Archive for the ‘Random Tale’ Category

Fifty-Five and a Half Pounds   3 comments

For pretty much my entire adult life, I’ve been overweight, or even obese. I really don’t know what I weighed when I graduated high school, but, certainly by the end of college, my Body Mass Index (BMI) was over 25, likely over 30. I can find pictures from the late Nineties when it’s pretty obvious. Yet, my wife still married me when I looked like this (from 1998):

A family member had a double-bypass in 2001, which was the year after I started bike commuting. This got me thinking a bit more about what I ate. I stepped up my cycling, something I did half-hardheartedly since college. While I was 194 pounds for a couple months in 2004, pretty much, since then, I danced around 208 pounds, varying a bit depending on season, my attitude, stress, etc. This put my BMI just a hair under 30, the line between “overweight” and “obese.”
Goofy Charles

I had the best of intentions of dealing with it. I was very unhappy at work, so I allowed myself to stress eat. I knew what I should and shouldn’t eat, and how much. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Some level of depression and unjustified guilt kept me from riding as much as I probably would have liked. I kept telling myself: get a new job, then we’ll work on the weight.
ICB Avatar (Duster) 2

There was part of me that was honest with myself. It’s easy to imagine that, if I were to get a new job, giving myself a pass “for a few months while I settle in.” Or some other excuse. Without admitting it, I had resigned myself to being 208 pounds, give or take, for the rest of my life. Change, after all, is hard.

Last spring, my wife started to leverage a few tools to try to lose weight. And, it worked very well for her. Work got a bit better, and I started to realize that I could not put my life on hold for a job hunt. A year ago today (September 26, 2013), I started to use her system, tweaked a bit for my preferences. It was right at the start of the “Renew the Zoo” campaign.
#RENEWtheZOO Yard Sign #3

The tools centered, for me, around My Fitness Pal, where I logged everything I ate, and any exercise I did. I already captured a lot of information from cycling, so that went in there. A FitBit captured “incidental movement”–walking to and from the bus, at the grocery store, etc. As Fall turned to Winter, I got to the gym more regularly, doing videos from The Sufferfest. Pants became loser, then replaced. I started setting personal bests on the bike in February, a time when historically I lost strength.
Charles Standing with Beso

In April, my BMI went under 25, moving from “overweight” to “normal” for the first time since…well, I couldn’t really tell you. I continued with the process, carefully weighing and tracking what I eat and exercising. What surprised me was that, while not “easy,” how quickly I adapted to cutting out a lot of the crap I was consuming. I still enjoy things, just that I’m more selective. I’m better about choices being “or,” not “and.”

A good contrast is below. On the left, a photo taken of me at the end of July, 2013. On the right, wearing the same shirt, is me in mid-July 2014.
Same shirt, about a year apart. Thanks, @myfitnesspal, @fitbit, and @thesufferfest. #iwkmattkyt

As of last Saturday, I lost a total of fifty-five and a half pounds. I still have a bit more I want to lose, mostly so I’m more cleanly in the size pants I currently am wearing. However, I feel a lot better, both physically and mentally. I’ll continue to these tools, or ones like it, as I work to maintain my weight. This does not strike me as a problem. As we say in the Information Technology business, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This is simply a way I can manage my body better, giving me control. I hope to continue to make healthier choices, stress-biking rather than stress-eating.

It’s been amazing to see the change. The snowball effect of losing weight, eating better, and exercising more consistently has made me feel better. Even my daughter says I’m happier now. When I look at the results–pictures, bike logs, or scales–I can easily see why. It’s my hope I’m able to keep this moving forward, and sustain this.
Second CXTT

Posted 2014-09-26 by Mr. Guilt in Interesting, Random Tale, rant

Couldn’t Get to Work   Leave a comment

I didn’t intend to work from home today.

The prediction for last night was that we’d have snow overnight, which woudl make for a “messy commute.” Two or three times a week, I try to get in a workout at our gym before work. This means getting up at 5:20, to get to the gym, do my thing, the back home to drop off my car and catch my bus around 7:30. Though I got my equipment ready for that last night, I suspected that the roads would be a bit of a mess, and it just wasn’t worth the risk and hassle. It was no surprise when my alarm went off that I reset it for another hour of sleep.

I went about setting up for a normal day, but putting on my boots rather than typical work shoes. While not necessarily the letter of the dress code, there is usually flexibility on snowy days, especially mine (which look pretty dressy). I set out to the bus stop, enjoying my feet sinking in two or three inches of powder. While I wouldnt want to start an arctic expedition in how I was attired, I was warm enough to wait ten minutes or so for the bus.

My bus stop is at the corner of US 50, just before it starts a great curve by Lunken airport. Westbound traffic, towards downtown, was creeping along. Eastbound, several cars had pulled to the side of the road. In addition to curving northward, the highway also climbs a pretty decent hill. The road was slick enough that rear-wheel drive wasn’t going to cut it. It made my decision to sleep in a bit see wise.

Fifteen minutes passed–I figured the slow traffic had the bus hung up.

At thirty minutes, I could feel my fingers and toes start to feel the effects of the cold. I stopped trying to pull out my phone to figure out what was going–it hadn’t told me much. My body shivered.

By the forty-five minute mark, I realized I probably stayed out longer than was truly safe. I hiked back up my hill, got inside, and ran water on my fingers until they felt normal. My wife wasn’t expecting me, and texted me. I went up and explained I’d be working from home today. I’m fortunate my job allows me that flexibility.

It turns out that US50, otherwise known as Columbia Parkway, was severely backed up, and cars were sliding everywhere. I saw mid-morning that it was closed to traffic.

I’ve been using the Cincinnati Metro for over thirteen years. On a few occasions, I got in when no one else did. This was the first time I was not able to get in to the office due to weather.

Posted 2014-01-21 by Mr. Guilt in Cincinnati, Photography, Random Tale, work

Customer Service Through Social Media   Leave a comment

I’m impressed by companies that give good customer service. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to it: you see chains that have a reputation for superior customer service, and mom and pops that act as though they are doing a favor by being open. At the end of the day, it comes down to the culture of the organization, rather than size.

Social media has helped a lot more companies respond to their customers a lot more quickly. The other advantage, I think, is that the companies are getting better insight not just to large complaints that can make or break a company, but little annoyances that probably wouldn’t change the relationship negatively. Social media allows companies to interact with individual customers, and on issues that they may not feel the need to escalate to them. I’ve experienced it many times myself.

The first time was a few years ago, when I was having trouble with my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. I made some grumbling on twitter–not that I saw it as Kitchen-Aid’s fault, but just an issue had to deal with. Within half an hour, I got a message from their twitter account asking for details. This lead to a phone conversation, which helped pin down what I was doing wrong. I don’t think I would have bothered to call on my own, and they wouldn’t have known there was an issue. But the fact that they could say “how can we help” definitely raised their esteem in my eyes.

A @Levenger Circa disk broke. #officesuppliesThis week, I had another incident. My disc-bound notebook is a blend of many companies’ products, thought the core is the Levenger Circa system. One Wednesday morning, I discovered the bottom-most disc had cracked in half. I have no clue how that happened, though I suspect it was somehow my fault. I noted that I’d need to go get a replacement, but, as is my way, griped about it on twitter.

Levenger noticed this, and inquired about it. I got the sense that it was a fairly uncommon occurrence. We exchanged a few messages, over the course of which they offered to replace the disc. By Friday afternoon, I had the replacement back in my notebook.

They certainly didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to monitor twitter and respond to me. Any reasonable person could look at my broken disc and say that it was an accident that had nothing to do with Levenger. But the fact that they both monitor twitter, and were willing to replace my disc was definitely above and beyond the call, and makes me much more likely to do business with them in the future. I truly don’t think this would have come about in the absence of social media, and companies that know how to take advantage with it to interact with their customers on a one-on-one basis.

FlickrExporter PEBKAC   Leave a comment

PEBKAC on FlickrExporterAlmost all of the photos on this blog are hosted on Flickr. You can click on them, and get taken to the photo page there. A couple more clicks, and you can find the original size of the image, as opposed to whatever it happens to be scaled to here. As noted, I use Aperture for post-processing of my images, and a tool called FlickrExport to upload them to Flickr. This allows me to upload them directly from Aperture, get them into sets and groups, etc.

Today, I wanted to put a photo of Nubo as my wallpaper on my work laptop (“WorkTop,” as it is pseudo-affectionately called). I went to the page in Flickr, then to show all sizes, so I could get one that would most likely fill the screen. The biggest one was 640×480–way smaller than I expected from a 16 megapixel DSLR. I poked around a bit, and all the last several rounds of photos were like that.

It dawned on my what happened. Sometime between World Rhino Day and our trip to Rowe Woods, I think I was troubleshooting something. I set the upload size on FlickrExport to 640×480, and never set it back. In other words, I had a PEBKACK issue–Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.

I reset the setting, and did a test upload–that was it. It is going to be too much work to re-upload correct sizes to Flickr, then update the blog, so it will stay this way. If there any photos you want better than 640×480 resolution, let me know. I still may go back and upload full-size versions, as I just like having the right one up there.

One thing is for certain: I will double check that from now on!
Nubo, and his Tail (16:9)

Posted 2013-11-18 by Mr. Guilt in computers, Geeky, Photography, Random Tale

Red Squiggle Dependency   Leave a comment

Red Squiggle Dependency
Don’t want to read my handwriting? See the Microsoft Word version.

This Was Going to be an Awesome Blog Post   Leave a comment

#dailyArsenal 1949 @ParkerPens 51 #fountainpen, @MonteVerdePens One Touch #ballpoint/#stylusThis was going to be an awesome blog post.

It really was.

I had the initial idea while at the office. That’s not entirely true–the thought had been tumbling in my head for a couple weeks now, just below the surface. I would get a peek at it while drifting off to sleep. Once in a while, it would bubble to the surface of my thoughts while in the shower. I even saw it on a bike ride once. However, it was today that all thoughts different threads wove together into a cohesive idea.

Before I realized it, a rough outline formed. I figured ten minutes with a text editor, a quick spell check, and it would be ready to go. I’d sit on it for a few hours then reread it–something I like to do with any major missive–but, by that point, it would be more an at of polishing.

It was going to be really good, too.

I think that it would easily join the ranks of my most viewed posts. It may have been picked up on Buzzfeed, or some simiar site. Thousands of people would come to my blog. They’d read other posts. I could become a professional blogger, just due to this one idea.

I was slow in getting out the notebook I have just for capturing such ideas. I was trying to pick through a few emails, and didn’t want to break that rhythm. But the idea was still there. Then, I got an instant message from someone–there was some paperwork I swore I complete, but the ticketting system was showing otherwise. I typed three different responses in the chat window, each decreasingly offensive, until I reached a civil tone, and clicked send. I went into the system, updated the ticket, and he confirmed that that task was now closed.

I was at work, where I’m not a professional blogger. Dealing with the ticket was a higher priority for me at that moment.

But now, that idea is once again gone. I have clue where it went. I can’t even tell you what it was. I spent a few minutes looking at the various sources on my desk: my email, IM windows, to-do list, and twitter feed. But nothing was jarring my memory.

I hope one day to see this idea again–it really was a great one. I’ll write it in the notebook I have for just such a purpose. Then, when I have a bit of time, I’ll form the idea into a blog post, and put it here.

You’ll be very impressed. I promise you: it really was goinig to be an awesome blog post.

Posted 2013-10-22 by Mr. Guilt in Random Tale, rant

Thumb Around   Leave a comment

Having a kid is a great excuse to pull out various “skills” you had prior to adulthood, but have little reason to use today. I amazed my wife when I demonstrated I could make balloon animals. This weekend, I showed my daughter I could do a “thumbaround.”

As I may have mentioned, I was on the debate team in high school. For whatever reason, folk who did competitive speech in Louisiana in the mid-eighties all “twirled” their pens. I learned it sometime my freshman year of high school, throwing my Pilot BP-S around my thumb. The key thing was to get to the point where you could set it up, twirl, and reset with one hand consistently–otherwise, you were just trying too hard.

If you were really good, you could do both left and right hand simultaneously.

Don’t ask me to explain how I did it–it is somewhat like trying to explain how to tie your shoe. I know I was doing it in college, using a Cross Century ballpoint I was given as a high school graduation present. Once I started using fountain pens, I became worried about both damaging the nib and flinging ink everywhere. I rarely do this anymore.

Every now and then, though, when presented a supply cabinet pen, I give it a twirl, just to show I still got it.

Raccoon Visitor   Leave a comment

The City of Cincinnati issued new trash cans a few weeks ago, to be used instead of my can. It’s a large, rolling thing. If my property was flat, it would be tolerable, but, given that my front yard is a steep slope, it’s a bit of a pain to roll up and down the hill. The lid flips open, and doesn’t have any sort of latch–not even a friction-snap like my can. As you may guess, I’m not a fan, but it’s not something that’s worth getting too upset about.

The other evening, around 10:30 or 11 in the evening, we heard a rumble, like things were being knocked over. I tried to decide if it was worth investigating. It repeated, so I did a tail count: none of the cats were into any mischief. For the most part, they were trying to figure out what I was doing. I went and sat back down on the sofa. A third repeat had me really wondering. The sound had sounded like it was coming from outside. Looked out the front windows, but didn’t see anything. I flipped on the lights to the back porch, and looked out.

By the trash can was a couple of Chinese food containers. I stepped outside, and opened the lid to the trash can. A raccoon was looking up at me. I generally think raccoons are cute, but they are also animals I know can be somewhat unpredictable.

I wish I could say I calmly went inside. I’m a fan of wildlife. When I’m at my day job doing whatever it is I do that is dull, monotonous, and not making the world a better (or worse) place, one of my daydreams is join at research team to photograph wild snow leopards (or the clouded leopards, or another wild cat species). While I realize that there is a difference between seeing a wild animal in the wild where you semi-expect it and unexpectedly seeing a wild animal confined in your trash can, my reaction suggests that I’d be more likely to scare every snow leopard in the Himalayas.

I flipped the lid closed–the racoon sat confused. I like to imagine he shrugged and went back to picking through my garbage. I went inside and close the door, and my wife came to make sure I was OK. We did a tail count–everyone was accounted for, and being mellow. I looked at my cats. Though descended from fierce predators, I face the reality that only Eddy at his wildest might stand a chance with a racoon. They are as domesticated and removed from the wild as I am.

Overnight, I worried about the raccoon, and if he’d be able to get out of the deep can. The next morning, I made sure all the cats secured behind a door, and I grabbed our broom. First, I tapped on the side of the can: no reaction. Then, I used the end of the handle, to open the lid from as far as I could manage. I peeked in: just garbage, no raccoon. I picked up the mess, then went to work.

Posted 2013-08-17 by Mr. Guilt in house, Random Tale

Tetris Addiction   Leave a comment

Delete TetrisI’ve noted in the past that I have some bad habits with my SmartPhone. For the most part, they are annoyances, or, at worst, a touch on the inconsiderate side. I’m self-aware enough that I can make an effort to manage that behavior, though there are days I confess I’ll go into my own little iPhone world. My wife is off on Fridays, and sometimes meets me for lunch. A few weeks ago, she was dealing with a work thing on her phone, and I took the opportunity to confirm what was going on for me that afternoon. The waiter called us on it, which I found a bit amusing, though it didn’t immediately stop us (that said, after work was done, we didn’t pull them out for the rest of the meal).

There is one bad SmartPhone addiction I have, though, which requires a bit more aggressive action: Tetris. Whenever it’s on the phone, it becomes consuming. I’ll tell myself I’ll play a quick game while waiting for my family, but pretty soon, they are waiting on me. I’ve almost missed bus stops while engrossed in a game. Before long, I catch myself sneaking games during conference calls.

Once I realize I’m a bit out of control, I’ll delete it from my phone for a few months. Then, reload it for a week, only to delete it again. I don’t seem to have to do this to other games–they aren’t as consuming to me, and the interest fades after a while. Tetris is different, and the addictive nature is scientifically documented.

I keep trying to decide about this habit. Is my quarterly Tetris binge OK, given that I walk away from it from time to time? Is the fact that I am aware enough to know I need to delete it a sign of control, or an unhealthy relationship? How long will it stay off the phone this time?

Posted 2013-08-13 by Mr. Guilt in computers, Geeky, Random Tale

The Long Wait for a Ride Home   Leave a comment

Even @cincinnatimetro is hit with this snow. #waitingI started riding the Cincinnati Metro to work in 2000, as an outgrowth of biking to work. Bike commuting drove home the point, to me, that I almost never needed a car during the day (the traditional objection to driving to work), and had some options if I needed to get home quickly. So, when the weather is not conducive to biking to work, I take the bus. Rarely do I get stuck at the office too late to take the bus, and almost never have an issue.

So, last night, I had an unprecedented delay.

There were predictions of snow yesterday, though I expected it to come just after the morning rush hour. I made a point to get out to the bus stop and not miss my ride–leaving the driving to someone else during bad weather is just one of the perks of bussing it. It started as a flurry–nothing to worry about. Then, big fluffy flakes came down. Eventually, I couldn’t see to the river from my office window (usually, we can see quite a way into Kentucky). I got a text from my wife letting me know that she got home, but struggled a bit to get up our hill. I heard of long delays. I decided to wait for a somewhat later bus, to get past the wait.

I targeted a bus leaving at 5:45. As I approached the stop at just past 5:40, I saw one of the routes I take leave–the one scheduled for 5:25. Yikes–a twenty minute delay. This past summer,they installed new signs, with updates on arrival times and schedules. Some routes showed delays of five or ten minutes. For my routes, it simply said “delayed.” Lovely.

I stood waiting for the bus. I moved to a spot between the points where the two routes I take pick up passengers. With no information, I was reluctant to retreat into a building to warm up and perhaps browse a magazine rack. I felt my toes get cold. My headphones started making the “low battery tone.” My wife texted that a neighbor who also works downtown took an hour to get home. I mentally decided it was the high water mark. I watched the backed-up traffic slowly go past my stop and towards Columbia Parkway.

I didn’t want to make my wife and daughter set out again in this weather. There were taxis nearby, and I’ve taken them in the past when either I missed the last bus for a long time, or there was an emergency at home. Since I heard it may take an hour, I didn’t want to spend it in the cab. But, as it got later, I started to doubt a bus would come. And I got colder.

Just as I started to try to find out the status of the roads and consider the taxi, I saw a bus coming–it was my route! I jogged to its stop, and got on. Based on my tweets, it was 6:41–nearly an hour past the pick-up time. The bus driver said it took her an hour to come from the other end of the route. Once on the road, the ride took more-or-less as long as it usually took.

I don’t perceive this to be an argument against the bus. This is the only time this has happened in a dozen years, and it was extreme conditions. If anything, I was glad I wasn’t sitting in traffic behind the wheel. However, I’m glad that today has warmer temperatures, no predicted percipitation, and likely no issues getting home.

Posted 2013-02-05 by Mr. Guilt in Cincinnati, Random Tale

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