Thursday, February 28, 2013

Resolution follow-up

I'm either organized or crazy!
So, as you know, I made eight resolutions for 2013. Because I'm a firm believer in the mantra, if it can be measured, it can be managed, and also that if it's scheduled it gets done, I made a giant chart for my resolutions, breaking things down into two-month increments, and then sometimes breaking them down further into monthly or bi-weekly tasks.

For the January/February period, under number 6, read all of the books I've borrowed from friends, I was to read the books on my bedside table (including the books borrowed from Voracious, T), and also finish World Changing. Not only have I not managed to read the books on my bedside table, but I have not touched even one of the four books I've borrowed. I did manage to get through a bunch of magazines that were on the bedside table, and finish World Changing, though, so it's not like I've been doing nothing.

Because I have eight resolutions, and because apparently this is how accountants think, I have to complete two resolutions every quarter to stay on track. I've completed one already, number 1, consolidate my reading lists.

I broke down goal 7, lose weight, into two-month tasks. The January/February components were to burn 600 calories a day (when my sister saw that I had listed simply "600 calories," she was concerned that this was what I planned to eat every day), and to not eat stuff I don't bring to work (we have amazing snack drawers at work). I burned at least 600 calories on 23 days in January and February (note that there were many days where I exercised but simply didn't burn 600 calories), and I didn't eat stuff I didn't bring to work 23 days (also note that I was on vacation for 4 working days in January). (These were not necessarily the same 23 days, although sometimes they were.)

Not actually on the resolution list, although on the giant chart, but because it causes Captain America a lot of stress and otherwise our DVR would be completely full, I broke down watching all of the recording I have into monthly tasks. Combined, for January and February, I was supposed to watch all of my 30 Rock and Dirty Jobs recordings, as well as four movies. I managed the four movies, and a lot of both 30 Rock and Dirty Jobs, but not all of them. Additionally, because, like I said, I like to measure stuff, each month I need to watch enough recordings to have 8.5% of the DVR free (cumulatively getting to 100% by the end of the year...Captain America relaxes at about 70% free, so around September or October he'll be able to chill). The good news is, as of last night, I had 34% free, while I only need to have 17% free by the end of February (so I'm 200% successful on this non-resolution, despite not watching all of the assigned shows).

Finally, while I haven't accomplished any of my financial goals, I have made a spreadsheet (of course I have), detailing how much I have to pay out of each paycheck to meet these goals by the end of the year. The schedule is updated monthly for the number of paychecks remaining and the changes in the balances.

I realize this is already a fairly long and wordy post, and I'm just going to add to this by continuing, but I've also been giving a lot of thought to why accomplishing these things and being neurotically organized about it is so important to me.

I've been watching the new season of the biggest loser, and one thing that's constantly reiterated by the show is that there's a reason the contestants gained all that weight, that food is something they've turned to as a substitute or solution or excuse for something else. The contestants just finished a "face your fears" week, and a lot of the fears are common to everyone...fear of heights, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of sharks, fear of close spaces, and fear of talking (or singing) in front of others.

I think, for me, the fear of failure resonates the most. It's one of those things that's really rather illogical...I mean, if you look at my life, I clearly haven't failed. I have a good husband, a good job, two degrees, a house, a retirement account. I'm not saying that there haven't been mistakes or problems along the way, I'm just saying that really, they didn't lead to failure. And honestly, when I try to think of something that I really failed at, I don't come up with much (except for maybe an occasional cooking experiment or two), but still believing that who you are is enough is really, really hard.

I think I also have a concern that I'll look back on my life and discover that I haven't really done what I've wanted to do, that I haven't really found meaning in my life, because I've been too busy doing a whole bunch of other stuff. I think making and scheduling resolutions helps keep me on track for what I want, whether is silly or fun or practical or a Big Important Accomplishment. And even if I don't accomplish everything on the list, I can still look back and see everything I have accomplished, which is pretty awesome, too.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the PlanetThe Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think that Alicia Silverstone is incredibly sincere, and really, really believes in her diet in The Kind Diet. Nearly everything I read about vegan diets make sense, but I guess when it comes down to it, I don't want to do the work.

I don't want to not be allowed to eat something, and I really don't want to give up milk. There are lots of things that I'm totally fine with giving up (I know it's a culinary sin to say so, but I could live the rest of my life without bacon. I really could).

As it stands, we really don't eat a lot of meat in my house. Captain America is on a wonky schedule and isn't home at dinner time, and I don't care enough, nor am I interested in cooking something with meat for one person. My dinners are bizarre at best (tonight: six Twizzlers, a serving of wheat thins, and a cup of hot chocolate), and nearly always meat-free.

I also think that it doesn't make a lot of sense to give up meat only to eat a lot of processed soy meat-substitutions (in all fairness, this approach to vegetarianism/veganism is NOT advocated by this book)

I think this is a great book for someone who wants to go vegetarian or vegan, and needs pointers and recipes and steps to make it happen. And if anyone happens to follow this program and turns into Alicia's doppelganger  please let me know!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The sad tale of cleaning out my email

Periodically, the threat level from an overflowing email inbox reaches impending doom level and I have to force myself to go through and clean it out. This, for me, is anytime there's more than, say, 78 emails in my inbox. I'm pretty sure I have a low threshold for impending doom, but I also try really hard to practice the "touch it once" rule with my emails. Anyway, inevitably, there's a whole bunch of stuff that can be deleted because I've already done it (like library reminders), a whole bunch of stuff than can be filed (like stuff I bought at Amazon that's arrived and so everything's fine), and a whole bunch of other stuff that I should either delete or file away for when I have copious amounts of free time (does that every happen to anyone? because if so, c'mon over to my house--I've got a whole bunch of blogs to read, cats-doing-strange-things videos to watch, and double-chocolate-brownie recipes to try).

So here's something I'm trying to come to terms with: I had a ton of fun with NaNoWriMo and I'd really like to write on a regular basis. But I have bills to pay, so I go to work. (And I have a pretty awesome job...too awesome to give up and embark on being-a-writer-for-a-year type projects.) I also exercise a lot because it keeps me from going postal on the freeways in Southern California, helps me sleep through the night (you're welcome, Captain America), and because I really want to fit back into my old pants. Finally, I read a ton. And, push come to shove, I like reading more than I like writing (full disclosure: I like reading more than I like doing ANYTHING else).

I read a parenting article a while ago that said that kids can basically handle three things, and you have to count school as a thing. So if your kid is enrolled in scouts and little league, that's a manageable amount of stuff in their life, but if you throw in choir  they've now got four things (because, remember, you have to count school), you can expect a lot of meltdowns. I don't think adults are so different. If I go to work, and then make exercising and reading my two other things, pretty much everything is fine. But when I add in writing, like I did last November, it was at the expense of the other two (remember, you have to count going to work as a thing, and since it's what pays the bills, I didn't think it was prudent to allow that to be the thing that suffered).

So what does this have to do with cleaning out my email? As sad as it is, currently, the prudent thing for me to do is to sort of put writing aspirations on hold, which means that all of the emails that are links to tips or agents or whatever that would be helpful need to get filed away. This isn't a crisis, but it's still sad to acknowledge that I really don't have the time to try out this particular hobby right now.

But don't despair! I fully intend to participate in Script Frenzy in April and NaNoWriMo again in November!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life ExpectancyLife Expectancy by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was expecting this book to feel mass-produced, but it didn't. You know when you read a lot, and you find yourself reading a lot of just okay books and then you find one that you don't want to put down and it reminds you why you love reading so much and you find the book makes you really happy regardless of what is actually going on in the story? This is one of those books.

And there's a great line in the book that I want to remember: Where there's cake, there's hope. And there's always cake.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Knocking two items off my resolutions list!

As many of you know, I make resolutions every year (I'm forever optimistic that THIS is the year I'm going to GET STUFF DONE!). What you probably don't know is that I have an even more detailed resolution list at home, on a giant post-it note--y'know, the kind used in conference rooms. I break down my goals into major categories and assign each goal a month. I'm a tremendous dork, but when I schedule shit, it happens.

I have just crossed off "Consolidate Reading Lists," which is very exciting to me, as it means that all of my reading lists are now combined on Goodreads, and which is likely exciting to my Goodreads friends who will not be subjected to more enormous emails listing the 70 books I've added to my "to-read" list that day. Everybody wins!

I have also finished reading World Changing. The review is below, but if you'd rather not read the whole review, here's the summary: the book is written like a website, so just go check out the website if you're interested.

Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st CenturyWorldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century by Alex Steffen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was written like a website, which makes sense because it IS a website. However, that does not make for very enjoyable reading, at least for me. It is not the sort of book you read cover to cover, which is why it took me FOREVER to read. Also, given the topic, it seems like a silly thing to turn into a book because environmental information, and pretty much anything else that belongs in "A User's Guide for the 21st Century" is constantly changing.

That being said, I do have some notes (of course I do):

p. 145 recommends a resource called "Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time," which seems useful if you're trying to figure out how to go green in your remodel. I flagged it because at some point, I'd like to remodel my kitchen.

p. 159 lists an office chair that's supposed to be both ergonomic and passed the McDonough and Braungart Cradle to Cradle product certification, meaning it was created with it's entire life cycle in mind, which is pretty awesome.

p. 165-6 lists five things you can do to conserve energy (I love lists, and I love actionable items). I'm not going to tell you what the five things are, though, because you should at least check out this book, even if you don't read it cover to cover.

I noticed somewhere around the middle of the book that the authors started referring to the "Global North" and "Global South," but I don't recall a definition. Generally, as far as I can tell, the "Global North" is the northern hemisphere and the "Global South" is the southern hemisphere (obvious, right?), but then I think places like Australia fall into the "Global North" despite their geographical location. Anyway, I really dislike when terms are thrown around without first defining them.

p. 209 had an idea that I thought was great: compostable tent city. Basically current refugee camps are disgusting cesspools of disease and general grossness. But Rocky Mountain Institute has designed a refugee "tent" that is made of cardboard-based panels, and therefore intentionally wears out over time. But, the panels are infused with local seeds, so as the cardboard breaks down, plants grow, enabling refugees to start gardens (I'm not exactly sure where they'll be living at this point, but it still seems like a nicer idea than the images we currently see on the nightly news).

p. 228 discusses how density is efficient. The example given is New York City: "New York City is more populous than all but 11 states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank 51st in per-capita energy use." Another reason for us New York-centrics to continue to think the city rocks!

p. 257 talks about green facades, which is something I'd like to build on my home (I haven't told my husband this yet. We've got other projects to get through first).

p. 281 talks about how big cities actually benefit women, mostly by giving them more control over their lives through increased opportunities and freedoms.

p. 337 because I'm a super-dork, I LOVED that there was a reference to Mordor thrown in here: "on the information-technology front, the most pernicious culprit in robbing nations of self-determination is 'anticircumvention,' first seen in the 1996 treaties from the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a body with the same relationsihp to wcked copyright law as Mordor has to evil." (Yeah, I was totally confused, despite dorking out, until I read the next paragraph, which said, "anticircumvention laws make it a crime to tell people how to get around the locks placed on digital works, regardless of whether those locks protect anything guaranteed in law.")

p. 357 mentions obsteric fistula, which I was excited about because I had just read "Cutting for Stone," in which this condition plays an important role. It was totally one of those "no way! I was just thinking of you when you called me" sort of moments which are really just a series of statistical probabilities, but always seem serendipitous when they happen.

p. 367 suggests a book called The Practical Nomad: How to Travel around the World, which "offers tips, resources, and advice sure to benefit the intrepid travelers among us."

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was written in six voices, and two of them were very hard to read, which made the book difficult to get through.

The six voices were very distinct, and for the most part interesting and well-written. The story-line of the book, however, is not that feels a little like the story functioned as the backdrop the experiment of writing a novel with so many distinct voices, and then weaving them together in tenuous ways. Some of the relationships are clear, while others require the reader to make assumptions and jumps of logic.

That being said, there were some lines that struck me as being brilliant:

p. 34: To fool a judge, feign fascination, but to bamboozle the whole court, feign boredom.

p. 49: Implausible truth can serve one better than plausible fiction.

p. 54: An idler and a sluggard are as different as a gourmand and a glutton.

p. 63, regarding a teenage girl: her hobbies are pouting and looking martyred.

p. 64: a half-read book is a half-finished love affair.

pp. 81-82: Composers are merely scribblers of cave paintings. One writes music because winter is eternal and because, if one didn't, the wolves and blizzards would be at one's throat all the sooner.

p. 95: "...Hitchcock's Buenas Yerbas remark puts me in mind of John F. Kennedy's observation about New York. Do you know it? 'Most cities are nouns, but New York is a verb.'"

p. 136, after eating lobster: Crustacean shrapnel is piled high.

p.167: My room had high windows with blinds I couldn't lower because I am not twelve feet tall.

p. 168: Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.

p. 169: Despondency makes one hanker after lives one never led.

p. 170: The cold sank its fangs into my exposed neck and frisked me for uninsulated patches.

p. 370: Poor England. Too much history for its acreage. Years grow inwards here, like my toenails.

p. 460: Boundaries between noise and sound are conventions, I see now. All boundaries are conventions, national ones too. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.

pp. 469-470: Knew I'd never see my twenty-fifth birthday. Am early for once. The lovelorn, the cry-for-helpers, all mawkish tragedians who give suicide a bad name are the idiots who rush it, like amateur conductors. A true suicide is a paced, disciplined certainty. People pontificate, "Suicide is selfishness." Career churchmen like Pater go a step further and call it a cowardly assault on the living. Oafs argue this specious line for varying reasons: to evade fingers of blame, to impress one's audience with one's mental fiber, to vent anger, or just because one lacks the necessary suffering to sympathize. Cowardice is nothing to do with it--suicide takes considerable courage. Japanese have the right idea. No, what's selfish is to demand another to endure an intolerable existence, just to spare families, friends, and enemies a bit of soul-searching. The only selfishness lies in ruining strangers' days by forcing 'em to witness a grotesqueness. So I'll make a thick turban from several towels to muffle the shot and soak up the blood, and do it in the bathtub, so it shouldn't stain any carpets. Last night I left a letter under the manager's day-office door--he'll find it at eight a.m. tomorrow--informing him of the change in my existential status, so with luck an innocent chambermaid will be spared an unpleasant surprise. See, I do think of the little people.

p. 471: Strip back the beliefs pasted on by governesses, schools, and states, you find indelible truths at one's core. Rome'll decline and fall again, Cortes'll lay Tenochtitlan to waste again, you and I'll sleep under Corsican stars again, I'll come to Bruges again, fall in and out of love with Eva again, you'll read this letter again, the sun'll grow cold again. Nietzsche's gramophone record. Wen it ends, the Old One plays it again, for an eternity of eternities. Time cannot permeate this sabbatical. We do not stay dead long. Once my Luger lets me go, my birth, next time around, will be upon me in a heartbeat. Thirteen years from now we'll meet again at Gresham, ten years later I'll be back in this same room, holding this same gun, composing this same letter, my resolution as perfect as my many-headed sextet. Such elegant certainties comfort me at this quiet hour.

p. 482: "An idea of Father Upward's, at the Tahitian Mission. You must understand, sir, your typical Polynesian spurns industry because he's got no reason to value money. 'If I hungry,' says he, 'I go pick me some, or catch me some. If I cold, I tell woman, "Weave!'" Idle hands, Mr. Ewing, & we both know what work the Devil finds for them. But by instilling in the slothful so-an'-sos a gentle craving for this harmless leaf, we give him an incentive to earn money, so he can buy his baccy--not liquor, mind, just baccy--from the Mission trading post. Ingenious, wouldn't you say?"

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