babies are, though, they sure do keep you busy!

So between a new kid and my sea time, there has been precious little time for things like “recreation” and “relaxation.” It gets worse, though, as I’ve been devoting what little computer time I have to either playing games or working on content for my other little web project, Man Battlestations. In some ways, I feel a bit more of an obligation to try and keep up with Man Battlestations, since it is not just for me; a small, but dedicated, community has grown up around it, whereas Andy’s Random Stuff has always been more about me rambling and welcoming whatever random passers-by decide to stop by for a read (mostly my Mom – Hi Mom!).

However, things are starting to change a bit. I’m rotating to shore duty, Andrew is starting to get a bit older, and I’m getting a bit better at time management (or, I’d like to think so, anyway). So, I feel like it’s time to gear up and try to be a bit more diligent about updating around here. Of course, I seem to say that every time that I’ve been away for a while and then come back, so take that for what it is worth!

Until next time…

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Wait, what YEAR is it?!?!

Well, this has been a long time in coming. To all those who shall see this post…Greetings! I now find myself in the awkward position of having to explain why it’s been the next best thing to a year and a half since I’ve posted here. I don’t really have a single solid answer that I can point to. I’ve been busy with life, sure, but not so busy that I couldn’t have found a few minutes here or there to get a quick post put up. Rather, my lack of motivation to post here at ARS seems to have been driven by a number of factors, my motivation dying by a “death of a thousand cuts.” But no more. I’m finally ready to get back on the blogging horse here at ARS, and what better way to start off than one of my famous, patent-pending Massive Update on Things that Have Happened Since I Last Posted posts! I contemplated doing this update in a strict chronological order, going month by month from July 2017 until now. Fear not; I quickly decided that would be too ponderous and pedantic even for me, so instead I’m going to focus on the Top 3 big things that have happened, in no particular order.

Re designation

Shortly after I posted in July 2017, I found out I had been picked up for lateral transfer within the Navy from Submarine Warfare  to Information Professional (IP). I had applied for lateral transfer due to the fact that I had failed to screen for Submarine Executive Officer, which effectively ended my upward mobility in that community. While I no doubt could have found gainful and satisfying employment by staying a Submarine officer, I felt the best move was to seek other opportunities within the Navy, and that opportunity has come in the form of the IP community. My re-designation meant that we had to relocate from the DC area down to Norfolk, VA, so that I could start my training pipeline.

Baby the Third

Image may contain: 2 people, including Gweneveve Habersat Rucker, people smiling

Gwen and I welcomed our third son, Andrew Charles Rucker, to the family in  March 2018. This little guy has been an absolute joy, and its been really fun these last few months watching him start to interact with his twin brothers more and more. Andrew seems to think his older brothers are just the coolest. Right now, if William or James decide the baby is too annoying, they can still get away from Andrew by standing up and walking away or by getting up on furniture. I fear those days are numbered, though! At just over 8 months, Andrew is starting to crawl, and I’m sure he’ll use his new found mobility to follow his brothers around.

Back to Sea

USS Bataan (LHD-5), in the Atlantic, preparing for deployment, 17 July 1999

I’m assigned to a ship again! I reported to the USS BATAAN (LHD 5) after completing my IP training pipeline in May. We are lucky in that my first IP tour is on a ship out of Norfolk, which meant we didn’t have to move again after only 6 months! Being on BATAAN has been an interesting experience so far; not only am I learning a lot about communications and networking, I’m also getting a crash course on Surface Warfare traditions and ways of doing business. I feel like the proverbial Stranger in a Strange Land at times, but I’m adapting! Being back on a ship does mean that I’m now standing duty again, and it also means that I’ll be going underway soon (I’ve not experienced that so far thanks to BATAAN being in a shipyard availability). This means some extra separation from Gwen and the boys, so that is another challenge we are working through.

That should just about catch everyone up! I want to start updating more regularly, and get back to at least a monthly update schedule. I do have some plans regarding what to cover here on the blog moving forward, but those are probably better left to a separate post. Until next time!

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2017 Trip to Strasburg

This past weekend, Gwen and I took the twins up to Strasburg, PA for a weekend getaway, accompanied by both my Mom and Dad and Gwen’s Mom and Dad. For those not aware, Strasburg is a big railfanning hotspot. Within a mile or so radius, you can find the Strasburg Railway, the National Toy Train Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Red Caboose Motel.

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Wait…what month is it?!

Obviously, I’ve been blowing off my blogging for some time now. This hasn’t been out of a conscious decision so much as it has been a classic case of procrastination combined with legitimately being very busy with work, the boys, and my other hobbies. And so, no updates since the end of February…until now. It’s gotten so bad, I can’t stand it any longer, so here we are! Lots have happened over the last 4 months, so this post will be more of a short summary than anything else.

March

Adepticon was the biggest thing that happened for me in March. I had a great time, as always! I had planned to participated in a Dystopian Wars tournament, a Firestorm Armada tournament, and a Battlefleet Gothic tournament. I did pretty well in the Dystopian Wars event, taking 3rd place! I didn’t do as well in Firestorm Armada, but that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, I got hit with some kind of bug and wound up missing the BFG tournament to stay in bed. Yikes! I did take lots of pictures, though, which I posted over on Man Battlestations.

April

This was a busy month! Easter, Gwen’s Birthday, and the Submarine Ball were all packed into April. As a result, the month seemed to fly by in a blur of activity. We tried a little Easter egg hunt for the boys this year, and it went…sort of ok.

The problem we had is that they didn’t want to give up the egg they had to pick up another! The Sub Ball was a good time. Gwen and I had skipped it last year, since the boys were so small. This year, though, we got Gwen’s parents to baby-sit and headed up to the ball. It was a fun date night out for both of us!

Gwen’s birthday went off pretty well. I set up a nice little party here at our house for her, with her parents, brother and sister-in-law and their kids in attendance.

Wedged in  there was a little home appliance repair; the dryer stopped heating, and after doing a little digging around online I was able to successfully troubleshoot the problem and fix it with a new heating element.

May

May was another busy month, with our first family vacation and my Birthday. Our vacation was a trip down to Florida. We took the Auto Train down and back, which in and of itself is enough to get me excited! While we were there, we stayed with Gwen’s aunt and uncle. Before we came back to Virginia, we also went to Disney World for a day and hit the Magic Kingdom so the boys could meet Mickey.

June

Which brings us to June! This month, James and William turned 2, and I also volunteered to escort a WWII veteran during the Battle of Midway celebration. The ceremonies surrounding the 75 anniversary of the Battle of Midway were very moving, and the veterans were amazing people to talk and listen to. They all had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

 

The boys’ 2nd birthday party went very well! We made it a smaller affair this year, and just had my Mom & Dad (visiting from Indiana for most of the month), Gwen’s Mom and Dad, and her brother and sister in law and their kids. We were able to get them to eat a little more of their birthday cupcakes than we did last year!

That should pretty much get us caught up on the goings on of the last few months! Until next time…

 

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Charging Ahead

Greetings! A lot has been happening since the last time I posted, and I wanted to get this one up before the calendar ticked over to March.

The Twins

William and James are doing great! William is really into rolling toy cars and balls around the floor at the moment, and James is big into throwing and spinning things. They are both getting closer to walking, with James in the lead. He is actually starting to take a few tentative steps between pieces of furniture, so we are definitely in trouble! Both of them have been going to regular physical therapy sessions to improve their motor skills and get them caught up with their developmental milestones. It is amazing watching them explore and start to understand their world. I just wish they would stop eating the dropped (and now slightly fuzzy!) snacks that they find under the couch.

The Navy

I have a big turning point coming up in my career this year; I did not get selected to be a Submarine XO last year, which means that the time has come to investigate other opportunities. For now, I’m looking at other opportunities within the Navy, which means I will be submitting a package to the Spring 2017 lateral transfer board. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Miniature Gaming

So far, it seems like I’ve been able to keep about 30-45 minutes a day to goof around with my hobbies, generally while the boys are napping or after they have gone to bed (any more than that and I start to cut into my sleep time, not that I’m unwilling to do so). Miniature gaming has been the focus of this limited free time for me lately, as I plan on attending Adepticon next month and have a lot to do to get ready. A big part of those preparations has been building and painting some miniatures that I plan on using at the show, as well as practicing some of the scenarios that will be used in the tournaments I’m registered for. Suffice to say, I’m starting to get really excited for the show, but all of these preps have cut into the time I have had for other leisure activities like video games!

Podcasting

The MBS Podcast is going strong. In fact, I’m working on editing Episode 16 this week, and should have that up in a day or two. I’ve been really enjoying the podcaster experience; developing show outlines, recording the audio, and editing have all be scratching a creative itch for me that I first realized I had back in  middle school when I was on the A/V club. In fact, I’ve been enjoying myself so much that I’ve started working on a second show! I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.

Until Next time!

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Gaming Retrospective: The Wild West Shootout

The year 2012 was very memorable for me. My wife and I moved twice that year, and I went through one of the more challenging phases of my career as I prepared to assume the duties of a submarine department head and return to sea. In addition to all of that upheaval, this year was also a big one for me as a gamer. It was in 2012 that I went to my first convention (and, incidentally my first Geek Nation Tours), played in my first 40k tournaments, met tons of great folks who I am friends with to this day, and in general greatly expanded the horizons of my hobby. This post is a little bit of a retrospective on the first of the two conventions I went to in 2012: The Wild West Shoot-out (WWSO) 2, held in Mesa, Arizona five years ago this month.

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Happy New Year!

Whew, it has been a very hectic couple of weeks. Thanks to my business trips, our holiday prep time was severely curtailed, which meant that Gwen and I were doing crazy things like taking the boys to see  Santa…on the 23rd of December. As one might expect, the lines to see the Big Man were extravagant…we waited with the boys for three hours before we finally got to the front and had our pics taken! Then, of course, was the shopping; Gwen finished hers up on Christmas Eve, while I was at home working on wrapping stuff. I finally got everything wrapped around 2 AM Christmas Morning; Gwen was up until 3. And, on top of all of that, James had a medical emergency the Tuesday before Christmas that resulted in a trip to the Emergency Room and the removal of his left testicle (ouch!) All in all, this was a strange and very hectic holiday season for us. However, it was also a good and blessed one; our sons were both healthy and home with us on Christmas, and we all got to spend some quality time together over the holidays. And, after all the hustle and bustle, the dust has thankfully settled somewhat. Now, it’s time to take on 2017!

Looking ahead, Gwen and I are looking forward to taking William and James out more now that they are a little older. There are all kinds of interesting things to do with them in the area. We are also planning on taking them down to Florida in May for Gwen’s Aunt’s wedding. I’m really looking forward to that one, as we plan on taking the Amtrak Auto Train, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. It will also be an opportunity to introduce the boys more fully to the joys of train travel. Also on the train-nut agenda is a potential trip up to Strasbourg, PA to see the Strasbourg Railway and the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. However, the immediate next big thing for all of us is an impending trip to Indiana in a couple of weeks. My sister Sarah and brother in law Chris recently moved into a new home, and we are planning on visiting them to have a belated holiday celebration. The only worry at this point is some sort of winter weather event shutting us down. Fingers crossed…

The coming year is also looking pretty good to me from a hobby perspective; there are some cool new things coming out for some of my favorite games, like Dystopian Wars, and I am also starting to play variants of a couple of games I already own; Team Yankee for Flames of War, and KonfliKt 47 for Bolt Action. I’m also looking at going to some conventions again. I’ve already reserved my badge for Adepticon, going as part of the Geek Nation Tour again. That will probably be my biggest gaming trip/event for the year. I’m also looking at attending some other events, but Adepticon is the only one (as of now) where I’m planning on staying on-site the entire weekend.

Until next time!

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The Fallon “Petting Zoo”

As I mentioned in my previous update, I was at Naval Air Station Fallon this past week for a conference. Near the building where that conference was being held is what the aviators refer to as the “petting zoo,” which is a static display of a number of US and Russian aircraft. Here are the pictures I took of the display!

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A Stranger in A Strange Land

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Greetings! It sure has been a busy few weeks. Last week and this week I’ve been on the road for work; last week to San Diego, and this week to Fallon, NV. It’s a bit of a bummer to miss this much time with Gwen and the boys this close to Christmas, to say the least. However, the work I’m engaged in has been interesting, at least. It is an interesting experience seeing Fallon for the first time…this place, the home of the “Top Gun” air-to-air weapons school, is deeply  entrenched in the Naval Aviation culture, which is a very different experience for this submariner! Continue reading

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