Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I'm Ditching the Scale

I'm annoyed with myself.

At the beginning of the year, I was in pretty decent shape. I was doing a ton of walking, and sticking with an eating plan that helped me feel better (physically and emotionally): tons of vegetables of all sorts, some fruit, meat/chicken/fish, eggs, nuts. Very little sugar. Occasionally beans and rice. And I mostly cut dairy, since last summer I tried a month without it as an experiment and found I'm actually somewhat sensitive to it. Don't get me wrong, I cannot and will not ever completely give up ice cream and cheese, but it does make my heart race and causes congestion, so it's a trade-off. I also discovered long ago that even if bread *weren't* fairly empty calories, I'm better off without it generally speaking because it makes me sleepy and stupid for several hours afterward.

So I was eating lots of big salads, fresh omelets with plenty of vegetables, grilled steak with vegetables, roast chicken with vegetables, broiled fish with vegetables, vegetables with vegetables. You get the picture.

But I fell off the wagon somewhere along the line--Easter, maybe--and I've never gotten back. Thankfully I'm only up a few pounds, but I've been bouncing from sugar high to sugar high and I haven't been walking and I just feel...blah. Time to get back on track.

I do want to lose about fifteen pounds. Seems like I always do. And that's part of the goal this time. However, I've decided to do something a little different this time around: I'm putting the scale away, at least for awhile.

Why? Well, mostly because I'm weak willed and I know how it affects me:
If the scale is up for a given day/week: "Man, nothing I do matters. I might as well cheat."
If the scale is down for a given day/week: "Wow, I'm doing great! I deserve a little cheat."

I think putting it away for a time will help keep me honest. I'm more likely to err on the side of caution as far as eating habits go if I'm not seeing the numbers, I won't be emotionally tormented by daily fluctuations, and even if I don't see the number I hope for at the end of the experiment, at least I'll only be supremely bummed once.

So...the scale is going in the closet until my birthday in mid-October. And I'm stocking up on vegetables, polishing up the FitBit, and pulling out my walking shoes again. 'Cause I'm the boss and I said so.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Benefit to Hand Writing

I've spent some time this weekend getting caught up on transcription. I'm sort of hoping once I get everything on the computer, I can take a stab at moving forward that way. As much as I like writing by hand, I don't want it to become a magic bullet or a crutch.

That said, in transcribing, I'm remembering some of the reasons I love hand writing, slow though it is. I do a lot of crossing out text, but leaving it for reference--something I'm not likely to do on the computer screen, with a delete function right there. Sometimes the crossed out ends up being better than what I'd planned to keep. And I go back and write notes and directions in the margins, so my final writing ends up being slightly ahead of first draft status.

And other times...well, where is the computer equivalent for this forgotten moment of catharsis I came across in an upper margin?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Listen to Your Mother

I'm in the process of reorganizing some things around the house, getting rid of some things I don't need and using the empty room that was going to be my sister's, since plans changed and she's not staying with me for the moment. One change: I want to make some space at the breakfast bar my bitty kitchen has in lieu of space for a table. Without a stool, it's at a nice height for a standing desk space for me, though I tend to just use it as pantry space.

The weird thing: part of the reason I decided to do this is because I have a clear memory of Mom looking around the place when I moved in and saying, "I can just see you working on a laptop here..." It's a nice space, it looks out over the rest of the house, I can hear my music and look out the window when I want, so it makes logical sense, and she *would* spot that.

So I'm twenty minutes into tidying and thinking out my plan for making this happen when it suddenly hits me: Mom has never been here. Could never have been here. She passed away almost two years before I moved to Colorado, and long before I moved to Washington.

I'm sure I must be remembering something that happened at another place and time--the memory is too clear to be completely false. And yet, in memory, I see her *here*, so distinctly that I got chills when I woke up enough to realize I couldn't possibly be remembering something that actually happened.

In any case, I think she's right. I'd best get back to tidying....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scattered (UJTU)

1. How do people travel all the time and still manage a normal life? I went on one five day trip from June 27th to July 2nd, and I'm *still* all discombobulated. I'd originally hoped to finish the first draft of Mind Jinx (my current work in progress) by mid-July, but that's out the window. Haven't recovered my usual routines AT ALL. New estimate: end of summer at best. I'd also hoped to write a trip report, but I feel like I'm a bit past the window for that. May yet take a stab at it, however.

2. My garden has grown tremendously. I have strawberries, peas, carrots, lettuce, and am starting to get cherry tomatoes. The big tomatoes and summer squash are right behind, and I have a baby eggplant and baby delicata squash coming along nicely. Now if I can just manage to water faithfully.... Western Washington may have a reputation for rain, but it pretty much all hits in the winter and spring months. Around the 4th of July, a switch is tripped, and it's high desert here. Nice in that you can pretty much plan on weekend outdoor activities without worrying about wet, but it does mean you suddenly go from plants drowning to plants dying of thirst, and you have to develop new habits instantly.

Sweet potato vine, just for fun!

First full sized tomato (a Cascade) is changing color...

Bitty baby bell peppers

Summer squash coming along

Baby delicata squash

Eggplant! First time I've seen these growing....

Mmmm, sugar snap peas....

3. I'm in the middle of a major music muddle: for *years* I've intended to sit down and redo my music library by re-ripping all my old CDs and then re-adding any digital purchases from backup/cloud. I had a lot of gaps and strays and tracks that weren't titled consistently, and it was driving me crazy. I'm thinking about upgrading to a new computer sometime this year, and chances are it won't have a built in CD drive, so now seemed as good a time as any to tackle this project. I'm going to get it all tidied up and then back up to a decent external drive, so I have a clean starting point from here on out.

It's turning out to be even more daunting than I anticipated. I'd forgotten just how much music I've acquired over the years, not to mention Teaching Company courses and the like. But re-ripping has been an interesting walk down memory lane: I still like a lot of the same music I did way back when, but my buying and primary listening habits have fluctuated, and going back through the albums is like excavating layers of the last fifteen or twenty years of my life from sedimentary rock. Early classical period...flatpicking guitar period...folk rock...middle early classical...Irish. Etc. It's all pretty mixed, honestly, but every so often I come across an album that all but defined a given time in my life and which I've not listened to in a long while. Fascinating how a few notes can trigger a flood of half-forgotten memories.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Chill Before Packing

Apropos of nothing, this is Tamino, my conveniently self-packing cat

Tomorrow I'll be flying into Milwaukee, Wisconsin to meet up with family for my youngest brother's wedding near Madison on Saturday. After the wedding, I'm driving back from Wisconsin to Western Washington with my sister, who is relocating out here.

The upcoming trip is just about all that fits in my head at the given moment, so it's what I talked about in between tunes while playing music with friends this past weekend.

We got to discussing various attitudes and styles of packing: last minute, weeks ahead, things that can go wrong. It brought to mind one of my worst packing moments: an anecdote I didn't get around to sharing, and which is a little hard to imagine in these balmy summer days.

It was January of 2003, and I was prepping to fly to Florida with two of my younger siblings to meet up with friends I mostly knew through an Internet forum connection it would be hard to fully explain without a lot more time: essentially, we started talking about a subject that interested us, and didn't shut up for years. And along the way, we got to know each other really well, and met up in a variety of "real world" ways. Still do, to some extent. Some of those folks remain among my closest friends.

That January, we all rented a house on the beach to just hang out for a week. It was a blast. Yes, it was the off season, and though we northerners were still crazy enough to go swimming, I don't think the temperature got much above the high sixties. But back in Vermont, it was -30 that week.

And that's where the trouble came in.

I am a procrastinator. I've admitted that here before. I will make detailed lists, yes. I will plan like crazy. But then...I will stall until the last possible minute. For this particular trip, I held off on washing some of the clothes I knew I was going to need until the night before we flew out, and then did a quick load late at night and stuck them in the dryer before hitting the hay.

That was my first winter in my little bungalow in St. Johnsbury, VT: A tiny place, but it did have a finished basement, where the washer and dryer lived. The basement was only partially heated: most of the heat from the furnace was set to blow upstairs through vents, but the previous owner had disconnected one of the heat vents and left the conduit hanging to blow a little warmth into the basement. It was never *warm* down there in the winter, but it was something.

The frigid morning of the flight out, I got up at oh-dark-thirty (we had to leave by about three to get to the airport), and made my way down to the basement to grab my things from the dryer. In opening the door, I quickly discovered two things: 1) In my sleepiness the night before, I'd forgotten to switch on the dryer after I put the clothes in, and 2) My still-wet clothes were frozen solid. In one giant lump.

I tried feebly to pick them apart at first, but it was not gonna happen. They were all stiff and intertwined. So I did the only thing I *could* do: I turned the heat setting on the dryer up, and turned it on.

OH MY GOODNESS THAT WAS LOUD. If you think about it, a dryer is essentially a large metal drum turning inside a large metal box. Putting a large, hard object in there and starting it up was startling, especially that early in the morning. Ka-THUNK, ka-THUNK, ka-THUNK! But it did eventually thaw out, though I still had to pack my clothes while they were slightly damp.

I'm sure I will find other ways to procrastinate tonight, but I did my laundry Sunday.

Just in case, you know.

How about you? What travel mishaps have you experienced?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Late Typewriter Day Entry: Business Cards

Yesterday was Typewriter Day 2014, but OSX Mavericks decided my scanner wasn't good enough for the likes of it, so I had to do some strenuous negotiation before they would grudgingly cooperate. And here we are.

Typewriter Business Cards

You could even add doodles or stickers. Makes for a nice little canvas.

And yes, I typed Earnest like the word and not Ernest like the name. So sue me. I don't even like Hemingway.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: rOtring Rapid PRO 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Hey, I've never reviewed a mechanical pencil here, have I? Let's have "Things that may annoy both the wooden pencil diehards and the fountain pen folk" for $100, Alex.

Rotring Rapid PRO

Much though I like those other things, there is something to be said for mechanical pencils when it comes to fuss-free on-the-go writing, and this has been my primary for that role over the last six or seven months. It went with me to Wintergrass, and has been my companion on many a coffee house jaunt.

Last things first: I flippin' love this pencil. A goodly percentage of my current large-work-in-process (Mind Jinx) came out of this pencil. I could dedicate novels to this pencil.

I will, however, try to remain objective.

1. Appearance:
This is a classy looking item. My one and only quibble is that the version I have (black--there is also a silver flavor) tends to get a little grungy looking over time as the knurled grip picks up dust and whatnot. I can't say for *certain* that the silver would be better in this regard, but it seems logical. The black does, however, contrast beautifully with the rOtring red ring, and has a nice understated stealth appearance to it outside of that splash of color. The paint has held up well to abuse (read: being carried unprotected in bag and purse and bumped about on tables and desks). The body is subtly hexagonal, which--along with the clip--makes it less apt to roll when it should not.

Lead Sleeve
2. Grip:
The knurled grip is rough enough to be reassuringly sticky, but (unlike many drafting pencils) not so rough that it will sandpaper away your hard-won writer's callus. Keep in mind that I am not a draftsman, and use this strictly for writing: it could possibly be a little *too* smooth for some drawing purposes. Even for writing, I wouldn't mind just a touch more roughness, but it gets the job done. The grip is of a pleasant girth: more than a wooden pencil, less than your average gel pen.

3. Balance:
This is a relatively heavy pencil at 24.2 grams by my little kitchen scale (in contrast, I weighed a Pentel P209, and it weighed just under 9 grams). It doesn't feel clunky, however. The center of balance is almost exactly in the middle--just a smidge closer to the tip than the tail. It feels about perfect to me. I have a Pentel Graphgear 1000 I like a great deal, but it is back heavy, and that gets tiring after awhile. This one doesn't fight me either way.

4. Retracting tip:
THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME. I don't wander around with a pocket protector, and I don't always feel like carrying a whole pencil case. I can quickly and easily put the point of this pencil away for its safety and mine. It doesn't have any fancy auto-retracting mechanism: you just hold down the button at the back of the pencil and then release it while you press the tip gently against your notebook/table/finger. I like the simplicity. Less to break.

Before the Rapid PRO arrived, I worried there would be a lot of give or wobble in the lead sleeve, or vibration while writing. I have little tolerance for this. As an example, I know a lot of people love Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencils for the way they rotate your lead for you and keep presenting you with a clean, sharp edge, and while in theory it sounds cool, I find the slight give irritating enough that I haven't used my Kuru Toga as much as anticipated. This pencil, on the other hand, is pretty solid.

My little point-and-shoot camera steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of the eraser, but you get the basic premise.

Other details:
The eraser is found, as you'd expect, behind the little back cap. There's actually a hole through which you can see the white eraser peeking through--I would prefer a solid cap, but whatever. The eraser itself is par for the course for quality mechanical pencils: i.e. you *could* use it in a pinch, but it wouldn't go very far, and I much prefer a separate Mars Plastic or a Pentel Clic Stick.

Eraser viewed through end cap
Eraser, as seen through the back cap

To load leads, remove the little eraser and drop them in the back end of the pencil. Again, pretty standard. It's a fairly small lead chamber, but my 0.5mm model will hold a half dozen or so leads in a pinch. The lead feeds out at a nice rate--doesn't require extra clicks, or overadvance and cause breakage.

It'sa clip.

I don't use the clip much, but it appears durable and without any bits that catch on things they shouldn't.

Overall impression:
As I said, I really like this pencil. The balance works perfectly for me, the retractable tip means I can take it anywhere without worries, the grip isn't bad, and the whole thing just screams quality. I currently keep mine loaded with plain old Pentel Super Hi-Polymer lead (B grade), and it is a pleasure to use.

• Just about perfectly balanced, at least for plain writing.
• Retractable lead sleeve/tip.
• Purty.
• Comfortable heft and solidity.
• Knurled grip adds stability.

• The black version can get a little grungy looking.
• Lead sleeve is fragile, from all I've heard, so make sure you get into the habit of retracting that point when it isn't in your hand!
• Don't expect the eraser to do much for you.
• Knurled grip could be a little grippier.
• Spendier than the Pentels and Bics at Wal-mart. (I paid about $30 for mine on Amazon back in November. YMMV.) That said, it should last pretty near forever with a bit of care.

Weight: 24.2 grams (empty), at least according to my cheapie scale
Length: Approximately 5.7 inches (14.5 cm / 145mm) long
Diameter: 9mm
Body material: Metal, but I'm not sure what type--if you know, feel free to fire off in the comments!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Typecast: Honk Not

Honk Not

I might add, laying on the horn does not excuse the drivers themselves from slowing down and using a bit of caution at the crossing, let alone entitle them to speed up and blast through, as many of them do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014