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How I spent my winter staycation

I had a great staycation, but I did sorely miss all of you. It's great to be back, back on a schedule, and back to work.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Wow, it's good to be back! Welcome back to the real world, everyone! Vacations and holidays are over, the apocalypse turned out to be a non-starter, and the silly season has left the building.

It's even nice to be up and writing at 7am again, after spending almost two weeks sleeping in, sometimes as late as 9am (I know, crazy, right?).

To be honest, I'm not a holiday fan. It's not that I don't like the winter holidays, I just don't like holidays. I'd much rather see my loved ones during times when the rest of the world isn't doing the same thing. Even so, this holiday break was quite pleasant, indeed.

Holidays disrupt my normal patterns, projects get put on hold, people who are normally all very easily accessible on my Google Chat are grayed out, and somehow, we're all supposed to switch into some sort of festive spirit.

Not my thing. I like my job(s). I really enjoy the people I work with, and I enjoy my projects. That's why I'm so excited that all the ZDNet bloggers will be trickling in over the next few hours, and my colleagues at CBS Interactive will also be back online again. I even missed you ZDNet commenters out there!

So, what did I do for my staycation?

I worked on a number of projects. My biggest effort was finally (mostly) solving the sound problems in the Skype Studio. In order to stay on budget when I first built the Skype Studio, I decided to reuse some old (as in Bill Clinton was President, old) sound gear, including a very cheap mixer and a Radio Shack lapel mic that I'd had sitting in a bin for over a decade.

As a result, sound was inconsistent. It was sometimes adequate, but other times was absolutely terrible.

I decided this was the time to fix that. I bought an interface, a new mic, and decided to hook them up. I tried to cheap out by still using my ancient mixer, but it's become apparent that's got to go since it has crackling noises. I'll go over the details of the sound project in a future article, but it was a fun staycation keep-me-busy thing.

After I got the sound working, I recorded five short lectures for my UC Berkeley extension students, to help them understand the course I'm teaching and some of the practical aspects of programming. That was also a fun project, and I think it will help my students.

Another project I worked on was moving my home content management server off of a very low-end Atom-based PC onto a Mac mini (a machine that's probably 20-times faster).

I just moved the Linux VM over to the Mac, and created an XP-based VM for some of the other maintenance scripts, and got myself a fast overall speed increase with almost no work. I'll probably tell you about this in more detail sometime soon, but the takeaway is that the Mac mini makes a nice little home VM server.

I somehow didn't get around to doing any programming (it was on my list, but I just wasn't in the mood). Instead, though, I set up a slick little blog site for my wife, so she can write about her hobbies and share her posts with her friends. It was fun seeing her so excited about having her own hobby blog.

Good eats

Beyond tech, my wife and I learned how to make a rib roast (it's easy -- and a lot of meat). That was great fun, especially since what comes out of the oven is one of my favorite cuts of meat.

Like everyone else during the holiday season, we ate way too much. The highlight was oatmeal peanut-butter fudge. The addition of oatmeal does wonders for the texture of the fudge. Yum.

We also watched a lot of movies and TV.

We had a fun movie marathon watching all three Men-in-Black movies together. I like doing movie marathons because you notice things you might not otherwise have seen when you let a lot of time pass between movie viewings.

We saw a fascinating movie call The Conspirator, which was all about the disturbing trial of Mary Surratt, the woman who owned the boarding house where some of the Lincoln conspirators plotted Lincoln's 1865 assassination.

I also re-watched the 2009 Star Trek movie reboot, which was a lot better on the second watching. If you haven't watched it a second time (especially on Blu-ray), I can't recommend it highly enough.

We played video games. She's been playing an action platformer, while I started Assassin's Creed III. My big surprise, though, was playing Dishonored, a stealth game that's sort of an alternate-history steampunk. Great game, although a little short.

Finally, we watched a lot of Star Trek Voyager and I started back in on my Smallville collection. I've just made it to season six.

All-in-all, it was a great time to freely choose projects and activities, to eat a little too much, to sleep a little too much, and to work a little too little.

I had a great staycation, but I did sorely miss all of you. It's great to be back, back on a schedule, and back to work.

I wish you all a healthy, hearty, and productive 2013.

We're back, kids! We're back! How about you? Did you have a good break? What did you do, watch, eat, make, or get? Post your winter break experiences in the TalkBacks below.

P.S. I know this article lacks links. It's only 7am on my first day back. There's not enough coffee in the world.

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