Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tootsie Rolls are the devil

A week and a half ago, Jason and I had a party over at our place.  Whilst buying snacks for said party, I picked up a bag of Tootsie Rolls and a bag of Starburst.  They were placed in a bowl less centrally located than other snacks, and as a result there was quite a bit left over.

This is a problem.  Tootsie Rolls are the devil.

Only having one Tootsie Roll or Starburst or other small candy is restraint.  After all, my desire is to eat a ton of them, so only having one or two is self-control.  It takes no effort to pick one up and eat one since I can do it on the way to someplace else, and it gives me a small burst of happiness.  Unfortunately, it ends up being an issue of exercising restraint a dozen times a day.  Few places in my house are so remote that I will not pass by them endlessly, when getting drinks, dinner, going to the bathroom, or whatever else.  When you pass by an object of confectionery desire a dozen times in a day, having one or two small candies becomes significant—effectively by the end of the day you've eaten a candy bar.

To pick a fairly round number, 250 additional calories a day is noticeable.  That would be a pound of fat gained every other week!  We're bombarded effectively constantly by delicious things in easy reach, and doing a really good job of barely eating any of them is still not a good plan.  It's not enough to simply exercise restraint, in the same way that putting a 90% effort into losing weight simply isn't effective.  Those sorts of occasional treats may be acceptable if you're just trying to stay at your same weight, but losing weight is really, really hard, and it makes little sense to put in 90% of the effort and get 10% of the results.  I'm annoyed that I've been doing this for almost two years, lost more than 70 pounds, and I still have to keep reminding myself of these things.

(Luckily, the Tootsie Rolls are gone; there weren't that many.  Some evil Starburst are still left.)

To lose weight in a reasonable amount of time, I need to be hardcore about it, and not be "mostly hardcore," which is how I respond these days when people ask how serious I am about losing weight.  If I'm to lose more weight, I'm going to have to do what I did when I was really shedding the pounds—eat horrible, healthy food, and make no exceptions or excuses.  I'm going on vacation in a few weeks, and when I return, I think it's time to go back to eating leaves and berries and chicken breasts.  It'd almost be a good thing if I gained a couple of pounds on vacation—it would be a much bigger motivation to get serious than this general sense of wishing I were losing weight more quickly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You know the people

I have a hard time understanding those people who always refer to cats or dogs as a "he" or a "she" regardless of the animal's gender.  You know the people I'm talking about.  You correct them every time for a while, but they never learn, and eventually you just sigh and give up.

Grace: And this is our new puppy.  He's a dalmatian.
Everett: What's her name?
Grace: Well, actually, he's a boy.  His name is Rex.
Everett: When did you get her?
Grace: (sigh) ...

I've assumed that these people do it because they had a childhood cat or dog and it was a girl so now they call all cats and dogs "she."  I don't know if there's any truth in that; I guess I should just ask them next time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Expressive

Jason and I tend to talk about characteristics that we find attractive in people rather often.  One thing that I've been pondering recently is that one of the most important characteristics to me is a person's expressiveness—how effective they are at communicating their emotions simply by moving their eyes and cheeks and lips.  I simply tend to enjoy the company of people who have expressive faces much more than others.  This isn't quite the same as how cheery someone is; a person can be annoyed or exhibit dry, deadpan wit (another quality I admire greatly) and still have an expressive face: for example, I find Michael Bluth from Arrested Development (Jason Bateman) to be extremely likeable in that even when he's frustrated and annoyed (which is most of the show), his face is very communicative.


There's a point where one can be too flamboyantly expressive, and I find that to be extremely unpleasant.  I think that it's primarily because at a certain point the expressions lose their authenticity.  It's likely similar to the uncanny valley phenomenon, where people respond well to increasingly lifelike depictions of things, but at a certain point of near-life (prosthetic hands, corpses, not-quite-realistic 3D simulations of humans), people are repulsed.  Similarly, at some point, it becomes evident that the emotions being expressed are not genuine.  It is painfully difficult for me to imagine that someone as ridiculously bubbly as Richard Simmons is not just trying to put on a show.  At some level, perhaps it feels like dishonesty, and it causes me to avoid that person.

Perhaps it's a desirable characteristic to me because it's something I aspire to.  I feel like I'm rather unskilled at picking up on apparently-obvious emotional and social cues, and I try to be better about providing those cues myself, though I don't think I always do a good job at it.  People used to tell me that they thought I was depressed all the time because I usually have a blank look on my face.  This always annoyed me, because I'm a very happy person and have a very positive outlook on live, even though I tend to be pessimistic or at least realistic in my expectations of things, which is a conflict that confuses people and is a topic for another day. I don't get that much anymore, so maybe I've gotten better.

So a way that you can become more likable and attractive to me is to make faces.  Make your face look silly if you're feeling silly, or sad if you're looking sad.  People with constantly changing faces intrigue me, but you don't have to look like a cartoon.  In most of my favorite portrait photos that I've taken of people, the subject is not visibly happy or sad, but still has an interesting, intriguing look on their face.

I don't mean "attractiveness" simply in the sexual sense, though certainly if you're already my type, your facial expressions can really make a difference in how I perceive you.  Facial expressions can amplify all sorts of positive aspects—cuteness, wit, and good ol'-fashioned sexiness.  They can make intelligent people seem smarter.  They make me want to talk to you and learn more about what you're thinking.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Battery life

I guess that you can say a product has good battery life if it lasts for more than three years of continuous use and you didn't even realize that it took batteries in the first place.

(My thermostat)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mildly delicious

Weight loss progress has been really slow for me lately. I'm still losing weight, but not very quickly. It's just so hard to lose weight when you're only giving it 90%. I think that I need to go back to putting all my effort into it, and that'll probably be easier now that Jason is off school for the summer. He and I have been trying to eat more healthy, and I think that him being home more frequently will eliminate some of the excuses that I've been making when I've cheated and eaten something mildly delicious, which is of course a no-no.

I'm at 205 pounds now, which is 73 down from the original "starting weight" I was using to track my weight loss initially. In six more pounds I'll finally hit the top end of "normal" BMI, and I'll officially no longer be overweight. There's definitely still more that I should lose at that point, but it would be a great milestone to pass.

Friends of friends

One of the things about Facebook that intrigues me is how you can see certain activity of friends of your own friends. (In my case, this is extended somewhat by the fact that I often see Jason on Facebook, which causes me to see things that I normally wouldn't see on my own account, but it's a similar situation.) The result of it is that I begin to recognize names and pictures of people that I've never met before. Last night I was at one of Jason's fraternity's parties, and I met someone who I wasn't certain if I'd ever met before. I'd seen him on Facebook, so I knew his name and what he looked like and other small tidbits, but I didn't know for sure if I'd ever seen him in person. (I had a feeling that I hadn't, and that turned out to be correct. Turns out he's a cool guy. I guess it wouldn't have made a good post if he sucked.)

Certainly there have been many times in my life where I wasn't sure if I was meeting someone for the first time or not, but in many of those cases I'm usually wondering whether I truly hadn't met them, or I had and they just hadn't made an impression on me. I guess the most similar preexisting social situation before this Facebook phenomenon is the scenario in which you meet someone's spouse or significant other after having heard of them several times before, but even in that situation, you generally haven't been seeing pictures of them beforehand.

I'm pretty terrible with names and faces, and Facebook actually helps with that too. It tests me with flash cards of a sort a little bit every day. There have been people that I've worked with for months for whom I still can't remember their name all the time, yet certain random people I don't know on Facebook I can recall in a snap. (This is easier at work now because I get photos of people who send me email, right in Outlook.)

For a shy, introverted person like me, this is one of the cooler parts of Facebook. One of the hardest social barriers I have to pass is getting from knowing nothing about someone to knowing a little bit about them. That awkward section of introductory small talk is still very painful to me. But meeting friends of friends is notably easier post-Facebook: I can go to a party of mostly people outside my own circle of friends and already know the names of some of the people there. And, since I've already gotten a little bit past that initial barrier, it's easier to gather the energy to talk to them, and it's easier to remember who said what. For a website often blamed for ruining our society's ability to interact with each other on a personal level, Facebook really seems to be helping me out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back in balance

I still buy some of the things branded by the weight management program I went on a couple years ago, 20/20 Lifestyles.  The ready-to-drink protein meal replacement shakes that they sell are actually pretty decent as far as shakes go, though I only have one or two a month.  Every time I look at one, I'm a little annoyed: on the front beneath the 20/20 Lifestyles logo is the phrase "bring your health back in balance."

I feel like they don't really understand what "20/20" means.  It's not that you have level 20 vision in your left eye and level 20 vision in your right eye and that everything's in balance.  Being 20/20 is, effectively, being "as good as other people are," which is really what the program is about anyway.  You're fat, and you want to be less fat so you're more like other people.  Achieving 20/20 vision is actually a reasonably correct metaphor, but it has nothing to do with balance.  The tagline under the logo is stupid and it bothers me when I see it.  (Also, it should really be "into balance," not "in balance," should it not?)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stop for a Minute

The short version:
Keane—Night Train: 5/10
Ashlee Simpson—Bittersweet World: 8/10
Kutless—It Is Well: 3/10
Katy Perry—One of the Boys: 5/10
Lady Gaga—The Fame: 9/10
311—Uplifter: 5/10
Bat for Lashes—Two Suns: 4/10
Thirty Seconds to Mars—This Is War: 8/10

Not too long since their last full album, Keane put out the EP Night Train featuring a couple guest artists.  The two tracks featuring K'NAAN rapping, Stop for a Minute and Looking Back, are good, the other track with a guest artist, Ishin Denshin, is terrible, and the rest pretty much just sounds like B-sides that didn't fit on a full album.  Overall it's fairly disappointing.  That said, the two K'NAAN tracks are an interesting change of pace, and the EP's finisher My Shadow isn't too bad.  It's worth adding to a Keane collection if you're a fan, but if you don't already have their amazing album Under the Iron Sea you should really just spend a couple extra bucks and get that one.

I've also been listening to Ashlee Simpson's album Bittersweet World too much.  I had pretty low expectations, but it was cheap so I went with it, and it's just embarrassingly fun.  It's poppy dance music I can listen to from start to finish and still want more.  Outta My Head, Boys, and Murder are infectious like swine flu at a gamer convention, but you could put just about any track from here on a party playlist and get a smile on your face when it comes on.


I got around to listening to a CD I got for Christmas, It Is Well by Kutless.  As far as I can tell it's half new material and half rock versions of hymns.  The opening title track It Is Well is actually quite decent, and probably the best rock cover of a song in the public domain I've ever heard.  Remember Me is pretty good too.  The rest would be okay, though nothing special, except that the tracks are impossibly similar.  When I'm deciding which songs on a CD to write about and add to my various playlists, I have to refresh my memory as to which track title is which song, and I do that by skipping to a track, then jumping to about 1/3 through that track, then doing the same for the next in the list, and then the next and so on.  With this CD there were three tracks in a row that sounded virtually identical by the third-way point; I could have sworn that the next track button in Winamp was broken.

I also got Katy Perry's One of the Boys quite a long time ago and hadn't gotten around to it until recently.  This one's got I Kissed a Girl and Hot n Cold on it, and those are both pretty irresistible, and the title track is good too.  The rest is pretty acceptable but nothing to blog about.

My gay might be showing, but I also finally got Lady Gaga's CD The Fame, and goodness, it's fantastic.  Every track on the disc is good, and it's a nearly perfect dance album.  Just Dance and Poker Face are excellent singles, but my other favorite from the disc, Paper Gangsta, hasn't played on the radio.  There's not much I can say; if you like dance music you should already have this CD.

311's latest CD Uplifter is pretty okay.  A lot of songs on here are decent, but I think what it really needs are more hooks!  The disc progresses from start to finish and the tracks are different enough such that you don't feel like you're listening to the same things on repeat, but many of the individual songs don't seem like they change too much within themselves.  My favorites, Hey You, India Ink, and Get Down for the most part don't suffer too badly, but the vocals on some other tracks like Golden Sunlight are just boring.  There's just not enough variation in tune or rhythm.

Bat for Lashes' seconds CD Two Suns is too Feist-y.  It's airy and full of weird sounds, which I like in the right setting, but it all lacks a punch.  Three good tracks on the album are Daniel, Glass, and Sleep Alone, and there's a noticeable difference in how those three are produced and how things like Pearl's Dream are produced.  With the same instruments, same tune, same vocals, but different volumes and settings in the recording booth I think it's be a better track.  It wouldn't be a great CD if remastered, but I think it'd be better.  I think that Enya's latest couple albums could use the same treatment—to make them "sparkle" a bit more, or at least pull them out of the air and ground them.

Finally, recently I've been hearing a lot of Thirty Seconds to Mars' CD This Is War since Jason bought it, and it's a great rock CD.  My only prior experience with the lead singer of the band was seeing him as the lead actor in Requiem for a Dream, and it's challenging (though certainly not impossible) to imagine that cracked-out druggie singing on top of a background of music that obviously wants to be described with the word "epic."  Strings, children's choirs, military drumming, and guitars lifted to the sky are abound here, and even if it's a little bit cheesy, it works really well.  Night of the Hunter, This Is War, and Hurricane are all lovely, but other than an intro track and an interlude, there's nothing bad on the disc.  I recommend it.

Speaking of epic, I HAVE NOT been able to stop listening to Storming New Caprica from the BSG season 3 soundtrack recently. The part right after 2:05 is played during one of my favorite moments in all of television. (If you think about the title and the season it's in, you should be able to figure out when.)

This is not a trick question

Quiz:  Which of these folders in your user profile (as in, the folder you open when you click your name on the Start menu) should contain your save game files?

Hint:  This is not a trick question.

Highlight the text in this box to find the answer:

[ The Saved Games folder. ]

Did you guess correctly? If so, you're apparently smarter than most game developers, including the developers of the following games currently installed on my hard drive, who all thought it was one of those other folders:

  • Bioshock 2
  • Dragon Age
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Starcraft II (beta)

For the record, the developers of these games answered correctly:

  • Command and Conquer 3
  • Command and Conquer 4
  • Command and Conquer Red Alert 3
  • Tinker

(I'm going to go ahead and give a temporary pass to people who at least had the decency to put their save game files in a subfolder of the incorrect location named "My Games," which was a whopping 12 games.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Workout dinner

Apparently my mind was someplace else this morning.  Here is a note I wrote myself when I got up:

Send workout dinner to Dan

I think that this is a good argument for the importance of breakfast.

Note:  Dan is my personal trainer.  There is no such thing as workout dinner.  This note should have referred to something like "workout info" or "workout cards" or "workout stats."