Sunday, April 29, 2018

In Which I Lose Weight in the Most Boring Way Possible

Towards the end of last year, I realized my weight had crept up another few pounds, and I hated it. My clothes were too tight, and when I went shopping to find new clothes, I didn't like how anything looked.

I had a reasonable excuse: with starting a new job, losing that job, and then finding another new job, December had been stressful. Also, I'd been sick most of November, and so my exercise routine was in shambles.

But so what if I had a good excuse? There would always be an excuse I could find, and if I didn't change something, I knew I'd add a few pounds every year and then before long, I'd be at a weight that was not healthy for me.

So, I decided to do something about it. I signed up for the "kick start" program at the YMCA that is convenient to my new job, and picked a day in January for my first meeting with the trainer.

That was all I'd planned to do. I figured I'd get my exercise routine going again, and that would stop the increase in pounds. I figured it was unlikely I'd actually lose weight, so I'd just try to stop the increase.

Then, on a bit of a whim, I downloaded a calorie counting app and decided to start using it. I can't say why I decided to download it or why I decided I should try calorie counting for awhile. But I did, and I was surprised to find myself actually losing weight. The app lets you track calories consumed and calories burned by exercise. It has a large enough database that it can provide a calorie count for most foods without me having to figure it out. If it is a packaged food, I can just scan the barcode and usually it has the calories. It can also give an estimate of calories burned if I type in "20 minute walk" or something like that.

I set myself a net calorie target that would have me lose weight. I missed the target most days, but usually not by a huge amount. The more important thing was probably that it made me aware of how many calories I was mindlessly snacking through. It made me more conscious of what I was eating, and helped me "reset" away from some of my less healthy eating habits.

A couple of weeks ago, I was down 10 pounds from my peak weight at the end of December. Of course, that peak weight was three pounds higher than what I'd been at for most of the year, but it was still a quite noticeable loss for me. My pants aren't tight anymore! I don't think anyone else noticed, or if they did, they didn't say anything, but I feel better about how I look, and I feel like I'm being healthier, which is what matters most to me.

Sadly, when I stopped using the calorie counting app, I gained a couple of pounds back. But that puts me at the weight I landed at after the 5 pounds I gained when I hit perimenopause, and I maintained that weight without much effort for several years. So maybe that is a good weight for me? Or maybe I just stopped using the app a little too soon, and needed a few more weeks for the new habits to settle in. Or maybe it was that I had a few weeks where my exercise routine got disrupted? Who knows.

Here's the thing: I don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about my weight. One of the reasons I was able to stick to using that app for as long as I did was that it was pretty unobtrusive. I didn't have to calculate a lot of calorie counts and the like. But even so, I don't want to have to use it forever. I'll be pretty sad if I gain back any more of the weight I lost, but I'd be pretty sad if I couldn't have a beer or two now and then, or indulge in a decadent dessert sometimes, without figuring out how many minutes I have to run to compensate. It is hard to find the balance. I miss the days when my body just sort of took care of this for me, and I maintained my weight without thinking about it.  I don't think those days are coming back, though, so I had better find a new approach.

Mr. Snarky's approach to this is just to exercise more. I like that approach in theory, but in practice... my life has too many constraints right now. For instance, I went out for my rollerblade on Friday, but had to cut it short because it was windy and that slowed me down, and I had to make it to school to pick up the kids on time. Similarly, I skipped one of my usual weight machines at the gym on Wednesday because there were two dudes taking turns on it and I finished all my other exercises and they still weren't done... and I couldn't wait, because I had to get home by a certain time. I do get exercise time in, but I almost never have unconstrained exercise time.

The constrained nature of my time bothered me for a long time, but I have decided that I just have to accept this fact about my current phase in life and work around it. It isn't going to change until my kids get older, so there is no point pouting about it. I'm better served by acknowledging it, acknowledging that I do not like it, and then figuring out how to work around the constraints to get as much of what I want as I can.

I'd like to figure out how to get more exercise in, and I have some ideas. Now that it is staying light later, there's time for more after dinner games of birdie with Petunia and walks around the neighborhood with Pumpkin. But I don't think I should count on that. I think that if I want to lose more weight, or just stabilize at the weight I've landed on now, I need to use that calorie counting app for a bit longer. I'm going to start again today.

What do you do to stay healthy as age changes how your body behaves?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Weekend Reading: Just Links, But They're Good Links

Since I just did an update on my life post, let's just go straight to the links.

If you read only one link this week, make it this powerful piece by Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This?

But Dylan Matthews on how just getting Trump out of office won't fix what's wrong with our democracy is really good, too.

This story by a woman whose mother lost her home and was living out of her SUV is heartbreaking.

Matt Yglesias argues for a jobs guarantee... or at least a set of programs aimed at fuller employment.

If you're curious why the governor's offer of a pay raise didn't end the Arizona teachers' strike, this Vox article will give you an idea of what's going on. It is not just that teacher's pay is low (although it is in Arizona). It is that education funding has been cut drastically. I keep seeing people surprised that teachers aren't happy with pay raises. I think that misses what they're really fighting for, which is something that Vox article gets at in the final section.

We're finally getting an earthquake early warning system here!

This year's NPR Tiny Desk winner is very good.

This xkcd is so very funny if you know anyone in the groups he's teasing. Don't miss the mouse-over...

Recommended listening: Krista Tippet's conversation with Helen Fisher is really interesting. It is titled "This is Your Brain on Sex" but it is more about the broader topic of love and partnering. It gave me a lot to think about and also made me want to go read things by Helen Fisher, or maybe listen to her TED talks.

The ultimate Aussie picture:

Bunny snuggles!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Coming Up for Air

Hi! It has been awhile since I've written a post that isn't a series of links.

I'm past the big seminar I had agreed to do. I'm catching up on the submissions I've received for Annorlunda's 2019 publishing year. I've got some promotions underway and more scheduled for some of Annorlunda's existing books. All in all, I feel... not caught up, exactly, but like I've almost got things back under control.

Instead of focusing on how much I haven't done or how I let myself get so far behind on things, I thought I'd spend a little time tonight reviewing what is going well.

First of all, the new job is good. Since that's paying the bills, that's important.

I've almost got an exercise routine figured out. It took some experimenting with my schedule and that was on hold for over a month when I got sick, but I'm getting back into what I think will be my routine: a short jog on Monday mornings (or the ~75% of Monday mornings when I can get myself out of bed at 6 instead of 6:20), a 30 minute weights circuit at the gym on Wednesday evenings, and a rollerblading outing on Friday afternoons.

The fact that I can bring Friday afternoon rollerblading back is one of my favorite things about my new job. It works because I have an early morning teleconference on Fridays, and so I work from home (a lot of people in my office work from home on Fridays, so that makes it easier to do). The early start and lack of a commute lets me finish up between 3:30 and 4, so I can get out for a nice rollerblade and get home before traffic gets bad.

The last piece of my exercise routine is that I take a 20-30 minute walk most lunch hours. I don't do that for exercise, though: I do it as a way to refresh my focus and also think through problems/issues.

In other non-work achievements: I'm trying to request 10 addresses from Postcards to Voters most weeks. This is the type of involvement that feels best to me and is most sustainable for me over the long term. I still do other things as it makes sense, but I've come to think that the best thing I can do right now is help make Republicans pay a price at the ballot box for their embrace of nativism and racism, and I like the postcard writing approach. In more normal times, I don't stick my nose into elections in places I don't live or at least know really well. But these are not normal times.

Like I said at the top, I've set up some promotions for some existing books. The ebook edition of The Burning is on sale for $0.99 this week. I've got Here's the Deal up on NetGalley (still on my to do list: figure out how to recruit more NetGalley reviewers).  I've got some more promo ideas to work on soon, too.

I've been keeping up with my New Year's resolution to read at least one short story every week. I post the short story I read the prior week on Annorlunda's Twitter feed and Facebook page every Monday. I am enjoying how this resolution (and the public accountability for it) encourages me to read more broadly.

And of course, there's the kids. Pumpkin's Harry Potter 11th birthday party was a success, and her Harry Potter obsession continues: She actually asked to watch the first film last weekend. She almost never wants to watch movies! Petunia is developing an obsession with the A Series of Unfortunate Events series, which is good, because they're a bit of a stretch for her reading level-wise.

Pumpkin passed the test that would route her to the advanced math track if she were going to a middle school with an advanced math track, so now we just have to figure out how to keep her at that level through middle school.

Petunia told me today that her favorite subjects in school are math and writing. She thinks the subject she most needs to work on is spelling. I agree with this self-assessment, and we had a nice chat about how improving her Spanish reading comprehension would help her in math (because of the word problems) and how reading more would help with spelling, too.

As much as I'd like to tackle some of the bigger items on my to do list, both side hustle related and otherwise, I have to admit that the two things I most want to improve on are my blogging frequency (I miss writing meatier posts!) and my sleep habits. I am not blessed with low sleep needs, and yet keep acting like I am, and that leaves me tired more often than I'd like to be. 

So, having written a post, if not a meaty post, I think I will now take myself off to bed. What's up with you all?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Weekend Reading; The Almost Through the Crunch Edition

My big seminar was this week. I think it went well. As always, I enjoyed giving it. But boy, am I glad to be done with it. I still have to get through the backlog of other things that piled up while I was focused on getting ready for the seminar, but I am hoping to spend less time at my desk this weekend and more time in my hammock or playing "birdie" (hitting a badminton shuttlecock back and forth) with Petunia.

Anyway, here are some links:

First some friend promo: Tragic Sandwich is trying to help get books and supplies for a drastically underfunded school library. I sent one of the classics from their wish list and a copy of Full Cicada Moon, by Marilyn Hilton, a book that I recently read to Pumpkin and really liked.

I didn't save any politics posts this week. I'm not ignoring things- I have a list of 10 addresses in Texas to send some postcards to this weekend! But I guess I didn't come across any articles I found particularly edifying this week.

Luckily, I have some other interesting things for you to read:

Don't drive your car at people. Seems like an obvious rule, but read the post and you'll probably realize you see people drive their cars at people every day.

New Zealand avocado crime stories are a favorite genre of mine.

You might want to read this post about an attempted scam if you have a gmail account- and especially if you also have a Netflix account (although the general form of the scam could work on many services). Just this week, I got an email from telling me to click here to activate my account. But I hadn't tried to create an account, and when I looked, the email address used was missing one of the dots that is in the form of my gmail address that I use. This was probably someone making an innocent mistake...but having read this post, I found myself trying to come up with why someone would want to scam me into creating an Indeed account that they would then control.

This story about a plastic-degrading enzyme isolated from bacteria found in a Japanese dump is encouraging.

I'm glad to learn that my growing annoyance with the noise level in restaurants isn't just me getting old.

In recommended listening, I have two episodes of Ezra Klein's podcast to recommend this week:

First, his interview with historian Carol Anderson about white rage and the politics of race in America is excellent. If you listen, listen all the way to the end, when Anderson describes the vision of the future I'm fighting for (that point starts at about 4.5 minutes before the end). I wish I could find a transcript for you, but it ends with: "If what we do is we move forward... Then we can get there. We can get there to what I think is something that has not been seen before, which is how do you create a vibrant, multi-racial democracy that truly works... If we fall back into our traditional patterns, then buckle up we're in for a bumpy ride. It's going to be bad."

His next interview is with Johann Hari, and is title "Is modern society making us depressed?" and I found it a really interesting, thought-provoking discussion about ways in which the way our society is organized may be exacerbating depression and anxiety. Neither Klein nor Hari argues against anti-depressant medicines, but Hari, who has himself dealt with depression and anxiety, takes the view that they are not a complete answer to the problem.

I love this tweet:

And this poem:

Cold bunny!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Yet Another Short Post Edition

Ugh. I'm still behind on things. I'm caught up enough that I can now tell that it will come out OK, but not caught up enough that I get to take the weekend off. Bah.

I wish I could tell you these links are late posting tonight because I went out for a rollerblade, but no, I was in my office, practicing for my upcoming seminar.

Then I thought I'd post the links while the kids played after dinner, but instead I scrolled through Twitter, pointlessly reading everyone's posts about the airstrikes in Syria. I don't know if airstrikes will help the situation in Syria or not, but I do know that I don't trust this administration to have made the decision to launch a strike based on any noble or even intelligent motives. So I have nothing much to say about the airstrikes, other than that I hope all the civilians in Syria stay safe tonight.

Also, we should let more refugees in. Our current policy on refugees fills me with shame.

Anyway, here are the links I'd gathered up to share this week. I don't have that many, perhaps because one side effect of being really busy trying to catch up on this is not a lot of time to read things:

The Republican Governor of Arizona has decided to give Arizona teachers a raise. I haven't been following closely enough to know if this move will avert a walkout or other action there. I can say that I've seen a lot of Facebook profile pictures of friends in AZ turn red in support of the teachers, and it seems like there was a lot of support for them.

Click through and read this story:

And this story:

In recommended listening: 

The episode of The Weeds about Sinclair media is a great primer on local TV regulation and history and if you're not sure why people find the Sinclair media stuff more disturbing than Fox News, this episode will explain it.

The latest episode of the Josh Marshall Podcast was a good discussion about why people are so unhappy with John Bolton becoming  National Security Advisor and a reminder of the ancient history of the George W. Bush administration.

This is so pretty:



Have a good weekend, everyone.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Just the Links, Ma'am, Edition

I am going to keep the chit chat at the top of this post short. I could pretend that is because I am busy catching up on things, but the truth is that the weather is nice and I am finally not sick and I wanted to go for a rollerblade.

Anyway, here are some links, drawn from the last couple of weeks.

I've been thinking a lot about retirement savings lately. This is part of what I want to write about when I write my post about reading Being Mortal. I have never worked at a job that had a defined benefit pension, and so all of my retirement needs beyond what Social Security provides will need to be funded from my savings. I'm on track according to the various retirement calculators, but is that really sufficient for what I want? I'll save more musing for the post I want to write. For now, I'll just share this article from HBR about how few Americans are saving enough for retirement, what that might mean, and what we might do about it.

Dishwashing is apparently the chore that causes the most resentment for women if it is not shared. Suddenly, our strict every other day rotation for washing dishes is seeming brilliant... (Also, soon, very soon, children will join the rotation!)

This Vox story about teachers working second and third jobs to make ends meet is sad. I don't want my kids' teachers exhausted due to a second job. I'd rather pay higher taxes and pay them a living wage.

Staying on the teachers strikes: Here is some analysis from Talking Points Memo about what the political implications of those strikes might be.

TPM also had a thoughtful examination of the larger issues related to the shooting at YouTube headquarters this week.

Staying on issues in tech: Will Oremus had a good piece in Slate about the problem with Silicon Valley's rapid growth approach to business.

This Ryan Cooper piece about the conservative reaction to the Parkland teens is a couple of weeks old now, but it rang true to me.

Molly Ringwald's piece reflecting on John Hughes' films is more recent, and it is all over my timeline because it is really thoughtful and interesting.

This may be the only time I share a National Review article... David French on police shootings is really worth your time. It is my pick for the "if you only have time to read one link" read this week.



Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

I'm Still Here

You maybe guessed from the lack of weekend reading links last week that I was over in Arizona for my grandmother's memorial. Or maybe you didn't notice my absence at all!

But if you did notice and were wondering where I was... now you know.

We drove back to San Diego on Sunday, and I haven't really regained my footing. I had originally planned for a spring break in which the kids were over with my parents and I had extra time in the evening to catch up on some projects. That did not happen, for obvious reasons, but the projects were still here, with deadlines approaching.

I managed to get past the first deadline: I'd said Here's the Deal would go on pre-order yesterday, and it did. (I'll be sending out the advance review copies soon: if you're interested, there's still time to get a copy.)

My next deadline is a seminar I agreed to do last year, before I knew I'd be going back to full time employment. It is a slightly different take on a couple of topics I've done seminars on in the past: strategic planning and project management. So I need to pull up the slides and hands-on activities I have, see what I can reuse, and write new slides and activities as needed. I still have time to get it done, but wish I were a little further into the process. I'm feeling a little stressed by it, but not yet panicked. If I haven't made progress by next week, though, I'll be panicked!

And there are other things, too- like some book marketing research I paid to get done that I would now like to act on.

I also have lots of things swirling around in my head that I'd like to write about. I finally read Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, and I'd like to write about my thoughts. (I recommend the book highly.) I'd still like to write about why I don't try to take shortcuts to some goals. I have a post about staying focused when a shiny new idea comes along, which I'd like to write for my professional site. And I suspect if I got my writing notebook out, I'd find more ideas that I've jotted down and not had time to come back to.

But this week, I've been spending most of my evenings planning a Harry Potter birthday party for Pumpkin, who is now 11. She is so big! More than that, she's so not a little kid anymore. I don't know how many more times she'll be this enthusiastically into planning a party, and so I'm trying to join in the enthusiasm. We bought a skirt, cardigan, and tie to allow her to dress up as a Hogwarts student (she's Ravenclaw). We've pasted labels that say "Floo Powder" on packets of Fun Dip. We've ordered quidditch broom pens for the goody cauldrons. We've found or made items to represent all the horcruxes for a horcrux hunt. We still need to draw Voldemort for the "pin the nose on Voldemort" game she wants to have.

It is all delightful, but a bit overwhelming sometimes. I thought I'd carved out some time last night to write a real post, but then the allergy-induced cough Pumpkin got in AZ flared up here, too. It always takes awhile for the irritation to calm down when she gets a cough like this. And of course, she won't take anything useful. No medicated cough drops or numbing throat spray. But she couldn't sleep, and so last night, instead of writing a blog post, I made her a hot water with sugar and sat with her while she drank it, and then sat in her room reading on my phone while she settled back in to sleep.

Tonight, I'm too frazzled feeling to write anything real, but I wanted to write something... and so you get this rambling post.

Here, have a nerdy joke to make up for it:

I hope to be really back sometime soon.