Friday, February 27, 2009

Helping

A couple months ago, the email support form on my website stopped working.  I had an idea that it had happened because I largely stopped getting email questions from people, but I wasn't really motivated to fix it.  After all, when it's working, it creates more work for me.  So, I left it as it was.  I couldn't figure out how to get it working again (it seems to be related to my email account, and I've had problems with my hosted email in the past as well), so I just got rid of it and told people to email me directly.

At first I thought of it as a temporary solution, but I may stick with this as a while.  In the past, I put up the form to make it easier for people to ask me questions, but I'm at a point now where I'm not sure that I want it to be easier.  Maybe I'm just less altruistic now.  If people aren't willing to send me an email, I'm not too concerned with helping them use my free products that I make and support out of the kindness of my heart.

That said, I'm becoming less and less happy with my current website hosting company, and I'll probably still switch.  I just keep hearing so many bad things about everyone else that I don't feel like I'd necessarily even be upgrading.  And, having a form was sort of convenient, since it made things more consistent.  All of the support emails I got looked the same; now they're easier to miss and easier to hit the spam filters.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Annoying features

I really wish that my phone did not make it possible to change the ringer using only the buttons on the side.  Almost every day I manage to set my phone to silent or vibrate while it's in my pocket.

iMammogram

Today I had a breakthrough idea for an iPhone app that I think would help a lot of people.  What if we could combine the preventative power of mammograms with the power of a helpful community of people such as those who edit Wikipedia?  The idea is simple.  First, a woman downloads the app to her iPhone.  Then, upon running it, the app uses the phone's camera to take several detailed pictures of the woman's breasts.  These pictures are transmitted instantly to the central mammogram server.  Helpful men from all over the world could then sort through these photographs of potentially cancerous breasts, and using a simple interface say whether they thought that the woman should get checked by a specialist.  Basically just like Hot or Not, but... for medical science.  Sure, it wouldn't be "effective" or "accurate," but I'm sure that thousands of men would regardless be more than happy to help out a good cause by rapidly clicking through close-up pictures of breasts.

Okay, so that probably wouldn't work, but it did get me wondering how many people would be gullible enough to fall for it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stalled

My weight hasn't really changed in the past week and a half.  It's a bit disheartening.  On one hand, I've made a lot of progress and fifty pounds below where I started is a good place to stall, but on the other hand, I don't feel like I'm ready for my weight to stabilize yet.  I feel like I've come too far and endured too much to stop right now.  I'm going to have to start being particular about what I eat again.  I was getting lax and starting to return to normal eating habits, but I can tell that that isn't going to fly.  Those things that I ate that were delicious are probably things that I shouldn't have eaten—at least, not yet.  If I haven't lost weight by Monday, my last dietitian appointment, I'll start considering corrective measures, measuring out my food, and being frequently hungry again.  I guess if the past couple weeks tell me anything, it's that if I keep exercising regularly and make sort of sane choices, my weight probably won't balloon as soon as I decide to stop losing.

That said, I know I'm still making some progress, even as my numbers stay the same.  My strength is continually improving, and I can see that both in the amounts that I can lift, and experience it in the way that the weights feel when I'm working out.  I tend to be motivated by a perception of progress, and this is enough to keep me interested for now.  Toward the beginning of my little adventure, the most obvious changes were on the scales, but I couldn't really see the changes.  Now, the most obvious changes are in the mirror and in the weight room, but my weight isn't really going down very fast.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A butt dearly missed

I miss my butt.  I've lost a notable portion of it over the past several months, something that I didn't really begin to notice until several weeks ago.  Last night I watched Coraline (two hours or so), and my butt was absolutely killing me by the time it was over.  Out of all of the places on my body that could have lost fat, why'd I have to lose so much from the one place where it's fantastically useful?

Unnecessary translation

My bag of baby carrots has just about the most unnecessary translation I can remember ever seeing:

INGREDIENTS: CARROTS
INGRÉDIENTS: CAROTTES

Oh, now I get it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hands full

Usually in my first trip upstairs after getting home from work, I'm carrying so many things that it would have generally been faster to have just made two trips than try to load everything up and then put it all down in a single trip.  I've come to see it as a sort of game... how much crap can I carry up a flight of stairs without dropping it?  Tonight, it was:
  • A plate of chopped chicken sausage
  • A fork
  • A paper towel
  • A can of Caffeine Free Diet Coke
  • A shirt
  • A pair of shorts
  • Two socks
  • A pair of boxers
  • A large bottle of acetaminophen
  • A package of heel balm
  • My phone
  • A toiletries case
  • The receipt from my latest eye exam
No challenge yet.  If necessary I could have even stuffed some of those things in my pockets and carried way more.

Whiteboard

The current contents of my whiteboard are as follows. (Warning: code joke.)

DESCRIPTION OF PROBLEM:

Variable is true not due to Fate or the design of any particular Divine Hand, but merely the chaotic entropy of the universe.

FIX:

Initialize variable to false in the constructor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Initiative

Over the past month or so I've taken to resolving any and all traffic conflicts in the hallways at work by taking the initiative for myself.  If someone else and I come to a corner, I move first.  If two of us arrive at a door at the same time, I go through first.  In the past, in almost all of these situations, both of us would politely wait for the other to go, and then simultaneously try to go, and then stop again to let the other one through, then laugh a little bit at our failure to resolve something so simple, and then eventually someone takes initiative.  It's obnoxious, though, because it happens so many times a day.  So I just decided that if there's a conflict and the other person doesn't start moving immediately, I will.  It's actually worked out really well so far.  I feel like I'm wasting less time, even though the amount of time saved per day is less than a minute—certainly less than the three or four minutes it will have taken to write this post.

Confusing

I don't remember much from my dream last night, but I do remember that it included Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock and Lt. Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica.  They (the characters, as far as I could tell, not the actress and actor) were in-between filming a love scene for a movie (like all my dreams, no nudity), and Jenna Maroney was becoming frustrated with Gaeta and generally acting as self-centered as her 30 Rock character.  It was weird.  Once I realized how little sense it made, I woke up.

 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Longest faces

Like most people, I spent the V-day evening in a state of sweaty exhaustion followed by nakedness—at the gym.  And my goodness I have never seen so many sad people in one place before.  The gym is not usually a place of great happiness, but the faces there tonight were the longest faces I have seen in a long time.  I noticed two smiles the whole time I was there—first, there were two guys chatting in the hot tub next to mine, and one of them laughed a couple times.  And then second was a middle-aged woman who had just been given flowers by a middle-aged man on their way out of the club.  And that's it.  Not even the usually-eerily-cheery staff were smiling tonight.

Twenty-five things you didn't want to know about me

Think of this as the blog equivalent of a clip show—the Facebook meme that’s sweeping the nation. Here are twenty-five things you didn’t want to know about me, in no particular order.
  1. In case you really haven’t been paying attention, I lost fifty pounds over the past few months. I look a bit different now.
  2. Sometimes when I sneeze, I sneeze so hard that both of my arms hurt for several minutes. It's not a mild pain, either; it's a sharp, prickly, distracting pain.
  3. I’ve been publishing software under the alias Green Eclipse for more than half my life now—since May 10, 1994.
  4. When I had my first and only prostate exam, I was waiting all day for someone to complain about something so I could respond “yeah, well at least you didn’t have an old man’s finger in your ass,” but that happened to be the one day in my whole life in which no one complained about anything.
  5. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder tend to become depressed during the winter. I am usually the other way around; I’m fine in the winter but become depressed in the summer. I can’t take the heat, despite growing up in a climate hotter than it is here.
  6. In middle school, I resold Caramel Apple Pops that I bought in bulk at Sam’s Club for profit. I had quite a good contraband smuggling business going—it was against the school rules for a reason that I can’t quite remember.
  7. I wanted to be a lot of things when I was young, from a writer to a teacher to an “electronics expert,” whatever that means, but I figured out pretty early on that I wanted it to involve computers.
  8. I used to often have nightmares about being caught using counterfeit money that I received as change or from a bank, not realizing that it was counterfeit. I haven’t had one in years, though.
  9. I think that my main stress coping mechanism is just avoiding stress in the first place. I’m quite good at managing that. When I actually do get stressed, I’m not sure that I do such a great job at dealing with it.
  10. I’ve never shaved with a blade. I am very clumsy, and the very idea of doing so is fairly terrifying.
  11. I didn't see an R-rated movie until I was nearly old enough to do so by myself—approximately age 16. My first was either Se7en with a group of friends from church, or Schindler’s List in history class.
  12. Out of respect, I never break the Third Commandment (You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name). In my entire life I’ve only done it once or twice, always when quoting someone and not catching myself in time.
  13. I hate touching flowers. They creep me out.
  14. I’ve never used a sick day inappropriately.
  15. I think that people find me really trustworthy, and that makes me happy. A lot of my friends have told me a lot of surprisingly personal things, and I’ve done a really good job at keeping them secret.
  16. One summer, my family went on vacation without me, at my request. At one point while they were cruising around in the Intolerably Warm American Southwest, I stayed awake for about 72 hours straight, mostly playing Starcraft. I am sometimes annoyed that people don’t believe that I could have done that and not died. Given the number of people in Asian countries who have died from playing video games for too long, I don’t think I’ll try that again.
  17. I don’t actually pee my pants all the time. It’s just that people get water all over the sink, and sinks are always at exactly crotch level for people my height.
  18. I greatly enjoy the sensation of having an ice-cold can of Diet Coke pressed gently against my eyelids to cool them off.
  19. When I walk around my home, I often say or yell things out in funny or interesting voices. I’d like to say that I’m practicing for something, but I’m not.
  20. I don’t like making life changes in January because I don’t want people to think that I’m the sort of person who makes New Year’s resolutions.
  21. Within the past six months, I think that I’ve felt the best that I’ve ever felt in my life, and the worst that I’ve ever felt in my life.
  22. I resolved a year or two ago to stop lying altogether and always be honest. I’ve been really successful at it, and it’s made me happier. I thought that it would be harder than it was, to be honest.
  23. A few months after I started at Microsoft, after coming back from a meeting that did not go well, my officemate said “kill me” and sat down. I happened to have a half-inch-thick steel cable with me, so I put it around his neck and slowly tightened it. He did not seem amused.
  24. I find goals entirely demotivating. When I haven’t reached my goal, I feel like a failure because I’m falling short. When I’ve hit it, I feel like I can give up because I’m done. So, I try to set goals as infrequently as possible.
  25. A girl I met once at a restaurant for two friends’ anniversary once got my email address and sent me Firefly-themed Kaylee/Inara lesbian fan fiction to say hello.

Egoism

Hmm.  You know, I think I've always enjoyed talking about myself; I just didn't, because I don't like being the center of attention.  I don't mind being in the background, but I think I prefer to be the second or third most prominent person in a conversation—interesting enough that you remember I was there and what I said, but not taking too much time for myself.  But the internet lets me talk about myself without demanding attention.  I'm not, after all, forcing you to read this.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Delicate diplomatic situation

One of the credit card processing companies that my credit union uses had its network compromised, and as a precaution they deactivated my card and issued me a new one several days later. The short notice was annoying, the days without a credit card were annoying, but far more annoying than those was having to go through all of my online and service accounts and update my payment information, so I don't lose phone service, cable service, World of Warcraft, website hosting, scheduled Amazon deliveries, and the like. I guess it really only took me an hour to update my top 11 accounts, but I was a very irritated Travis for that hour.

Since I was already logged into my Verizon account, I figured I'd remove my text messaging package since I'm not really using it for anything right now. Sadly, it seems that they may have discontinued my current awesome $0/month, 0-minute plan (I just pay overages for my calls); to make any changes to my service I first was required to upgrade to a new plan, which would have significantly increased my monthly bill. Saving $5 to pay $20 a month more is not a good bargain, so I guess I'll keep my text messaging plan for now. I could probably call customer service and ask them to remove the texting plan, but I decided it wasn't worth the effort or the risk of them noticing that I'm on this bizarro super-cheap plan and "upgrading" me on the spot. It's a very delicate diplomatic situation, you see; I rather like my secret phone plan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The day has come (pun intended)

The day has come (pun intended): a porn star has asked to be my friend on Facebook.  Apparently she was in my graduating class in high school.  I do not recall knowing her.



Wikipedia: Melissa Harrington (aka Melissa Lincoln, Melissa Midwest)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The munchies

[This really seems like a joke that has to have been made many times before, but I haven't heard it, so here goes.]

So, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps was caught in a tabloid photo smoking pot at a college party.  I guess we all know now the real reason for his 12,000-calorie diet: the munchies.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Enhanced techniques

Between Friday and Saturday evening, I finished Heroes Volume Three in its entirety, and watched the premiere of Volume Four, so I'm completely caught up now.  (I thought that Three was definitely better and more focused than Two, but not quite on par with One, and they really need to consider permanently killing off some characters before the cast list hits fifty people, but that's beside the point.)  During one scene in the show, one of the characters refers to the practice of waterboarding.  For those who are unaware, waterboarding is a torture method that has been euphemized into an "enhanced interrogation technique" through enhanced PR spin techniques, not an exciting event on ESPN2 sponsored by Mountain Dew.  This got me thinking today: what other "scary" things can we soften in the same way?
  • Speeding—enhanced transportation techniques
  • Theft—enhanced property acquisition techniques
  • Embezzling—enhanced accounting techniques
  • Racism—enhanced demographic targeting techniques
  • Cannibalism—enhanced survival techniques
  • Rape—enhanced seduction techniques

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Biometrics again

I got the results of my latest round of measurements, this time after 17 weeks.  Versus when I started:
  • Weight: -50 pounds
  • Blood pressure: -15/-5
  • Chest: -7.5 inches
  • Waist: -10 inches
  • Hips: -5.75 inches
  • Arms: -4 inches
  • Thighs: -7.25 inches
  • Body Mass Index: -6.1 BMI
My blood pressure hasn't really changed in the past three months, but I have moved from being borderline high to within the acceptable range, which is okay with me.  The waist and hips measurements are definitely noticeable; I've moved from sometimes not needing a belt at all to needing one buckled at the last notch—I'm going to have to get a new belt soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Downsides

One downside to losing so much weight: my ass has reduced in size.  It is now less comfortable to sit in crappy chairs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Things that have never happened

In the four and a half years that I've worked here, not once has someone from the conference room next door who has borrowed a pen, marker, eraser, or other item from my office actually returned said item.

Sore arms

Today I bench pressed 125 pounds.  It was really tough, but I managed to get two sets in (12 and 8).  It made me think of a few things.
  • Doing the bench press with a regular bar and weights is way harder than trying to do the same amount of weight on a machine.  So many more of my muscles are devoted to keeping the bar in place and stabilizing.  (On the other hand, it really requires a second person, so once I'm no longer hiring a trainer I'll need to switch to slightly-safer dumbbells or the machines.)
  • 125 pounds actually looks slightly impressive.  I'm starting to be able to lift big-boy weights now.  (Comparatively, I can't do curls with much more than the bar, so even though I'm still lifting a decent amount of weight for a curl, it looks like I'm lifting roughly nothing.)
  • I'm getting to a point where the amount of weight I'm lifting can be uncomfortable on my hands.  I'll probably need to get some of those fancy weightlifter gloves.
I've definitely come a long way though.  I can certainly feel it, and I can see it in the mirror a bit.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Investment tips

It has also just occurred to me that, at a 0% rate of return, drastically overwithholding from my paychecks in 2008 was a MUCH better investment than stocks or mutual funds would have been. I probably wouldn't have actually invested that money in anything other than a certificate of deposit, as I am super-risk-averse, but suddenly overpaying the IRS every two weeks turned out to be a savvy business deal in comparison.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

That whole interest-free loan thing

Okay, I paid the government way too much in taxes last year.  (Oh well; they probably needed it anyway.)  This being the first year of owning my own home, buying a car, and actually getting to deduct charitable donations, I wasn't sure what to expect.  My expectations were incorrect.  On the plus side, I'm now expecting several thousand dollars any day now.

It occurred to me that my refund check should be roughly the same amount as what's remaining on my car loan.  Then it occurred to me that the interest rate on my car loan is basically the same as my credit card rate.  It doesn't really matter which one I pay off sooner—the difference in total interest paid would be like two dollars.  Actually, it'd probably be more convenient to just pay the minimum on my credit card, pay off the car entirely as soon as possible, and not have to make two payments each month.

Fifty down

As of this morning, I'm down fifty pounds from my starting weight.  Hooray me.  It's been a tough journey, but I'm starting to see the diet and exercise as "normal" now, and not some new thing that I hate.  It's a thing that I hate that's part of my routine, like flossing or brushing my teeth or doing laundry, and that makes it much easier to stomach.

My rate of weight loss has slowed a bit since starting, but not dramatically.  Part of that is simply because I've been more flexible with the diet, which was planned and expected.  I'm comfortable with this slower rate of weight loss for now, and it's actually been sort of nice as I haven't been quite as sore recently now that I'm only losing a pound or two a week.  But I'm not stopping now, and when the program officially ends in a little under two months, I don't really plan to stop there either.  There doesn't seem to be much of a point to stopping—if I've made it this far, to a point where I can actually see the benefits, I might as well finish the job and lose another twenty.  I think that losing another twenty pounds should certainly be achievable.  Anything much farther beyond that is starting to push it, I think; at twenty pounds lighter I won't have much left to lose.  My lean body mass was estimated at 205, so if that's correct, I probably can't even lose another 20—205 is 23 pounds less than what I'm at now, and 3 pounds of total fat would be unhealthily low.  But, as before, I don't have a goal in mind; I'm just going to do it, and see where it takes me.