Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving versus the diet plan

I actually came in under my daily calorie budget on Thanksgiving, though I should have had an evening snack of some sort and didn't—I was starving by the time I got home.  I do miss the ridiculous overeating usually associated with Thanksgiving, but I didn't do it this time, and I survived well enough.  Most of the Thanksgiving staples are actually back in my diet at this point—I can have potatoes and corn (starch) now in limited amounts, and bread in limited amounts (though it should be whole wheat).  Gravy of course isn't ideal, but hey, it's a holiday.  I don't eat stuffing or drink wine or eat pumpkin pie or put butter on things, so that all put a significant dent in my calorie intake for the day.  Somewhat surprisingly, this has been a good week for my weight loss—I'm down about four pounds for the week, bringing my total weight loss so far to 35 pounds.

I don't really have an idea of how much weight I have to lose in the first place.  It doesn't really matter to me.  As I've said, I don't want to set a goal—I just want to stick to this and see how well I can do.  If I can end the year's festivities and trip home to Nebraska and still be down 40 pounds, I think I'll still be doing really well—I'll have lost nearly 15% of my body weight in a few months.

Thanksgiving with the other parents

[I apologize in advance: I had written a lengthy, detailed post, and was just cleaning things up before posting when Internet Explorer crashed, and Blogger's autosave functionality apparently does nothing whatsoever.  Things I write are rarely as heartfelt the second time I write them.  Plus, this time around I'm much more anxious to get back to questing in Northrend instead of writing...]

This year, I spent Thanksgiving with Jason's family.  I had a really good time, and it was far less awkward than I was expecting.  I didn't really have any idea what to expect, actually.  He's Taiwanese, so I wasn't even sure if the food was going to be standard fare or something more unusual.  (It was turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, for the curious.)  I resolved to just figure things out as I went along, instead of trying to plan things out like I always do.

In attendance besides Jason and myself were just his parents and older brother.  Moments after I arrived, his dad started drilling me.  This I did expect, if for no other reason than the TV and movie stereotype of the protective father.  He asked me questions in a rapid-fire fashion for a good hour or so, and I got so used to it that I didn't even get around to asking questions myself: I don't know much more about Jason's family after spending a holiday with them than what I absorbed passively.  One of the first questions he asked was one of the most offsetting, and that was where Jason and I met.  Regardless of whether or not it makes sense, telling someone's father that I met him on the internet makes me feel a little sleazier than I'd like, regardless of my noblest of intentions.  But, there was no time to dwell on any one question since he had what seemed like a lengthy prepared list of things to ask me.  I've been told that that's how he gets to know everyone, but it fit my expectations regardless.  He was a little surprised when he found out how much older I am than his son, but it didn't seem to bother him.

By the end of the evening, Jason's family seemed pretty comfortable around me.  (His brother: "I know we just met, but don't mind me while I take off my clothes in the same room as you.")  Actually, the most offsetting question of the day came from his mother.  After the meal, she asked me if I was going to be sleeping there.  I wasn't prepared for that.  I wouldn't expect to sleep with someone at their parents' home ever, or at least not until after I've known everyone for several years, let alone on the day I'm first meeting those parents.  But maybe that's just my ultraconservative family speaking.  In the evening, they left to go visit a friend, leaving Jason and me there alone.  What did they think we'd be doing in that time?  Do they know their son well enough to know that it would be World of Warcraft?

Were it not for how at-ease I am when I'm around Jason, I'd have been paralyzed trying to analyze and obsess over everything in such a complicated social situation.  I wasn't really sure how much affection it would be appropriate to display: too little and I look like a jerk, too much and I look overly possessive.  In the end, what seemed natural was an inch past the fine line between friend and boyfriend: basically, occasionally having my arm around him.  I guess I'm classy like that.  But anyway, I guess it was all a success.  I'm glad that I got to meet the family.  Someday he'll have to meet mine—it's just more of a challenge since mine are two $500-700 tickets away instead of a trip down the freeway.


Currently listening: Coldplay—The Scientist

Powershowers

I did karate for a little under six years in the elementary school timeframe. I hated it, but it was either that or sports, and I didn't really want to play a sport either, and at least in karate I got to occasionally punch and kick people, so that was a plus. I did play soccer instead of karate for one summer (or maybe it was right after karate?), but I hated that even more. They put me on defense because I couldn't sustain running speed long enough to be on offense more than occasionally. I was decent at that post, but it was really boring standing there, waiting for the ball to come to me. It wasn't until right before puberty that I turned into the broad-shouldered hulking behemoth that I am today, and I didn't have any prior soccer experience, so I never got to be goalie, which I always thought would have been more interesting.

Anyway, yes, karate. Things varied over time, but if I recall correctly, usually there were three or so instructors: the main guy (the guy we were supposed to call "sensei" but nobody did—his name was Rick I think), my dad, and one other person, usually a woman. Nobody wants to take a class with their parents teaching—you'd better believe that they're watching you to make sure you don't slack off or screw up. And, call me sexist, but I always felt kind of weird being told to try to kick a woman, even if she wasn't really the delicate-flower type. Each session was about half aerobic workout, and then half practicing techniques, which was itself usually an aerobic workout. Progressing to the next rank (belt) was basically all just memorization—we'd have to memorize one or a few katas, and then perform them properly. As long as we executed each punch or kick or maneuver correctly, which wasn't too difficult, it was all a matter of remembering what order to do them in, which I found exceedingly difficult, given my long-standing poor memory. But, I'd practice really hard (not that I had a choice), and I had one of the instructors living with me, so I'd basically know ahead of time once I'd learned things sufficiently well enough to take the test to advance, so at least I didn't have to keep retaking the tests.

After each class, we'd all be in desperate need of a shower, so we'd head down to the YMCA showers. Of course, the other kids didn't have parents as instructors, and they were just picked up. So, it was usually just me, my dad, and the "sensei." Those post-workout showers were a sort of male bonding experience, as weird as that is. After taking orders from those two in a fairly military fashion for ninety minutes or so just moments before, things changed, and now we were just guys cleaning off after a workout, challenging each other to turn the water temperature higher and higher until we could barely stand it. Later, we figured that we could remove the heads from the showers to make the water pressure particularly intense, and we started calling them powershowers. I could stand the high-pressure, super-hot powershowers just like the adults, even though I'd come out bright red like a lobster, and that was kind of a nice "I'm a big boy" feeling.


Currently listening: Snow Patrol—Set Down Your Glass

Monday, November 24, 2008

Test music

It seems likely that a lot of people who enjoy listening to music probably have a favorite song that they use as their first test track when presented with a new set of speakers, headphones, or other piece of equipment.  Mine is Good Luck by Basement Jaxx.  It's a fast, crazy song with a lot of bass and a lot of high notes, and strong vocals—it covers a lot of bases and makes a good test track.  I remember purchasing the album at Best Buy, opening the CD on the way home, and being consumed with joy just a few seconds after pressing play.  I've enjoyed using it as my quintessential test ever since.

Anyone else have a favorite test song?


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fudging the numbers

I've decided that the most reasonable way to track progress against one's weight during a weight loss program like this is to focus on the low numbers, and to measure yourself frequently.  I try to weigh myself at least four or five times a week, in the morning right after I wake up, before I've had anything to eat or much to drink or get dressed, and then I only really pay much attention to the number if it's equal to or less than the previous number.  As soon as I start my morning workout, the numbers become meaningless.  I'm wearing clothes of an unknown weight soaked with an unknown amount of sweat, and I've probably consumed a ton of water at that point (or maybe not, depending on how thirsty I was).  No scientist is going to put much stock in those numbers, at least compared to the somewhat more controlled numbers that you can get by weighing yourself each morning.  Those numbers still vary quite a bit, but they certainly seem more meaningful.

The reason I only focus on the low numbers is that I've come to admit that the high numbers aren't because I'm magically beginning to gain weight following this low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb, low-sugar diet and exercising like a crazy person—they're because I'm a complicated machine and digest and, um, excrete food at rates that are somewhat random.  Now, once I start to return to a more normal lifestyle, or even around the time that I'm in Nebraska for Christmas and I'll probably regain a few pounds, I'll have to start paying attention to the numbers when they go up, but I still think that the most consistent and useful weights to pay attention to are the low ones, because those are the ones when you aren't full of water and... other stuff.

A couple weeks in, when I started to see the numbers occasionally go up instead of the free-fall I was in when I started, I had to argue with myself a bit to come to the conclusion that only reporting the lows on my "bathroom scale" on this blog was reasonable, and not just fudging the numbers to make myself look better.

This advice that I've settled upon for myself is actually in direct contrast to the advice I've gotten from multiple alumni of the same weight loss program, oddly enough.  Universally, I was told not to weigh myself at home, and to only weigh myself once a week, with my dietitian.  The reasoning for the conclusion was the same as the reasoning for mine—because weights vary wildly from day to day.  I can see the wisdom in that—you don't focus on the small day-to-day variations because there are none, and you're likely to be at a similar body composition every Monday at 11:30 am—but I like my way a lot better.

I've noticed patterns, too: my weight is highest in the middle of the work week, and the lowest on Saturday and Sunday.  I'm not sure that I really have an explanation for that yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Conflux

It occurred to me yesterday that all of the following things will happen within a span of a few hours, a few weeks from now:
  • The end of my last workday for 2008 (hooray accrued vacation time)
  • A formal Christmas dinner date thingy at the Space Needle
  • The conclusion of the core "phase one" of my exercise program (the next phase is 12 weeks of "maintenance")
It's gonna be a big day, I guess.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hot water

The water available to me at work comes in three temperatures: sort of cold, lukewarm, and molten lava hot.  I've been drinking tea a couple times a day recently, so I've been using the molten lava hot water to brew.  The unfotunate side effect is that the water comes out so hot that I nearly burn my hands through the cup and the cardboard safety sleeve, so the tea sits on my desk for a period of time.  This is annoying for two reasons: first, that I went to go get something to drink because I was thirsty, and now I have to wait to drink it if I want to be able to taste things for the next week, and second, that by the time the water has cooled down to a drinkable point, I've stopped checking it frequently enough, and now it's lukewarm.  Tea is delicious mildly hot, and ice cold.  In-between is rather sad.  I like that there are about a dozen different types of tea I can choose from at work, but I don't really like that it always ends up poorly for those reasons.  I think I'll go back to water and Diet Coke.  (I've recently been trying to phase in a little more Diet Coke than one a day, and it seems to not be affecting me.  It's nice, because plain water is driving me mad.)

I lied

CORRECTION

In my recent post that touched on "emotional eating," I noticed that I said that I don't eat in front of the computer.  That is absolutely false, and I wasn't thinking when I said it.  A lot of my meals are in front of the computer.  What I meant is that I don't idly snack and consume in front of the computer.  Generally, I will take my dinner to the computer, eat it while browsing Facebook or getting ready to start playing a game, or something like that.  But those are full, intentional meals: it was food I would have eaten anyway.  That's the key difference.

My other option would be to watch it in front of the TV, which sounds approximately as "bad" and less appealing, or eating it at the empty kitchen table, which always seems like it would make me feel lonely.  I don't actually like sitting at the kitchen table by myself unless there's a lot of stuff on the table (like, for example, pieces of a new board game I've just purchased and am trying to learn).  A kitchen table should be covered in things and surrounded by people.  When it's just me and a small bowl or plate, I think that would make me kind of sad.

Ads

I just realized something: when you start up Steam, you're shown a couple pages of ads.  Occasionally there are news updates in there.  But it just recently occurred to me that these are ads.  I just somehow never saw them as ads, even though they're promotional materials to get me to try to buy new games.  Somehow, Valve has managed to present them in such a way that they feel like a sort of status update that I want to see upon logging in, rather than ads.  Not only is the rest of the service and software ad-free (unless you count the highlighted games in the online store ads, which I don't really), but what ads there are don't annoy me, which is exceedingly uncommon.  I'm generally even willing to pay a site a small sum of money on an annual basis to not have to see ads.

This makes me wonder how this happened.  What is it about these ads that is so special?  You only see each ad once, and if there are multiple ones, you only see the first one at all unless you voluntarily click Next to get to the next ad.  Once you're done, you'll never see those ads again.  Also, interspersed with the ads are what are essentially short blog posts explaining what's new with Steam, what games are coming out soon, what's on sale, and so forth.  Can this apparently very non-intrusive (at least to me) sort of ad work in other areas?  I hate ads, but I do also enjoy getting free stuff.  If I could see more ads like these and get more free stuff, bonus.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Propaganda

So for my last fifteen minutes of cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they have me watch these educational videos that cover a variety of topics including nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle.  They started with the first two, and now they're on to the latter, and they suck a lot more than the ones grounded in, you know, medical science.  Nowadays, the videos are all about coping and dealing with emotional problems, and I don't feel that I'm getting any value from them at all.  I'm sure that a majority of the people in their program do experience the sorts of emotional problems that the videos describe and assume that I'm also experiencing, but I'm pretty stable, and it's just obnoxious to listen to someone describe strategies for dealing with problems you don't have.

A huge topic of the videos has been dealing with what they call "emotional eating," where being overwhelmed with stress or depression triggers people to eat.  I don't really feel that I do this... ever, really.  I eat for two reasons: because I'm hungry, or because something appears extremely delicious (e.g. dessert, candy, snacks).  I don't eat because I'm bored, or because my boss made me do extra work, or because I'm feeling down, or because I need validation that I'm special or good enough or smart.  In fact, in contrast with that seems to be the stereotype, I tend to avoid eating when I'm in front of the computer because it's inconvenient—whether I'm typing at work or playing a game at home, it's more difficult to be eating, because I need both of my hands.

I've spent quite a bit of effort over the past many, many years to be in control of myself and my emotions.  (This has nothing to do with being a Star Trek fan or thinking that Zachary Quinto is going to make an awesome Spock, I assure you.)  I'm certain that this has helped me.  It doesn't give me the discipline to avoid eating things that I know in my heart to be delicious but unhealthy—I still have to work very, very hard to succeed at that—but it has given me a very calm, stable demeanor.  It's possible that I may have suffered from emotional eating in the past, but if I did, I think that those days are long gone.

I'm required to periodically see a therapist while on the program, and I get the picture that she's used to clients just unloading all of these various emotional issues that cause them to lose self-control.  When I'm talking with her, we really don't have much to talk about.  I can tell that she's on plan B or plan C and her "backup topics" to fill out the session.  The first time we met, we mostly just went over my responses to the initial survey that all program participants fill out. The second time, we talked about my brother and Facebook. The third time was all about Jason (we had just started dating), and this most recent session was about Thanksgiving, and life with a boyfriend. I think that I must annoy her a little bit because none of her usual questions yield much of a response from me. She has to switch to these mostly-irrelevant topics to get me to say anything at all.

But, I don't mind the sessions. I think that they're pointless, but I don't have the option of not paying for them, and I'm required by my insurance plan to attend (unless I want to shell out another $6,000), so whatever. I'm supposed to be going to a group therapy session each week in addition to the individual sessions, but they'd been trying for months now to find a time that fits my schedule and still haven't, so they gave up and now I'm just going to see the therapist a few extra times and skip out on twenty-four hour-long group therapy sessions. That seemed like a very, very good deal from my perspective.

The big three-oh

Today was another milestone: I've now dropped thirty pounds since starting my little adventure.  The pounds are coming off more slowly now, and while the diet is a bit more lax, the workouts are getting tougher.  I'm able to sustain much more strenuous workout sessions than when I started, and the parts of my body that hurt after a workout have changed quite a bit.  When I started, doing 25-30 minutes of cardio would leave my entire body sore, and me a little short of breath (though not really that bad).  This past Saturday, I did 50 minutes on the treadmill, which is way harder than the elliptical machine that I usually focus on, and I was still quite tired at the end, but mostly only sore in my knees and the rest of my legs.  I'm still nowhere near that B.S. nonsense that people give where workouts "energize" them or make them "feel better," though, and I don't expect to ever get there.  My physician says that about one in ten or twenty of his clients say that they never get to a point where working out releases endorphins and makes them feel good, and if I haven't felt that by now, I must be one of those very unlucky few.  I guess that's why I took a desk job.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flu shot

I got my first flu shot today.  I always mean to, and then miss the deadline.  (Why are they being given out in the middle of November anyway?  They take a week or two to take effect.  Shouldn't you give them out in October?)  I figured that it was extra important to get one this year since I'm spending a lot of time at the gym, which seems like an absolute paradise for infectious germs.  A couple times over the past four and a half years I've missed work due to the flu, and while I'm all for missing work, I'd rather miss work for a good reason and not being too sick to move.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Big shot important guy

Next year I'm going to have a reserved parking spot, all for me.  It will be right next to the door, and it will have a special sign, and I will have a special parking tag.  People who aren't me who try and park there will be towed.  It's gonna be neat.  I don't even think that the VP who works in my building has one.

Of course, I can't give away my secret and tell you how I got such a thing.  Maybe if you ask me nicely.  (Or, it will probably be fairly obvious to someone who reads the special parking tag once I have it next year.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Perfect Symmetry

The short version:
New Radicals—Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too: 5/10
Morgan Page—Elevate: 7/10
Enigma—Seven Lives Many Faces: 6/10
Keane—Perfect Symmetry: 7/10

I haven't been burning through as much music recently as I was for some time there, but I've finished passing judgement on four more albums since last time. The first was the only New Radicals CD, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. If you don't recall the name, it's because the CD is from a decade ago, and they only had one hit single: the awesomely catchy You Get What You Give (video). The rest of the CD is interesting... it's very upbeat pop-rock with an emphasis on piano. My main complaint is that the lead singer gets pretty whiny in several of the songs, and it makes me sometimes not want to make my way through the whole CD at once. The music itself doesn't sound very much alike at all, but the voice reminds me a lot of The Mars Volta—the vocals for both bands are similarly turn-offish. Besides the aforementioned hit, Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough and Flowers are probably my other two favorites. I'd give the album a cautious recommendation—it's good but not stellar, but if you don't find the singer's voice as obnoxious as I often do, you may just like it. Check out the linked tracks.

I also picked up Elevate by Morgan Page, after seeing he was touring with Delerium after missing that concert. It's a great workout CD—it's peppy, and there are enough changes in tempo that if you are the sort of person who speeds up or slows down to match the song you're listening to, it's practically interval training. I was listening to it almost every morning for a couple weeks. About half of the CD is original music, and a little more than half is remixes of other songs; some of the remixes are great and interesting, and others like the remix of Nelly Furtado's Maneater are pretty uninspired. I absolutely love the re-imagining of Fuck Was I by Jenny Owen Youngs and the original track The Longest Road featuring Lissie. I also really enjoy the remix of Sleepwalking Through the Mekong by Dengue Fever. I'd recommend checking the album out if you like pop-oriented electronica.

The new Enigma CD is in, Seven Lives Many Faces. It's pretty similar in style to his previous couple albums. The title track Seven Lives (video) is stunning, and one of my favorite Enigma songs to date. Most of the disc, though, is fairly forgettable though certainly decent. I really like Superficial (only present on 2-disc versions) as well, and The Same Parents isn't bad either, though the lyrics are sort of naive and annoying. Anyway, you'll like this exactly as much as you liked all of the previous Enigma new-age-electronica albums.


Finally, I was really excited about the new third Keane CD, Perfect Symmetry. The style is very odd: it's much more similar to their first album than the second (I strongly preferred the second), and has a sort of 80s vibe to it. I really like the first single, Spiralling (awful video), though it took several listens before I really warmed up to the dramatic change in style. The second single will probably be Perfect Symmetry, which also took several times before I really learned to love. Playing Along is really good too. Initially, I think I'd have given this album a 5/10; now after giving it plenty of time, I think it's more of a 7/10. There's something to say about a CD that gives you an immediately positive impression, but this one seems to reward repeated listens and analysis, and that's okay too. Still, their previous CD was extremely solid and polished, and more my style, so even though they're trying something interesting and new (all three of their albums sound quite different), it's a bit disappointing.

I'm currently listening to, among other things, the new Snow Patrol CD, A Hundred Million Suns. Like Keane's latest, my impressions of it have risen over time, but in the case of this one, I think I'm going to like it a whole lot more. There are some really awesome songs on here. But more on that later once I've given it a proper chance.


Currently listening: Snow Patrol—The Lightning Strike (specifically, the first movement, What If This Storm Ends?)

Biometrics

I thought I'd share the changes in my measurements so far. These are actually two weeks old, at the five-week point in my program, so I'm probably even doing a little better at this point.

  • Weight: -18 pounds*
  • Blood pressure: -16/-7
  • Chest: -4.5 inches
  • Waist: -5.5 inches
  • Hips: -2.75 inches
  • Arms: -1.5 inches (they actually have a shape now)
  • Thighs: -6.75 inches
  • Body Mass Index: -2.2 BMI
* As of writing, I've lost 28 pounds, so these numbers are probably pretty conservative now.

The main negative effect is that I seem to often have a sore stomach. I don't actually know what's causing it. I often felt kind of bad when I tried multivitamins in the past, and I'm taking one now. In the past, multivitamins just made me feel nauseous; this isn't nausea. Either it's just another part of me that's sore from the various core and ab exercises that I've been doing (I have a six-pack; it's just hidden), or perhaps simply burning all of this fat and constantly changing my size is making me feel physically uncomfortable. Or maybe my stomach is just readjusting. Either way, it's not so bad... just another irritation.

Sadness equation

Unrelated to my previous post, I have decided that being on vacation plus regularly scheduled morning workouts equals great sadness.  I'm on vacation, so it's hard to justify going to bed by midnight or one, but if I don't, the next morning's workout is going to suck even more.

The Battle for Mount Hyjal

Yesterday I got to do the Caverns of Time: The Battle for Mount Hyjal event in World of Warcraft.  This was a particular treat because it requires 25 well-trained and well-equipped players, and my schedule makes participating in such high-end play normally impossible.  Luckily, I am on vacation this week, and I hitched a ride.  The event is particularly interesting because you recreate the final mission in Warcraft III: the assault of Archimonde and the Scourge on the World Tree, except instead of commanding your forces to hold him back, you are the forces holding him back.  There is definite sentimental value for anyone who played Warcraft III.

See the rest of the pictures
See all of the pictures I took.

You start off in the Alliance base, with overwhelming Scourge forces waiting at the door.  There is Jaina Proudmoore, leader of the humans, and her band of survivors.  The forces come in increasingly powerful waves, just as in the Warcraft III mission.  After several waves, a boss (enemy hero) appears, who the group defeats.  Then, another series of waves, and a second boss.  After that, the Scourge onslaught becomes overwhelming, and Jaina commands you to fall back to the Horde base up the hill while she and the remaining humans buy you time.

Once in the Horde base, you see Thrall and his forces, ready for battle.  After giving you a moment to rest, the Scourge forces eventually break through and slaughter the humans, reaching the Horde base.  There, you fight alongside the orcs and trolls to hold back the Scourge long enough for two more bosses to show up, and after they are defeated, Archimonde's forces are once again too strong, and Thrall makes his last stand while you retreat to Nordrassil and the Night Elf base surrounding the World Tree.

There you meet up with Tyrande Whisperwind, who gives you a magic item you need for the fight against Archimonde, who has already arrived and has begun to drain the power of the Tree.  There your band of 25 adventurers stands off against him, and as you defeat him, the sky turns red, and Archimonde is overwhelmed by wisp spirits that ultimately destroy him.  And then, instead of seeing an endgame cinematic, you are instead treated to a pile of valuable treasure (and an achievement worth 10 points), and once you leave the Caverns of Time, all is back to normal in the world.

I was unfortunately too busy during the fights to think of taking pictures of those, but I did take some other pictures of the event that look pretty cool.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Uh, what

After my trainer sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they have me watch these fairly awful videos for my last fifteen minutes of cardio.  Today's was about avoiding stress.  Their advice was mostly sound—don't worry so much about things that aren't really the end of the world if they don't get done on time or perfectly or whatever.  But the way they said it was a little... off.
"Cars, money, jobs, relationships... these can all be replaced.  You can get new ones.  But not your health and well-being."
Er, what?  Yes, I suppose that one can theoretically abandon all of their friends and loved ones and start over from scratch.  I'm not thinkin' that's great advice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Date

In a time with ubiquitous communications and online chat and games, the word "date" has little meaning and significance to me. The first time that Jason and I went out on a date, it was clearly a date. We met in a restaurant to talk and evaluate the possibility of a romantic connection. Pretty quintessential. By the time we went on our third date, we'd been talking quite a lot for two weeks, and had gotten to know each other pretty well. By the end of it, we decided that we should be calling each other our boyfriend, updated Facebook, and so on. Even by then, the word "date" was beginning to get fuzzy for me. Was the third date a date because we saw each other in person? What about the dozen IM conversations before that, or the text messages, or the questing in World of Warcraft? What were those? How are those things so different from a "date" beyond the ability to see and touch the other person? (In World of Warcraft I can even have my character hug or kiss or cuddle with his. Sure, it's contrived, but I suppose it helps to fill one of the voids in instant messaging.)

Maybe they're not so different, and maybe that doesn't matter at all. What matters, of course, is developing an emotional and romantic connection with the other person. What form that facilitating communication takes is relevant, but not extremely so. Of course, the face-to-face and hand-to-hand physical contact from being in close proximity of your loved one is preferable—body language allows for alternate ways of silently expressing affection, and after experiencing what it's like to live across a lake from my significant other, I have great empathy for those who live in separate states or even countries.

Perhaps there's nothing wrong with the word "date," but rather just that "dates" are no longer as much of the way that people get to know each other. This isn't a new phenomenon with instant messaging; IM simply replaces the telephone for us. How long has it been since dates were actually the primary interactions between two people? Online gaming is a little more of a step in a new direction, but I suppose it's not much different than just role-playing over the phone (like "I'm holding your hand now"... "I'm looking in your eyes", which I think would actually be mildly creepy). As much as it shames me to say it, I think that the realization that I've come to is that my expectations and frame of mind were mostly just created by relationships in TV and movies. Dating there exists in this bizarre, disconnected world that intersects strangely with real life. In that world, two people go on a date, sleep together that night, and then their next interaction is their next date, either at a restaurant or a movie. Rarely is there anything in-between, other than perhaps the girl desperately waiting for the guy to call her.

But I always knew (or at least hoped) that my relationships wouldn't work like that—I'd have so much trouble accepting that. So why did I apparently subconsciously expect it? Curse you, mainstream media. In reality, things with my boyfriend are about as close to ideal as I could have hoped for. Though we may only go on a "date" once or twice a week, I think only one day has gone by in which we haven't had a conversation. These interactions, which rightfully could have been some of the most difficult and stressful of my life for an introvert, have been refreshingly easy. I am always nervous and confused in unfamiliar social territory, yet I'm completely calm and content when Jason and I are talking. It's pleasant and unusual.

I'd always assumed that my boyfriend and I would communicate on our own terms, and always hoped that we'd play games together. (This is good; I'd be terrible at following "the rules" anyway. I've only even called him a few times, and those were mostly just to tell him that traffic was terrible and I was going to be late.) How many "dates" we've been on is not relevant, and thus the definition of the word "date" isn't even relevant except as a convenient label in conversation. We can communicate any time of any day, and I think that as long as we stay in contact, see each other in person when we can manage it and talk through technology when we can't, and continue to develop a meaningful relationship, none of the things I've been musing about for the past couple of weeks matters at all. And that feels nice.


Currently listening: Snow Patrol—Take Back the City

Vacation

I'm taking a week off of work, and so far it's been pleasant and relaxing. I haven't done much of anything productive. I finished up my "weekend stuff" like laundry and vacuuming and grocery-buying yesterday, and today I'm free to knock things off my to-do list, or just do nothing productive at all. I realized that out of my 17 vacation days for the year (three weeks vacation plus two floating holidays), I'd used one before yesterday. I was going to take a vacation this summer, but then I realized that I hate the summer weather, and that's exactly the time of year that I'd rather be at work, indoors, under glorious artificial light and air conditioning. But now it's cold, a perfect time to take a week off and stay at home. I just need to remember that my thermostat is set to not warm the house while I'm generally at work, or otherwise it's suddenly noon and I remember this fact when my nipples are about to puncture my shirt. And, after this week is done, I'll work for one more month and then take three weeks off in December.

I may not be working, but I still have to work out five times this week, which is kind of a downer, but at least I get to do it whenever I want today, so I got to sleep in a little. I've dropped about 25 pounds now, and I'm a quarter finished with my 24-week program. This week, bread was returned to my diet, albeit in a limited form. I can have only whole wheat bread, and up to one piece a day. I did, however, find some fantastic whole wheat naan at a local niche grocery store (that doesn't deliver to my door—lame). I can't exactly slather it in butter like how naan should be, but it's still quite good dry. I'm having it with some fairly unspectacular homemade chicken curry. Bread is among my favoritest foods ever, and it feels really good to have it back.

I've still been really good about not cheating on the diet, having made no more significant transgressions than a single Reese's peanut butter cup, which was a delicious and deliberate error on Halloween. I've been experimenting with bending the rules a little bit and having a little more artificial sweetener than recommended. My hatred for drinking plain water continues to crystallize, so I've been trying to incorporate tea. The sweetener doesn't add any calories, and it's hesitantly accepted by the diet portion of the program, but there is evidence that artificial sweetener will cause many of the same reactions as sugar, including additional insulin production, which can be an inhibitor to weight loss, so they recommend avoiding it when possible (though it's certainly preferable to using sugar). Having a few artificially sweetened drinks a day instead of one or none hasn't seemed to be problematic yet, but I'm trying to be watchful.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

TV networks

If I ever launch my own cable TV network someday, I think it will be this (click to enlarge):



(Unaltered image from here)