Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The kids never even call anymore

A part of me worries whenever I can't connect to my home PC from my work PC. It bugs me all day, and I feel incomplete. I can't check my email! What if someone IMs me? What if I need to get at a document? What if I need to leave myself a note? What notes did I leave myself this morning that I can't see now?

Monday, September 29, 2008

That one other thing

Oh, and the dating thing is going swimmingly, it seems.  We're a good pair—a little bit clueless, but that's fine.  We saw Burn After Reading on Saturday, and we're meeting up again this weekend.  I've been ridiculously happy for the past week, to be frank.

Week two

I ended up losing 8 pounds last week, which is quite a bit by any measure.  It's possible that I may get close to that again this week, but that's probably going to be my record.  I think that this week is going to be a lot more tolerable than last week, regardless of how much weight I lose.  Being highly allergic to whey, I've given up on the program's official whey protein shakes, and now I'm sticking with 100% soy protein powder.  It's nastier than the old stuff and only comes in one flavor ("chalk"), but at least it doesn't make me ill.  I've been discliplined and a lot better about getting adequate sleep for the past few days, so things should just move much more smoothly.

The big change, though, is vegetables.  I can now eat most vegetables, and pretty much as much as I want to.  This should make me a lot less hungry overall, and drastically decrease my chances of flipping out and going on a murder spree.  Lunch today was the most exciting salad I'd ever had.

The workouts are fairly tough, but I'm ramping things up.  I did 40 minutes of cardio yesterday, and my goal is to get that to 45 or 50.  According to my push-up bra, I burned somewhere around 850 calories in this morning's workout.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day six

Well, the first week is close to over.  I'm surviving.  Annoyance is beginning to turn to acceptance, and at this point I'm used to the shakes, even if I certainly don't like them. At the same time, I'm really looking forward to vegetables at this point, which I think will reappear in my diet on Monday.

The workouts have upped in difficulty. Yesterday we put on a lot more weight than Wednesday—about 25% more on average. This put me right at my limits, and it was quite tough. On most of the machines I don't think I could have added one more plate and still finished. I also did some reverse push-ups (I don't know their actual name, but they were basically elevated push-ups facing upward instead of downward), and that was the only time I couldn't hit the goal the trainer had picked for me. After ten he could see that I definitely wasn't going to make it to twenty, so we stopped there.

The lack of energy also really got to me yesterday evening. I actually took a short nap, something I haven't done in like a year, and I went to bed early and got a pretty solid ten hours of sleep. I feel a lot better now, but I'm going to need to be better about getting adequate sleep. When I was consuming 3,000 calories (or whatever; that's a good average for someone like me), I could get by on less sleep and not be this exhausted, but at about 1,600 minus 700 in exercise, I'm going to need to be a lot more disciplined for the next few weeks if I'm going to survive this.

On the upside, it's been effective. I'm down 10 pounds since starting, and about 6 this week. Based on what the doctors have been saying, six pounds in a week is just about the absolute maximum that is healthy; ideally, I'll lose more than 1% of my weight per week, but no more than about 2%. I believe that if I go past the 2%, the fear was that I wouldn't be able to develop muscle at the same time.


Currently listening: Kerli—Hurt Me

Friday, September 26, 2008

Portent past

It's good that I set two alarms to get up this morning, because I must have turned one of them off when I was awakened in the middle of the night by my smoke alarm low-battery warning, just like I cynically said would happen. I had the battery, and I was going to change it this very weekend... just not in the middle of the night. I stumbled around, and with a burst of I-really-wanna-get-back-to-sleep adrenaline, picked up my minifridge from my storage room, took it to my bedroom, climbed on top, got on my tippy-toes, and changed the battery in my alarm. For those who are wondering, it is difficult to get back to sleep after you just picked up and then climbed on top of a minifridge. Luckily, I was very tired, and tired won out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day three

At the end of day three, I'm already getting really bored with the diet. It's mostly the same thing each and every meal; the only variance is that I get to have some meat at lunch and dinner in addition to my protein shake. I've been mixing that up, at least; I've had chicken, beef, and salmon so far. I started weightlifting with my trainer today, and we're going to ratchet up the difficulty on Friday to see what I can do.

My problem so far is that I'm fairly hungry all the time. Long-term that won't be as much of a problem as my calorie limits increase, but this first week is all about resetting my metabolism, and I'm supposed to have around 1,600 calories a day, which isn't much at all for a tall, fairly healthy adult male. Since I'm burning close to half that in my workouts, my energy levels are fairly low, but again, a lot of this all should change in the next week or two.

I cheated a little tonight, but not too badly. I had some beef that was marinated in a mystery sauce that was likely not diet-approved. But, I didn't eat the vegetables, noodles, or drink anything but water. So, I can celebrate the little victories while chastizing myself for the little failures. It was a calculated cheating, not a spur-of-the-moment lapse in judgement. I just got back from a first date (!), so I didn't want to be too obnoxious about the diet plan. "First date" as in first date ever, actually, in case you're keeping track. (I was never one to jump into things unprepared. I've just been planning all this time, you see...) I was pretty nervous going in, but it was fine once we got started. Okay, nervous may be a nice way to put it—I haven't been able to focus on a thing all week. I was late, too, which always leaves a nice impression: I sure thought that 70 minutes would be plenty of time to get from Redmond to Seattle around dinnertime. At least I was only 10 minutes late.

"This page intentionally left blank." I'm sure I'll have more details to talk about later. For the time being, though, I'm going to be gentlemanly and keep the specifics of my date from being archived on the internet forever, and stick to talking about my diet and exercise.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day one

Well, day one wasn't so bad.  I won't be starting strength training until Wednesday; I just did 50 minutes of cardio today.  35 was on a treadmill, something I hadn't used in quite some time, and my muscles weren't really used to it.  Using a machine for the first few times is always a lot tougher; I'm sure that will get easier.

The diet is pretty unpleasant so far, but the worst part will only last a week.  Basically, for this week, I'm going to be living on almost entirely protein: meat and protein shakes.  I can mix it up a bit with berries in the shakes, and that's about it.  No vegetables or other fruits.  I'll be sure to let you know if it's making me insane.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anomalous

Last night was very anomalous.  Instead of waking up with images of my dreams in my head and using those images to reconstruct the events of the dream, I awoke with only characters from the dreams in my mind.  I woke up twice during the night, both times assuming it was time to wake up, and I started to think about those dreams and piece together what had happened.  Unfortunately, if I don't write it all down somewhere, anything I think of right after waking up is lost a few minutes later, and that is what has happened to the details of those dreams.  All I remember from my three dreams are three people, none of whom had ever appeared in a dream before: a person I met Friday, a person I met Sunday, and someone I only remember to be a celebrity.  It is possible that, based on the movie I watched on Sunday, the celebrity was Jacky Chan or Jet Li, but I don't actually think it was either of them.  And that's it.

It's not a good feeling, really.  I have become used to being able to think about my dreams afterward, and I'd very much like to know what happened in those dreams.  Even if it didn't make a good story to tell, at least I'd know.  I am always annoyed when I don't remember details of my dreams.  I feel like I'm missing something; maybe something that my subconscious mind was trying to tell me, or maybe just a reward for sleeping.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Last Supper

I have a confession.  Part of my reasoning for choosing Claim Jumper (a restaurant with infamously oversized entrees... and patrons) tonight for my last meal before starting my exercise program was so I could say:

"Claim Jumper?  The last time I went to Claim Jumper I had to start a six-month weight loss program the very next day!"

Christmas gambling

Now taking bets on how many people ask me something about Bill Gates when I return to Nebraska this Christmas. Every year a few people ask me how Bill is or how I like working for Bill. I'm guessing that most of them are not at all aware that he left Microsoft three months ago. I'm imagining their reactions already.

Horrible idea

Free podcast idea for the day: Christian Bale reads a different classic British poem entirely in "Batman chain-smoker voice" each week.

Final countdown

It's now technically Sunday, and that means I have one day remaining: one day before fitness boot camp begins. One day left to eat actual food. One day left before I learn just how sore one can be.

Finally. Here goes nothing. (Oh man, why am I doing this again?)

On a nice note, I'm down 4 pounds from my stable starting weight, and I haven't even started yet. That's probably mostly due to ramping up my cardio over the past couple weeks. Well, that and random fluctuations. Probably mostly the latter.

Appropriate listening: Europe—The Final Countdown (I think this was the first time I'd actually heard the whole song; it's kind of awesome)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Love Is Dead

The short version:
Hooverphonic—The President of the LSD Golf Club: 8/10
Trinity Hi-Fi—Fuego: 6/10
Rob Dougan—Furious Angels: 8/10
Kerli—Love Is Dead: 9/10

A while back I picked up the new album from one of my favorite bands, Hooverphonic: The President of the LSD Golf Club. For their last few albums, they've been trying some really interesting and different styles. This one's a weird experimental pop-rock CD. The previous one came in both a light version and a dark version and was more electronic trip-hop/pop. The one before that was orchestral with vocals. The one before that was pop and told a single story of the rise and fall of a fictional international music star. I never really know what to expect from them, and this CD doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, it's not released in the United States and won't be; I had to import it, but I've had to do that with most of their albums. To get a feel for this disc, I recommend Expedition Impossible (video), Gentle Storm (video), and Strictly Out of Phase, which are all great, though the latter is admittedly not one of my favorites.



I also picked up a CD that's been on my list for a very long time (since Pandora first launched), Fuego by Trinity Hi-Fi. Unfortunately, it's a case of the single Lost You being considerably more polished than the rest of the CD, which is mediocre or a little better. It's sort of loungey trip-hop, but most of the tracks are pretty forgettable. I'd say that the best are Lost You, Inside, and Lazy Afternoon.

I also got Rob Dougan's Furious Angels. I definitely recommend this if you like the standard action movie soundtrack orchestra-and-beats formula—think The Matrix; a couple of these tracks have been used in the Matrix films. There's more variety to the disc than just adrenaline, though; there's a nice variety to round things out. The biggest problem with the album as far as I'm concerned is that the guy has an awful, grating voice that I can't stand. But, graciously, a 2-disc version of the album is available, and the CD 2 versions are all instrumental and better; I highly recommend looking for that version. Sticking to disc 2 drastically improved my opinions of the album. Good examples here are the title track Furious Angels, Will You Follow Me?, Nothing at All, and Speed Me Towards Death.



Finally, the best CD I've bought in quite a while was one of the more surprising, the debut Love Is Dead by a singer no one has heard of, Kerli. I bought this one after hearing the absolutely entrancing single Creepshow (partly in Estonian!) on the in-game radio in Burnout Paradise, of all places. I love just about every track on here, and this is a strong contender for the best album I've bought all year. It ranges from Evanescence Power Girl Rock to bumpin' dancefloor beats to pure pop. Besides Creepshow, the opener Love Is Dead, Hurt Me, and The Creationist (which unfortunately has a bassline that sounds like my phone vibrating) are all gold.


There's actually one more song on the Burnout Paradise radio that I really love that might persuade me to buy another CD: Cities in Dust. The original version by Siouxsie and the Banshees is a somber and weird song about people dying in the Pompeii explosion. This version by Junkie XL and Lauren Rocket is a crazy party song about... people dying in the Pompeii explosion. "Oh, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend" has been replaced by "Oh, all your cities lie in dust, yeah!" Too soon.

I've picked up some older CDs that I'll go through soon, like New Radicals—Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, and Goo Goo Dolls—Dizzy Up the Girl. People and websites have been recommending Augustana's CD as well, and some new stuff by Enigma, Dido, Keane, and Kelli Ali is on its way soon. I'm looking forward to it.

Asian-ness

I think I need an ultracompact camera that I can just take with me wherever I go. The fact that my camera is large and I often want to switch lenses to get a better picture has drastically decreased my desire to take snapshots. I'm not Asian, so I can't just take my dSLR with me wherever I go. It would be nice in theory to have a tiny camera for snapshots. My crappy free phone takes terrible, terrible pictures in which you can barely tell what the picture was supposed to be of, and my old point-and-shoot camera from college is huge by today's standards, and not in the greatest shape.

What I haven't decided is if it would be better to upgrade my phone, or get a standalone camera. I'm leaning toward sacrificing image quality for the much greater convenience of having my camera be my phone. The Blackberry Curve looks fairly interesting, and is about a hundred bucks cheaper than a nice camera.


Currently listening: Kerli—Hurt Me

Morning ideas

Next time I eat carrots, I'm going to try chewing them before swallowing. Anything that reduces my chances of a choking death has to be a good plan.

Ugh, I'm tired.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trans fats

I was logging the food I ate yesterday (as in, counting calories... ugh) and as I was perusing labels, I saw "trans fats, 0g." This reminded me that sometimes when I see the phrase "trans fats," I imagine a scenario in which there's a protein that always thought of itself as more of a fat, and is saving up to have some sort of operation done.

I am on a dating site

In college, I recall that I had some good times on TheSpark.com, now defunct. The main content on the site was surveys: lots and lots of surveys. You know, the kind of annoying ones that people post on Facebook and MySpace and beg you to take as well, so you can see what kind of a date you are, or how much of a Simpsons fan you are, or how gay you are, and so forth. The ones that The Spark wrote were a bit more amusing than others. My roommate and I were followers of the site. Eventually, the proprietors realized that a survey site plus social networking features equalled a dating site, and thus OkCupid was born. Several of us at college joined up and added each other as friends, and then we could see how we each scored on the various tests. You know, for non-dating purposes.

Once OkCupid was built, TheSpark had no real reason to exist anymore, so most of that site disappeared, leaving SparkNotes, their free online Cliff's Notes equivalent. Fast forward to today. OkCupid still exists, and it seems that it is an actual dating site now. SparkNotes still exists, but it was bought by Barnes and Noble, and it has spawned SparkLife, a sort of portal for college students. And now OkCupid has spawned Hello Quizzy, which appears to sort of just be a mirror of the OkCupid site without the focus on dating. It is a complicated history.

So, the end result is that I had a profile on a dating site that I didn't even know about until they just spontaneously started sending me potential dates a few days ago. I had basically forgotten that the site existed until then—I'd heard the name mentioned a year or so ago and simply thought, "does that site still exist?" I got bored of taking surveys pretty quickly, and stopped going there. But, I've had an account there all this time, with a pictureless profile that said something to the effect of "I'm just here to take the surveys." I think I'd have been creeped out to find that I still had an active account there if I'd actually spent any time on it and talked about myself.

A couple nights ago, I got sucked into my old college habits without even noticing, and started answering questions and surveys again. There is seemingly something very appealing to having a computer program be so endlessly interested in useless minutae of your life and opinions about pointless topics.

Multitudes

As Facebook (or social networking in general) becomes more and more prevalent, it seems that it's going to eventually need more and better ways of grouping and organizing your friends. My friends list includes extended family members, an ex-CEO of a large company, kids in high school, my boss's boss, and people I've only met online. How do I make sense of all of that? You can create multiple friends lists, but those seem to only be used for controlling permissions.
Maybe it doesn't matter, at least to most people. I'm a fan of structured information. I organize all of my files and emails meticulously, and like to stay on top of things. I never really search for things on my computer; I know exactly where I filed everything. So, that I have such an unorganized friends list is bothersome to me. But I realize that most people probably don't care. Facebook is really good about letting you search for peoples' names anywhere and everywhere it's appropriate. So, you never really find yourself needing to actually look through your friends list.

I'll admit that for what kinds of features Facebook offers today, further organization capabilities are not really required. It just seems that they might be in the near future, and I hope that they have some sort of plan in mind.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beeping blasphemy

It's (past) time to change my smoke alarm batteries: it's been more than a year since I first installed them. My downstairs alarm was beeping every few seconds a couple days ago, and I've changed that battery already. Now there's just the matter of the upstairs alarm. The strange thing is, I can't figure out for the life of me how I got it up there in the first place. It's high up on the wall—maybe 12 feet—and it's certainly higher than I can reach when standing on a chair. I distinctly remember putting it up there; I was annoyed that the instructions told me to put it that high up. But I don't remember what I was standing on. I do have a folding table; it is plausible that I put a chair on the table and reached it that way. But that's the only thing that comes to mind. I don't have a ladder, and the alarms went up many weeks after I had moved in, so I wasn't even borrowing a ladder at that point.

It doesn't matter how I got that thing up there, really. All that matters is that I change the battery as soon as possible, because that one's probably just about dead too, and I don't want to wake up at like 4:30 in the morning to hideous warning beeps. I've been through that before and do not wish to repeat that blasphemous experience. Over Christmas break during college, a friend of mine living in another state awoke to an icy room and a beeping smoke alarm on the same day at roughly the same time that the same exact thing happened to me. We'd already developed a reputation for creepy* coincidence... that was the final straw.

* Creepy (adj.)—It is not intentional that so many of my recent posts have used this word.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The final wait

The exercise / diet / lifestyle management program starts in one week now. At this point I'm just tired of waiting to get started. My home is nearly devoid of food because I want to get rid of stuff I won't be eating anymore (like pasta, pop, and so forth), and I don't know exactly what my new diet will entail, so I don't want to buy new food now either. I'm in this weird limbo state where on one hand I don't want to eat super-unhealthy because that's fairly counterproductive, and on the other hand, I'm not going to be eating things that are delicious for quite some time, so I might as well do so now. The advice I've gotten from people has been wildly divergent, ranging from "you need to start eating healthy right away and stop drinking Diet Coke so you get used to it" to "eat the most unhealthy crap you can think of now because you won't have it again for six months." So, I'm wandering aimlessly, at least gastrometaphorically, waiting for my new draconian regime to kick in.

I'm successfully down to one Diet Coke a day, excepting a little indulgence when I go out to dinner with friends (which is itself an indulgence). I've got one more week of one a day before I go to zero. Moreso than anything else so far, that's been the toughest part about getting started with all of this. I've cranked up the workout frequency and adjusted my schedule and gotten used to not showering at home very often anymore without any troubles. But it's the Diet Coke that I miss.

I'm wearing a heart rate monitor when I exercise now, which tells me whether I should work out harder or slow down to achieve the optimal heart rate. It works similarly to the ones that are built into nicer fitness machines, except it's attached to me so it works when I'm doing other things like lifting weights too. (I have nicknamed it the "push-up bra" based on the fact that it straps onto my chest right below my manboobs—I mean, pecs) I can handle 30 minutes of cardio at the correct heart rate without much of a problem, but I have a feeling that whatever my trainer makes me do in a week is going to make my current workouts seem like a joke. I'm already about as sore as feels okay, so it will be interesting.

I burned 1,450 calories so far working out this weekend, or about .4 pounds. That was a lot of effort for .4 pounds. I should probably not think about that.

Attendant

One of the locker room attendants at the gym I go to, Ian, knows my name. Well, he called me Trevor, which is the most common first-name-related error I experience. I am at least 95% sure that I have never told him my name (or talked to him at all before today). That is kinda creepy.


Currently listening: Trinity Hi-Fi—Lazy Afternoon

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mister Freeman's laundry

From the outside of my house, near the exhaust vent, my clothes dryer sounds exactly like the Combine's helicopter-like craft in Half-Life 2. It is creepy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Owner's manual

While we're on the subject of Women in European History, I have one other story about that class to tell. The final project in the class, which was a very large portion of our grade, was completely open-ended. We were supposed to put together something that combined everything we'd learned in an unusual and creative way. I spent a very long time trying to come up with something clever, and it didn't come to me until like a week or two before it was due. I decided to put together an owner's manual for... a wife.

One recurring theme in the class was how at the time period we were studying, women had few rights and were basically property. So, this seemed to fit. I actually wasn't sure what her sense of humor was, so I took a huge gamble on this. If I recall, my roommate thought I was nuts; my project idea was pretty offensive. But, I couldn't think of anything better, so I went for it. I wrote page after page of instructions on how to operate a newly-acquired wife, including tips on education (don't do it!), sex, proper beating techniques, and even troubleshooting, such as instructions on how to tell if she is a witch. I didn't bother with much in the way of facts or historical references; I just made it offensive, based on stuff we had been taught throughout the semester. I was sure that given how my essay tests had been obliterated by my lack of precise dates, this project was going to be a disaster, but I still hadn't been able to think of anything better, and the deadline was looming.

Finally, the day came when we were to hand in our projects—finals day. What we weren't told is that our final was to present the project; there was no test. Crap. Not only do I have to hand my professor this terribly offensive booklet about wife ownership, but now I have to present it in front of a class of budding feminists. This is not good.

We went in order of volunteering, and eventually it got to the guys and the few girls who didn't ever volunteer; I was one of the last couple to go up. I was pretty nervous. Normally I'm not too bad when I have to speak in front of people, but this was different. My project was designed to be offensive. But I did it. I went up there, and calmly presented my horrible project.

The looks on peoples' faces were not at all encouraging. I could see rage building in a few people, shock in others, and dumbfoundedness in others. No one was smiling. No one was laughing. I was getting really scared at this point. But then I skipped to one of the highlights of my manual, and while some of the class began to look horrified, Professor Levin's face filled with delight. She liked it. She actually liked that I had the balls to get up in front of the room and present my offensive project. She adored that I found passages from the King James version of the Bible and twisted them around beyond recognition to support beating women and treating them as property. She totally got the point that I was trying to make—being over-the-top to show just how ridiculous things used to be. I ended up getting a 100% on that project that I put surprisingly little effort into, and it was the only reason I was even within striking distance of the A that I got that my test scores didn't really deserve.

Here's an example of perhaps the most awful thing to ever give me a good grade in a class:

Beating instructions – arms and legs
...To beat your WIFE’s arm or leg, curl your fingers into a fist formation, and then press your fist rapidly into the arm or leg. Again, the more force you use, the more effective the beating will be. For interesting variations, try beating your wife’s arms or legs with both hands at once, at varying angles and speeds. You can also use this technique to beat your WIFE’s face, though additional caution is recommended in this area. Continue these beating procedures until the level of correction desired has been delivered. Remember, not only can beating your WIFE allow you to fully personalize it to fit your needs, but it can also be pleasurable and relieve stress.

Update: Here's my original WIFE Owner's Manual (PDF) for download. Please note that it is organized for double-sided printing, not reading, so you'll have to jump around to read it in order.

Lousy T-shirt

As I was looking through my infrequently-opened T-shirt drawer tonight looking for a workout shirt, I stumbled across something noteworthy: a T-shirt. In college I took a class called Women in European History. I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my graduation requirements to determine that it would count for both my history requirement and my gender studies requirement, and as I was not looking forward to either one, I figured I'd get both out of the way at once. (Later I discovered that while I was sort of right in theory, Women in European History was not a broad-enough class to fulfill my general history requirement.)

As history and gender studies classes go (I assume), it was pretty good. The instructor, Professor Levin, was very smart and really knew her stuff. She was pro-girl, but not in a militant way. (She also liked to remind us all that she was not, in fact, a lesbian, despite how many people assumed she was.) She loved her half dozen male students in the class of 80 or so. There was one flamboyantly gay guy who sat in the middle of the room surrounded by girls, and all of the rest of us sat in the back row on the right, which is generally where I sit in any class. But oh man, that was a tough class. She was a hardass, and her grader was just as much of a hardass. I tried really hard to do well at her insanely difficult tests, but if I could manage a B or a C on them I was pretty happy. I hadn't done essay tests in general, and this woman required actual dates. It wasn't enough to say that something happened in March of 1682; if you didn't know it was March 5, you lost most of the credit. I did a lot better on the quizzes and other assignments, which helped. She was also a hardass on extra credit. If I recall correctly, she offered a total of two extra credit points over the length of the class—not two percentage points, but two grade points out of a total of, say, 400. One was early in the class, and we were told about it from the start, and then the second was going to be a surprise later in the class.

The first extra credit point, which I desperately wanted given how difficult the class was, was to attend at least one out-of-class lecture at a conference she was putting on one Saturday, and bring back proof that you had attended it. I did that one. She announced on a different day that the second extra credit point was to buy a T-shirt there and wear it to class on a certain day, or wear some other T-shirt that could be related to women's history, women's rights, or European history. I really needed that extra credit point too.

I didn't want to buy a T-shirt at a women's history conference. No way, man. So, I decided to make my own. I have it here in front of me—here's what I wrote:

Front: I went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Conference on Religion and Popular Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance October 11 and 13 and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!

Back: Elizabeth I: King... Queen... Everything in between. REAL MEN take Women in European History with Professor Levin!

(If I recall, she really liked her some Elizabeth I.) Anyway, on the T-shirt day, I think only I and mister supergay wore shirts. She walked around the classroom and looked at what everyone was wearing. When I stood up to show her mine, she screeched with laughter. She absolutely loved it. I thought it was pretty dumb, but she loved it. She proclaimed her love to the whole class, and gave me two extra credit points, for a total of three, more than anyone else. I sat down feeling like a total tool, but a tool with one point that he really needed. Even my roommate called me a tool.

I think I ended up getting an A in the class. My grades were not quite enough for one—maybe the B+ or A- range—but she upped it to an A. I've never sucked up so much in my life, but it sure paid off.

Psychotherapy

My new therapist's title is Licensed Mental Health Counselor, which is seemingly what you call a psychotherapist who only has a master's and not a PhD, based on what I got from the paperwork I filled out. We didn't really cover much in our first session—mostly stuff like asking about my family history and if I am an emotional eater and how stressful my job is. Apparently my next session in three weeks will be less introductory.

Thinkin' doctor

Tomorrow morning I have my first appointment with my new psychiatrist, counselor, therapist, or some other kind of thinkin' doctor for whom I don't have a very specific title. It's a requirement of my new exercise and lifestyle modification program. I've never been to a therapist of any kind before (especially not an analrapist), so this will be a fresh experience. I don't know what exactly they hope to accomplish in two or three one-hour sessions, but I promised myself (and the internet) I'd give the mumbo-jumbo a try, so try I shall.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rehab

In preparation for most likely being told by the dietitian that I shouldn't touch the stuff in less than three weeks, I've been trying to curb my Diet Coke intake for the past couple of weeks. It's been rough. I was able to get down to 5-6 from 8-10 pretty quickly, but getting down below 5 has been quite the exercise in self-control. (Quitting caffeine was really simple; I knew this would be much more epic.) I finally managed to drink only 3 today, which I think is a major accomplishment. Normally I'd celebrate such a thing with a cool, refreshing can of Diet Coke. Now I just don't know what to do. Water just doesn't do it for me.

(I occasionally drink other soft drinks; I am trying to reduce my dependence on all beverages with either sugar or artificial sweeteners.)

Honestly, though, I don't know what I'm going to drink. If the water is filtered and cold I can tolerate it, but I don't particularly enjoy drinking water. I dunno, it's boring. It's also inconvenient, since it doesn't come in chilled can form. At work they have this fairly unpleasant unsweetened sparkling water stuff that I don't really enjoy (I've heard "it tastes like farts" used to describe the flavor), but maybe I'll have to try to stomach that occasionally. I could also go for tea, but I've never been one to drink tea without an absurd amount of sweetener in it (my southern blood occasionally shows). I can't stand coffee. I'll have to figure something else out, though. I started drinking Diet Coke to rid myself of a Mountain Dew addiction. I started drinking Caffeine Free Diet Coke to rid myself of my Diet Coke addiction. My next step, I suppose, is to either trick myself into thinking that I enjoy drinking water, or get myself addicted to a lesser of a few evils.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fillup

Yesterday afternoon was the first time I've filled up a tank of gas in two or three years.

Backfire

One thing I started doing many years ago (maybe 7ish) was to give a different email address to everyone who requested one. That way, when I started getting spam, I'd know who it was from. So far, the only site to have ever sold my email address was Uproar.com. Much of my spam unfortunately seems to come from addresses harvested from peoples' infected machines; addresses that I've only used to send replies to tech support requests get tons of spam. All of my mail at my domain goes to a single account, and I filter it locally on my home computer in Outlook.

Unfortunately, this plan has backfired. Where at first it was a resounding success it is now an obnoxious failure. A couple years ago, spammers realized that since spam is free, the "shotgun" approach works just fine—they can have great success by just picking random usernames and appending them to a domain name. So, I get thousands of spam mails a day, addressed to addresses that neither I nor anyone else in the world has ever had an account at. Just as bad, I also get thousands of non-delivery reports for spam mail I never sent using more made-up account names as the From: address.

I need to come up with a solution. Probably what I'll need to do is to come up with a few account names that I really want to keep (such as anything that contains the word "travis"), and then delete everything else that comes into my mailbox. It should be feasible to get this right. Gmail has one of the coolest solutions to this problem for "normal people" that I'm aware of—you can give people addresses like myusername+mytag@gmail.com, and mail sent to that address will go to myusername's inbox, tagged with the mytag tag. That way, you can do exactly what I do currently and have essentially infinite accounts, but still not get mail addressed to random account names. The drawback is that if a lot of people start using that feature, it would be extremely easy for spammers to just strip off the "+" portion of the address, basically converting a "spam-safe" address into your real one. Another drawback to both Gmail's solution and mine is that occasionally I forget exactly what variation of my address I used at any given site. Did I give Amazon.com "travis", "travisamazon", "travisaz", or something else?

Providing a way for people to easily manage all of the different email aliases they give out to people could be a "big win" for Gmail, or anyone else who implements similar features. Spam filtering will continue to improve, but making it more convenient for people to use aliases could be a lot more effective.