The Whys of Learning

In my experience both inside of and in front of classrooms, students can be broken into three general categories. Those that are simply filling a seat is the smallest group by far, and I’ve never entirely understood why those students are there. This group is not really the focus of my post, though. The last two groups are those that I wish to discuss: the Knowers and the Learners.

Knowers want to know facts…they want to be in possession of knowledge. I envision them as the intellectual version of hoarders. They collect information in a way that is astounding to me. My brain simply doesn’t work in a way that would allow me to amass trivia in that way. This shortcoming has been the bane of my existence throughout most of my education. I struggled my way through history, English, and mathematics courses for a long time because of this. Memorizing streams of date-event combinations, completely inane grammatical dictums, or seemingly arbitrary mathematical rules seemed so boring, pointless, and useless.

It is fairly simple to find the Knowers in a classroom. Knowers are the ones that have their heads down as they frantically scribble every word that the lecturer says onto a piece of paper. They are the students whose hands shoot up into the air to waste the valuable time that follows an instructor’s request for questions with the pointless “Will this be on the exam?” They are the students who will argue with an professor over some obscure piece of minutia or semantic quibble on an evaluation rather than acknowledge that there is a fundamental lack of understanding in play. They revel in multiple choice and in concepts being made black and white.

Sometimes, you will find the Knower in front of a classroom, although they are harder to spot.1 These are characterized by educators issuing a barrage of vocabulary and trivia on students. The Knower-Educator will teach ‘to the test’ oftener than not. Closed-book, closed-note, multiple-choice exams are often their mode of evaluation. It is possible to pass one of their courses—to excel, even—and still not understand any of the material at all. In many cases, it is laughably easy to do so, and I certainly made it a habit through much of my K-12 schooling.

Conversely, Learners want to know why the facts are…well…the facts. They want to be able to figure out the facts on their own. They are rarely satisfied with concepts in the form of “A is true, B is false” when there is a chance to learn in the form of “A is true because of X and Y, B is false because of Y and Z” or better still “We know X, and we know Y, what does this tell us? Yes, A!” This is the group I identify with the most. I learn because I want to know more than mere facts. Facts are largely boring things of no consequence in my life. What good is a pile of facts? In what way is my life going to be bettered by knowing the year that the Magna Carta happened2 or the formula for the quadratic equation? I want to be given the reasons for those facts. Given sufficient reasons, I can almost always backtrack and find the fact itself. Malcolm Gladwell has an example in Outliers: The Story of Success wherein a young lady is re-learning how to obtain the slope of a line and runs into a concept that derails many a math student: the slope of a vertical line. By working through the concept of slope, rather than just memorizing the formula, she was able to grasp and understand why such a line would be considered to have no slope3.

Learners are a little bit harder to distinguish, but there are some indicators. Learners will often sit back and watch a lecturer speak. They take infrequent, short notes. They interrupt the class to ask questions. They veer off topic as they make mental connections. They will argue an infrequently seen boundary case endlessly until they grasp why that case doesn’t jibe with the rest. The fact that many of these traits are often found in the group of students who just don’t care makes it hard to pick Learners out. One point of differentiation, though, is questions that begin with “Why” or “How come.” It is no coincidence that the period of our lives during which we are learning the most (and capable of verbalizing) is characterized by repetitions of these two questions, “Why” is the sound that learning makes.

A Learner-Teacher tends to teach in metaphors and examples. They will sometimes deliver new material as a narrative, as if they were sharing a story rather than a concept. Sometimes they will work from theory to practice, other times from practice to theory, but they always find a way to put the theory in there. They often fail entirely to answer a specific question directly, but answer in a series of leading questions; it is my understanding that this can be maddening to Knowers in exactly the same way that rote memorization is maddening to Learners.

I have never understood collecting things. I have trouble throwing things away that I think there’s even an the remotest possibility that I might use, but collecting for the sake of collecting baffles me. I have an extensive collection of books, but I have read (or intend to read) every single one of them. Among those that I have read, I have read most more than once, and intend to read them again. If I don’t expect to read a book (or to revisit it), then I don’t keep it. If I decide at some future time to read something, I can always obtain it through borrowing, a library, or a purchase. I don’t understand owning something for the sake of owning it.

I feel the same about knowing things. I cannot fathom knowing something for the sake of knowing it. I want to know why and how, because with the why and the how, I can open up a vast, boundless expanses of knowledge. I don’t have to memorize the formula for the slope of a line, I can figure it out because I understand how it was derived. If I don’t need the knowledge, I don’t bother with it; I can always look it up later. Anything that is more trouble than it is worth to look up or calculate I will take the time to memorize, but that is a last resort not a manner of learning.

I write about this today because I am frustrated by what I see as a shift in percentage between Knowers and Learners. It seems as though there is an increased focus on knowing fact in classrooms, and it comes at the expense of learning concepts. Every semester, it seems that I sit alongside more and more memorizers and less and less people inclined to work things out. Each class I stand in front of seems comprised less of people asking “why is that true” and more of people asking “will we be graded on this?” Students seem genuinely angry when they aren’t taught ‘to the test’ or when they aren’t presented a list of bullet-pointed facts to memorize and regurgitate like intellectual bulimia. In a time when acting out in classrooms or demanding better grades has become depressingly commonplace, I have seen the toll being taken on fellow instructors by Knowers wielding a sense of entitlement and misplaced senses of righteous indignation.

I don’t really know how to teach to a Knower…well…technically, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I do know how to teach to a Knower, what I don’t know how to do is to teach to both Knowers and Learners at the same time, and I am entirely unwilling to teach to the Knowers at the Expense of the Learners. This is something new that I am learning about myself. The first practical result of this new knowledge is going to be some changes to my future syllabi; the first of which is an addition to my FAQ:

Is this going to be on the exam? The short answer to this is “Yes, if I took the time to put it on a slide or talk about it, it is potential exam fodder.” The more complete answer is this: I do not require you to know many facts, but I do require you to understand concepts. When I am evaluating your understanding of the material, whether that be through assignments or exams, I will be evaluating your ability to use that conceptual understanding in some practical way. For example, I will not ask a C class to list the data types, I will ask which data type should be used for a given piece of data. As a result, yes, everything we discuss is likely to be on the exam, because when you put all of this stuff together, it dovetails beautifully to form a complete understanding of the thing you are learning about. You should probably just stick to the short answer.

I’m sure as I put together a more comprehensive set of thoughts on the subject, there will be many, many more changes.

1 It can be difficult to spot a Knower as an educator because many of the earmarks of a Knower are also found in bad teachers regardless of the sort of learner they are. Learner-Educators often teach like Knowers because they don’t have a better way at their disposal.

2 1215. I can still recite this off the top of my head. I could not, however, tell you what it is, why it happened, or anything practical about it…but even after 20 years, I can tell you when it happened. That, my friends, is being taught by a Knower.

3 No slope, not zero slope. You could also say the slope is ‘infinite’ or ‘undefined’ with equivalent impenetrability to those who do not understand the underlying concepts.

Still Crazy, After All These Years

In two hours, it will be Geralyn’s and my third anniversary. That means that three years ago today, I was putting the finishing touches on Penguicon 7 and on our wedding which was to take place immediately prior to the convention. There is a certain symmetry then in having this anniversary serve as a bookend to these three years of con.

When we first chose to celebrate our nuptials at the hotel immediately prior to the con it was, in part, recognition of the convention’s role in our meeting, dating, and our highly unlikely relationship. For me, it was paying tribute to whatever geek gods chose to bestow upon me a woman so out of my league& mdash;so unfathomable beyond the reach of a foul-mouthed misanthrope like myself—that all manner of superstitious rites seem warranted. What we failed to factor in was that it meant that each year, our anniversary would fall on or around this busy, social time.

On our first anniversary, it was still an adventure. How sweet was it that we could spend a few hours sequestered in our hotel room over chocolate covered strawberries (both of us), wine (her), and Monster (me). Even better, we could then spend time with our friends too! By last year, the shine was very clearly off the rose, and Geralyn proved what an amazing partner she was: she didn’t pitch a fit, and she didn’t remain silent, but she did point out that she would like for us to arrange to celebrate somewhere other than a convention. Our conversation coming midway through the second year of our marriage, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a factor in our date selection.

It’s no secret that Ger has been having a rough time of it, lately. That didn’t stop her from being entirely supportive through these last few planning months. Without her, juggling work, school, other work, family, conventions, and a little time for fun would be far too difficult. I’ve proven time and again that I can’t manage the balancing act; I just sacrifice things like fun and family. Ger makes it possible, and she makes me actively happy when I’m going through it.

Well, she makes me less rage-filled; that’s pretty much my version of happy.

So Geralyn, please know that I love you. I appreciate everything you do for me and our family, and I could not be more happy that you are a part of it. I cannot wait to see what we are doing on our tenth anniversary and those beyond! (Spoiler alert: it rhymes with “blenguicon bleventeen”) Thank you for being you.

(Also, for the sex, but mostly the other stuff.)

Losing My Mind

So, at some point I need to revisit that blog post wherein I discussed how overwhelmed I have been and what I’m going to do to fix it with an eye toward “well, did I fix it?”

This is not that post. This post, in fact, flies pretty effectively in the face of that post…this is a post of sharing my busy-ness. Never let it be said that I learn from the past even slightly.

Last weekend was slammed: a birthday party, seeing friends I don’t often get to see, tons of work…then a concom meeting for Penguicon that was simultaneously gratifying (we got a LOT done) and grating (a pretty key member “overslept” a noon to three meeting, and only started responding when I snarked about it on Twitter). So, in one weekend I had to jettison someone who used to be a friend and take on a tremendously increased amount of work to make sure the con happens well.

That part could have gone better.

This weekend is similarly beyond the pale: Ger and I are having company Friday, then Saturday it’s volunteer work at the school, Ikea, and the AASFA spring voting meeting (where a small but whiny group of jack-holes are clamoring for the ability to go to cons at a cheaper rate. It’s weird…when I was poor, I went without. It never occurred to me to demand that it becomes mandatory that everyone else must finance my frivolity…) Sunday, Ger and I are hosting a work meeting/gathering so that programming and anyone else that wants to can socialize, work, and get ready for con.

In the weeks that follow, I have a trip to Boston for PAX East (where I’ve volunteered to be an Enforcer), a brief respite, then Penguicon (coinciding with final exams, term projects, and probably more than a few tears).

So how is your spring shaping up?

Choosing Words

A while back, I was posting on my blog and referred to something that I disliked as “retarded” while railing against it. I’m sure it was something important like snack foods or archaic, opinion based tech topics (you fucking emacs wankers). I had long since eradicated “gay” as a pejorative term (with the ironic exception of any time prior to which I had been hanging around a homosexual friend who used the term frequently referring to things he dislikes), but calling some thing or situation I disdain retarded, or affectionately referring to a friend who had done something foolish as a “tard” was still very much a part of my vocabulary.

On this particular occasion, an online acquaintance called me on it. What she said boiled down to “you’re funny, that’s not, and you’re smarter than that.” I drafted a hasty rebuttal referencing free speech and an argument referring to the blog as my house in a way that was not entirely unlike Cartman’s daytime TV quote, “it’s my life, I’ll do what I want.”

It was probably not entirely unlike what is quoted in this article. Fortunately, I faltered when I got to the part where I tried to defend the usage. How do I defend that in a way that is logically sound and fits with my own ethics? I don’t. In my own unthinking way, I had lumped retarded in with a bunch of other words that had no real meaning, save for disparaging. Like “gay” before it, I had used the language without consideration that it had an initial meaning that was wholly free from negative connotation; and when I used it to mean something was bad, I was equating “gay”, “lame”, and “retarded” with “bad”…with “undesirable.” 1

That’s not alright.

Now, I’d love to say that my vocabulary is entirely free from those, but it’s not. The fact is, I never really used “gay” all that often, so it was pretty easy to ditch. Lame and retarded, however, I used much more often: and so they still seep out. The best I can manage now is to not do it when I’m choosing my words with care (such as in writing), and when I catch myself doing it verbally, immediately stop and correct it.

Well, that and ponder what other words I use casually that don’t mean what I think they do.

1 Before you give me that trite shit about “being retarded *is* undesirable” remember that you’re not saying “dude, that rule is totally being retarded”…you are saying that it *is* retarded, and therefore unwanted. You are putting out in the world that things (people) that are retarded, gay, or lame are unwanted.

Epic Failure

Today should be a day of victory. By all reports that I’m seeing so far today, this weekend’s ConFusion went brilliantly. Our numerous author guests had an enjoyable time, attendees seem unanimous in agreeing that the event was amazing, and most of the staff has expressed a wish to return in the same capacity because of the fun they had putting this thing together. I should be glowing, but I’m not.

We fucked up big.

Instead of feeling elated and spending Sunday evening and Monday morning celebrating, I spent much of the time receiving a well-deserved dressing down from the director of events and the general manager. A relationship that has lasted nearly a decade has been damaged severely, and it that stings considerably.

Some background.

As the hotel liaison, I have several responsibilities, but the most important ones include ensuring a consistent channel of communication between the hotel and the convention, protecting the convention’s interests and facilitating the throwing of the event we are trying to create, and protecting the hotel’s interests to ensure that the trust they have placed in our treatment of their considerable investment is not misplaced.

The first I achieve principally by serving as a single point of contact between all of the various departments of our convention and the various departments of the hotel. In this way, I am able to collect all of the information that is available and use that big-picture view to coordinate with the chairperson to ensure that his or her vision for the convention happens. Sometimes, this means that I must whine, beg, borrow, and cajole in order to get special concessions from the hotel and its staff. Sometimes it means I have to engineer cooperation between multiple convention departments to make sure their desires match the physical realities of the convention space. Sometimes, it means that I have to tell the hotel or the convention “No” or “Not in that way” during planning.

During the course of doing all of the above, so it is that I protect the convention and the hotel from one another. This is not to say that there is an adversarial relationship—nothing could be further from the truth between ConFusion and the Troy Marriott (although I have certainly worked events where calling the relationship “adversarial” would be being very kind)—but it is to say that both parties are understandably focused on their own goals and often have difficulty seeing the goals of the other party. It is my job to smooth that out…to establish what is the most important to both parties and to convey that sufficiently to each side.

One of the many reasons I adore working with the staff of the Troy Marriott is that they, more than any facility I have ever worked with in all of my years of doing events, see our “side” of the event very clearly. They readily grasp what is important to our event and its attendees in a way that has made the event a pleasure to put together. Our convention staff, conversely, have very little understanding of what is important to the hotel. It makes for an interesting dynamic that is quite the opposite of professional events I’ve managed where the corporate-types all readily grasp what the venue needs and the venue neither knows nor cares what the event needs.

I present all of this as a necessary backdrop for the disrespect that we displayed for the hotel this year. During the setup of the convention we destroyed the planning that the banquets staff had put in by running them around undoing things that had been requested (and in some cases re-doing that which they had undone), giving contradictory requests, and in several cases being outright verbally abusive to their staff. Throughout the convention itself, we repeatedly ignored their rules on signage, attire, and food and alcohol consumption.

Then, we started really misbehaving.

By weekend’s end, we had flagrantly ignored several issues of considerable importance to the hotel, and in many cases caused literally THOUSANDS of dollars in damage. We undid much of the benefit of their remodeling in a way that, were this a sitcom, would have seem hyperbolic and unrealistically absurd. We were complete assholes.

Let me take a moment to clarify, though. This was not the attendees…this was the doing of our staff and department heads. If you were an attendee, guest, or volunteer, you very likely did not do anything untoward at all. Every single major issue that occurred was perpetrated by the people who should know better than anybody how to behave.

It is this fact, more than anything else, that really adds sting to the insult. It would appear that when I indicated to the staff and concom that we were not allowed to do certain things and that we were allowed to do other things but only in certain ways, the take-away from that was that I was simply being a dick and could be ignored. Clearly, it seems, I only say these things to pick on people. Obviously, I’m just being mean. So I was ignored.

When I saw the wreckage we caused (and heard about more that I hadn’t had a chance to witness), I was enraged. When our event director—and later the general manager—described to me the things that they had seen, that rage turned to shame and embarrassment. These people had treated us like friends and family for years. I have had a relationship with them that is longer than most relationships I’ve had with individual people; and I’m relatively new on the scene. We were never treated merely as clients and we treated them worse than we would even vendors. We abused staff, we violated their property, and we did so with ruthless aplomb.

I am not generally disposed to tears, and when Christie, the director of events, shared with me what she had found I had to literally put down my head and fight back tears. Whatever betrayal I might have felt must have been pitiful compared to sitting on the other side of that desk.

The worst part of it is, the vast majority of this can be hung directly on me. It was my responsibility. With departments directly by my friends and by associates I trusted implicitly, I was lax in surveying their areas. I spent less time doing circuits of the convention and, when I did, I expended precious little focus on those areas governed by people that I had known for years, that had stood up in my wedding, or that had done admirably in the past. I allowed my trust and my natural propensity toward laziness to result in a piss-poor performance.

Perhaps the lake of beer that soaked carpet in one room would have been a mere puddle had I been more conscientious. Maybe the furniture that was to varying degrees damaged would not have been had I been on the scene more frequently to prevent its movement. Even the food chunks and grease that were run down bathtub drains by individuals doing dishes might have been prevented by closer inspection of the property. Perhaps if I had been more vehement in preventing certain individuals access to the hotel staff, they wouldn’t have been given the run-around as much as they were.

Certainly the actual perpetrators of these acts (and countless others) are in the wrong and should certainly feel their own sense of shame for a job done poorly, but that does not ease my share of the burden. I failed, and I failed miserably. It would not be inaccurate to say that I failed epically. Epic ConFusion indeed.

I would like to apologize for the torrent of words this became, but it’s been weighing on me for nearly 48 hours now. I’m still not okay with this, and I have some significant decisions to make as to how to proceed with…well, pretty much everything.

For now, however, I have to return to the tasks of real life while dealing with the wreckage that we have caused. There’s a set of tasks I really look forward to…

Epic ConFusion Announcement

Today and tomorrow…the Tuesday and Wednesday before the convention…the calm before the storm.

Last night I submitted the final revisions of our layouts to the hotel. Tomorrow, I meet with the complete hotel staff to get last-minute feedback and provide last-minute instructions for the event that kicks off this Friday. Then, on Thursday, all hell breaks loose and ConFusion descends upon us like a deep, unsettling madness.1 A little bit about the weekend to come:

Guest of Honor Dinner

Things kick off a bit early for those that can make it to the hotel Thursday night. We have arranged to take over the hotel’s restaurant for a few hours so that we can dine with our honored guests and some of the roughly infinity 2 authors that are coming out for the weekend. Afterwards, we usually wander up to the consuite for an informal meet & greet while we test to make sure our snacks are fresh and our beer is at the proper temperature.3

If you want to participate in the GoH Dinner, seating is obviously limited by the space we have available, so please RSVP at hotel12 (at) stilyagi (dot) org so we can save you a seat. There are a handful of seats available, so respond soon!

Programming

We have a TON of great panels and events going on this weekend; and for once I’m not scheduled to be on a single one of them. It feels rather nice, actually, to know I’m not required to be anywhere that my role as hotel liaison doesn’t lead. That having been said, there are several things I’m pretty interested in…

I, Suck (Friday 7pm) — some of my favorite authors of genre fiction (John Scalzi, Pat Rothfuss, and Jim Hines) and a few other authors that I haven’t had a chance to read but I’m told are pretty great5 talk about some of their worst work. All are very funny panelists, so this should be fun.

Opening Ceremonies (Friday 8pm) — obviously I’ll be milling about here to hear our GoHs speechify and to make sure all goes smoothly…and perhaps to dance in a thong to “Sexy and I Know It”

Superhero Movie Roast (Friday 10pm) — Dawn and Greg have been mocking movies at cons for years and it never fails to kill, and this year’s movie is a great pick for roasting…plus you get the added bonus that the movie roast generally supplies half the quotes that become the in-jokes amongst convention attendees for the rest of the weekend…just…like…Scarlett Johanssen…

John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell Reading (Sunday 10am) — I have no idea which stories they’ll be reading from…but I cannot imagine it will matter, I’m eager to read more from both of them.

Patrick Rothfuss Reading (Sunday 2pm) — All I know is that this better be from the third book in the Kingkiller set, or I might actually cry. WHY ISN’T THIS BOOK DONE YET!!! :)

Closing Ceremonies/Feedback Session (Sunday 3 & 4pm) — Find out who you can thank for all of the fun you’ve been having all weekend, get an introduction to ConFusion 2013 (including the announcement of several really exciting honored guests), then give us feedback so we can improve the convention movign forward.

Randy Bradakis (Sunday 4:50pm) — From the program book: “Randy Bradakis tells you things that he wants to say, and explains why things in the program book weren’t right. Jer Lance yells at him.” Just one of the things I do for you, the attendee…

Parties

Friday and Saturday nights both have a great lineup of parties. Wander the 15th to 17th floors to partake in free food, free booze, music, merriment, and probable debauchery. Oh, and if you see the ConChair, make sure to give him a drink. He needs it. Don’t let him say no…he’s just being modest…he needs that drink. :)

1 That’s not so much “metaphor” as “an accurate assessment of a future event” for what it’s worth…in all the best possible ways.

2 For really loose definitions of “infinity” that means something entirely different.

3 Studies have shown3 that the most effective way to verify these things is by having people eat our snacks and drink our beer.

4 Source: Jer’s Head, 2012

5 Hey, there’s like, eleventy-billion authors at this con, I can’t be expected to have read them *all* can I? :)

A Flash in the Pan

Life, most of the time, ranges from just sort of boring-and-common to actively shitty. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my life…but don’t confuse a general happiness with this state of affairs for a lack of recognition of the realities of it. Life is mostly dull, painful spacers between “up” moments.

Every so often, someone says “hey, I’d like to create more of those moments, just for fun!“ Those people, for the record, are heroes.

The natural cycle of such things, though, means that sooner or later, some marketing dweeb somewhere says “hey, this is an excellent opportunity to capitalize on people’s inherent desire to be a part of something that is hip and edgy.” This is generally a pretty good sign that an idea is over; corporate sponsorship does not lend itself well to doing things altruistically (which isn’t to say it can’t be done…but it’s a good rule of thumb).

Once they are making television shows about it…well, usually the idea is well into its twilight. If FOX is making a show about it, it’s probably going to end in pepper spray food derivatives, but it’s definitely over…

Tablets, Laptops, Oranges, and Apples

The generally argumentative Internet has, of late, turned its bickering sights from name-calling about PCs vs Macs (my least favorite argument, since Macs ARE PCs, but I digress) or iPhone vs Android (how is this even a fight? I love Android, but for an end-user, it’s a ridiculous choice still) to an even more apples and oranges comparison. We are currently arguing about whether tablets or laptops are better.

(Spoiler alert: the answer is “if you’re asking this question, you don’t understand computing enough to participate in the discussion that follows,” but it’s plausible I’ve just become cynical in my old age.)

Let me being by saying, I used to carry a laptop, and it was annoying.

If I was going anywhere outside of my home, before I walked out the door I had a decision to make: do I take the laptop or do I leave it behind. This was a non-trivial decision with a lot behind it: do I spend 5 minutes breaking down my system wherever it is set up and throw it into the laptop bag? Am I going to have a place to keep it where I’m going, or is its not-inconsiderable bulk going to be hanging from my shoulder all day? Is it going to sit in my car waiting for a break-in? Am I even liable to use it? Am I going to have time? Is it worth bringing the laptop at all?

In the face of these questions I often chose not to bring it. A flash drive with important programs and a Dropbox full of important files often served as a replacement for lugging 5 to 15 pounds of laptop, bag, peripherals, and accoutrements.

When I did bother to even bring it, I just didn’t bother to use it in most cases. Oftener than not if I wasn’t leaving to go to work, the time and space required was greater than I was willing to invest. After setting up camp, I needed to extract my laptop from my bag (and depending on the state of my power and my plans, my power brick and mouse), power it up (and hope that it suspended reliably last time…a crap-shoot on Windows and Ubuntu), open the files that I am planning to work on, and get to work. If everything went optimally (a rarity that involved a confluence of events including a full battery, a reliably suspended operating system, work spaces already configured for how I was planning on working at the moment, files already opened, the Internet already configured, the sacrifice of a lamb to our dark lord, three cups of coffee, and a partridge in a pear tree), I was out 5 minutes of setup. In the mundane version of events referred to as ‘reality’ I was generally out closer to 10 or 15 minutes and a few ounces of frustration and annoyance.

Compare that to my new work flow. I have doubled the size of my laptop with a ruggedized case and it still fits comfortably in a small bag that I carry with me always1 roughly the size of a smallish purse. No decision needs be made; it is just going with me. If I am going to work, I’ll grab my briefcase too which—even with keyboard, peripherals for presentations, a mouse, and all of the paperwork I might need—is still lighter than my laptop was alone.

If I decide to do some work, I can pull out my tablet and work without even setting down my murse2. If I need to type a LOT, I can do so by pulling out the keyboard too, which still all requires approximately the same amount of space as my laptop. Getting to work is nearly instantaneous. I can go from thinking about what I’d like to work on to actually working on it in under a minute. In a WORST case situations (wherein the things with which I want to work are on the cloud but haven’t been synced to my system, I’m not connected to the Internet, I need both keyboard and mouse, my battery is low, and I have to reboot my tablet), I still am working in under 5 minutes. That is pretty damned handy; so handy, in fact, that I find myself working to fill small breaks in my day far more routinely than ever before with a laptop.

“But Jer,” I hear you saying, “I am a(n) $x!” where $x is some nominal job description that conveys an inherent inability to use tablets. “Tablets are useless to me for my job!” To that I respond with the following:

  1. Depending on what your value of $x was, you might be right. It is also not an airplane, so if your $x was ‘pilot,’ you will find that the tablet will certainly fail to fly us to far away lands. It is also not a large truck, so it will not transport merchandise from warehouse to store. It is not even (despite obvious similarities) a spatula, so it will not help you flip burgers at the place of employment wherein you first learned your rhetorical and debate skills. It happens to be a tablet. It is best used for tablety things.

  2. You also might be surprised about what a tablet can actually help you do. If your concern is that it won’t run the software you need, that is often easily worked around. For example, I am a software developer: it has taken me a trivial amount of time to push my C, C++, or Python development to remote systems that I connect to through SSH and VIM.

    When developing in PHP, Perl, Javascript, or other web languages, I SFTP files to and fro. When developing in .Net or Java, I VNC to my desktop. True, if I were principally a Java or .Net developer, I would probably carry my laptop far more often…VNS is a stopgap, not a real solution. If you are a developer that requires a specific, GUI development environment, you might need to read response #1.

  3. If your big problem is input speed, I have found that with or without a keyboard, inputting isn’t a considerable problem for me. Using Swift Key or Swype, I can generally program at pretty close to my standard speed—most of the time I spend coding is burst typing while thinking…even an on-screen keyboard handles that well. When I am grading papers or corresponding, the on screen keyboard or voice recognition tends to work very well for me.

    When writing long-form (as in blog entries, term papers, etc), the external keyboard becomes necessary. It, unfortunately, slows my 110+ word per minute typing speed considerably: I type at a mere 60-80 WPM on my external keyboard. Amusingly, 60-80 WPM is closer to my long-term sustainable typing rate anyway.

    Often, I have to do finish work on a desktop; this is true whether I began the coding/writing/correspondence/grading on a tablet or a full system. I need editing, that is a given. If you have read this far, you already know that.

    If your needs cannot be served by any of the above, you might need to re-read point number 1

Regardless of how well it works for me, the tablet doesn’t fix everything. It is not a gaming rig…my occasional forays into gaming will not be satisfied without my laptop. It’s also not a power house; if I’m going to really dive into work, I want multiple monitors—each with more real estate than my paltry mobile screen provides. In either of those cases, desktops are ubiquitous enough at this point, though, that I can almost always find one where I’m going to be working if I need to…and I rarely need to.

Are tablets for everybody? No, don’t be stupid. Neither are shoes, cars, glasses, or pine nuts. Are they sufficient for most people? I’ve found that to be true (of tablets…but also of shoes, cars, glasses, and pine nuts). Most people’s needs can be boiled down to consumption, correspondence, and creation—in descending order…on a STEEP curve. A tablet works well if your needs fall into that pattern; hell, it could work if your needs do not, but can be made to emulate that pattern. If your creation, however, is of a sort that does not lend itself well to low-power, low-end devices (media creation, .Net programming, etc), then you might want to give tablets a miss for a while.

All I know is that the power supply on my laptop fried half a year ago, and I still haven’t bothered to get it repaired. I’ve missed having the laptop about twice since the beginning of the summer. I should probably get on that. Your mileage, as they say, may vary (but what they don’t tell you is…that’s because you’re doing it wrong!)

1 A side benefit of carrying a tablet, I now carry a purse…women have this SO DAMNED RIGHT. I don’t know how I survived without it in the past. I now have pens, sharpies, membership cards, headphones, etc with me at all times

2 M(an) (p)urse. Also referred to as “manbag”, “why I’m not masculine”, and “chuck”

Dearly Beloved…

This weekend I served as last-minute officiant for the wedding of a friend. On Wednesday, I was asked if I could fill in for a wedding to take place on Saturday. I had availability, I wanted to help out, I said yes!

In all, it was an awesome experience. I am really glad that I could help out…and Krista and Trevor are clearly fantastic together. I was a bit nervous that the short notice was going to be a problem, but cramming a lecture into my head on short notice has become par for the course for me; by Friday, I was golden.

By Saturday morning, I was less golden. For nearly two weeks, I have been having what felt like a constant, low-grade asthma attack—like someone was applying uneven, firm pressure on my chest. Uneven, firm, completely-unaffected-by-Albuterol pressure. By Friday night and early Saturday morning, my “asthma” had become a phlegmy mess replete with a slightly wet cough, extreme shortness of breath, and a deeper, more rumbly, more difficult to hear speaking voice. Pneumonia was sounding more and more like a possibility.

Because—and this is the important bit—what every public speaker needs immediately before speaking is to lose the ability to talk for any length of time without becoming dizzy from lack of oxygen while at the same time losing any ability to make audible sounds with his or her voice.

I spent the last hours before the ceremony trying to change my natural pattern of speech to allow for breathing breaks, lest I lose consciousness mid-word. Ger even admonished me, at one point, not to pass out during Krista’s wedding. That, as Carl[1] is fond of saying, is my least favorite thing to do.

Ultimately, I made it through without passing out. I was quiet (Ger says that at the back of the room, she could hear that I was speaking, but could not hear the precise words mostly, which is precisely the effect that having a sick-induced low, rumbly voice generates), and I had difficulty remembering what to say while at the same time remembering to change my cadence and take breathing breaks, but it came off well and both the bride and groom seemed happy.

There was an awkward moment, however, early on where things got dicey: I forgot to take a breathing break, so midway into the next clause I suddenly got slightly dizzy. Concerned about losing consciousness, I paused as soon as I could, which was not at a very natural breaking point. It wasn’t at a natural breaking point, but it was just before I was going to have to use the names of the bride and groom.

JUST before. Like, two words before.

I blanked for what felt like a half hour but was instead exactly long enough for all gathered to notice, before I pulled it back together, remembered where I was in my spiel, and soldiered onward.

Not, as it turns out, my favorite way to speak in front of people.

As I said though, I consider it an entirely positive experience and I hope that they were genuinely as happy with their wedding as they appeared to be.

Because I’ll want to find it later, here is the text of the ceremony that I wrote. I’m not a super sappy sort of guy, but I feel like it said the things I wanted it to say and didn’t come off either too cliche or too casual: both concerns I had going into this.

(For the record, I did not, in fact, forget to get the last name!)

Weight Loss Update 2

To hell with writing a book in November…I think my contribution to NaNoWriMo should be to stop neglecting my blogs!

Today I weighed in and got my stats measured, and I am supremely happy with the results. To recap, my first measurements began in early July after I had lost about 20 lbs and were:

  • Neck: 17½”
  • Waist (for me, circumference of the fattest part of my gut): 51”
  • Hips: 46½”
  • Weight: 282#

When last I checked in, early in September, those same measures were 18” / 50” / 44¼” / 263# which I found to be a respectable trend. I was happy. Today, I continue to be happy! My neck is down to 16½ inches, which has apparently had a dramatic affect on my appearance as I have, very recently, been getting the “have you lost weight?” question from people. Mostly, I get the question in the last month, and even from folks that have seen me fairly recently.

My hips have shrunk to 43 inches as my weight sunk to 245 pounds. I estimate that this is probably the least I’ve weighed in the time I’ve known my wife. It is a good weight for me, at least as a temporary stopping point.

Most impressive, though, is my waist. The girthiest part of my body has shrunk from 51 inches to 41.5. My belt used to show about 1 inch when cinched to normal tightness…today, there is over a foot hanging out of the end.

So, a quick update, but an update nonetheless…weight continues to come off at around 2 pounds per week; size continues comparably. More on this soon, I hope, with an update of how it is all going in a qualitative sense.

Two Weddings and a Roadtrip

This weekend, Ger and I traveled with a group to the Catskills to witness the start of friends Janet and Nuri new life together as a married couple in a gorgeous ceremony that would have filled Thoreau’s heart with gladness. For everyone making the trip, this was our second wedding in seven days—last weekend’s was an entirely lovely Celtic affair binding together two other people we love dearly. I understand that today, some other local acquaintances are to be wed. It has been a great month for love, amongst my expanded family.

I have always loved weddings, although the reasons for this have changed through the years. As a younger man, it meant booze (often free), food, and women (often lonely and looking for “companionship” for an evening). As I got older, it was my friends getting married, and weddings became a bittersweet time to bid adieu to their old roles in my life and usher in something new (and again with the food, booze, and dates). Once I had a family of my own, I was welcoming folks into a new fraternity with somewhat less partying and somewhat more gossiping about the exciting adventures of our single friends. Maturity, to my reckoning, was a boring, relentlessly quiescent state of being—punctuated by grown-up fights about money, chores, and decisions.

In the years following my divorce, I enjoyed the weddings no less than ever I did before—but I did so in a way that was heavy with cynicism and topped with a dollop of sadness. It was a party, but I knew with absolute certainty that none of these marriages could work in the same way that I knew that a glass thrown high into the air would inevitably crash to the ground, likely shattering in the process. Is there a thing called “gallows enjoyment?” If so, that’s how I enjoyed them.

I’m somewhat less cynical now, I’d like to think.

Now weddings are a celebration and a reminder. A celebration of the love of two people and their promise to do their best to express that love in the years to come, and a reminder that two and one-half years ago I made the same promise to an amazing woman.

Yesterday, when the officiant (or, as I heard him referred, the celebrant) enumerated the things that Nuri and Janet loved about one another, I remembered all of the things that made me fall in love with my wife: her laugh, and how quick she is with it; the way she feels things so deeply and is so willing to share those feelings with me, even when she is embarrassed or worried about them; the way she makes me feel like the kids and I are the most important people in the universe; and the way that she makes it so easy for even someone as lazy as me to show her I love her. So often, after she’s had a rough or emotional time, she apologizes for “being difficult” and I can’t even fathom what she means. I’m reminded that a healthy relationship means sacrifice, but it also means being so in love that your sacrifices don’t even seem to be.

Last weekend, while the minister was discussing the many facets of a marriage that require attention, I was reminded of the importance of presence. It is easy to forget what a powerful an expression of love can be found in a held hand, a hug, or choosing to do my work in the same room with my family. In the same way that my partner in life comforts me when I’m sick and is just there for me when I’ve taken too large a bite of life, I can be there when she struggles with worries about a nebulous future and offer solace when she feels unconfident or troubled. The comfort and strength derived from physical nearness astonishes me regularly.

This week of weddings hasn’t renewed my interest in my wife, I am far too in love with her for that to be even remotely possible. What it has done, though, is to freshen in my mind the places where I can be a better husband. I can remember that my strict planning of those things that I can control and casual acceptance of those I can’t do not come easily or happily to Ger, and that sometimes a few minutes of discussing my views can do wonders for her degree of confidence in the situations we face. I can keep ever in mind that, while her love for me often makes her enthused about the things that excited me, that enthusiasm is not for the actual object of my excitement, but for its effect on me; her amusement at my love of electronics doesn’t make electronics a great gift idea for her. Finally, I can recall how much visible joy it brings to Ger’s face when we are able to take the time to do something just for us, and do whatever I can to make it happen more often.

So I would like to take this time to wish Anna, Janet, Nuri and Ryan all of the best in the coming years. We love each of you only slightly less than you obviously each love your respective partners. Thank you each for allowing us to share in your special day, and for the reminder of how special my wife is to me…because, let’s face it, your nuptials should be all about me. I now return you to your regularly scheduled dick and fart jokes, sorry for the maudlin interruption.

Weight Loss Update

Today marks the end of the first full quarter of my dietary change.

I just deleted a whole bunch of text that followed that initial sentence because, frankly, that stands alone for me. I have significantly changed a previously immutable part of my lifestyle, and that change has lasted me 90 days. Some time ago, I posted a milestone and a request was made that I talk a bit about the specifics of what I’ve done and how it has affected me. I immediately thought, “Hell yeah, that’s a fantastic thing to write about!”

Over a month later, I’m finally writing that post. Let it never be said that I am timely with my posts. Later, I’m going to talk a bit about how much I hate G.W. Bush…right on time! This is almost assuredly going to be very tl;dr, so I wouldn’t blame you if you give it a miss entirely, but if you are hoping to be able to just peruse a small part of it, I’m including this set of links to each of the sections I’m going to talk about: a review of the background of this, statistical information, qualitative information, and plans for the future.

Wait, What Diet?

If you are just tuning in (or possess my wife’s memory for conversations), I wrote almost three months ago about starting a doctor-directed change in diet; the goal being to lose weight, sleep more, and feel healthier. It amounted to:

  • Sleep more

    More than the average 4 hours per night I was getting, my goal was to get closer to 8 hours.

  • Exercise

    Continue, or even increase, the amount of exercise I have been getting.

  • Adjust my food intake

    Maintaining my reduction in calories, properly spread out through the day, heavy on protein, light on carbs.

  • Reduce stress

    Scheduling hobby and hang-out time, getting massages (apparently without happy ending, though), and reducing my business wherever possible.

By the Numbers

All of my statistics have been tracked on myfitnesspal (which has an Android app and a web presence) on which I’m known as jer_. It isn’t perfect, but it works for my purposes.

My weight is currently 37 pounds lower than it was three months ago. That’s an average of around 3 pounds per week, which is still a bit on the high side of what we were hoping for. The goal was to do between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds per week average initially, and that as I approach whatever my body considers to be normal, that should taper off. More concerning is that most of that weight loss was actually in the first two months; I had apparently grossly undercut my caloric intake, so I had lost 30 of those pounds in the first two months. I upward adjusted my intake, and I’m back to a more rational rate.

For the past nearly two weeks, though, I’ve been at something of a plateau. I gained back a bit of weight, then lost it again, so I’ve bounced off of 260 pounds a couple of times without breaking below it yet. At yesterday’s weigh-in (my official record day is Saturday morning), I was at 263. I am not displeased.

About a month in, right while I was losing weight like crazy, I remembered that my doctor suggested I also do regular body measurements…not as regular as weigh-ins, but regularly. My tape points are neck, my waist (for which I’m using the largest point around my substantial gut1), and my hips. I have no idea where I began, but 30 days in (and around 20 pounds down), at 17½/51/46½. Today, I have managed to gain a half-inch in my neck, lose an inch around my middle, and shed almost two inches from my waist, putting me at 18/50/44¼. The neck measurement is an interesting one; as little as two weeks ago my neck had trimmed to 16¾, but now has shot back up to 18. My assumption is that there is some measurement error in there, but who knows.

It took a while to dial in my nutrition, but I think I’m finally in the right area. My caloric intake has continued to decrease along with my weight. Initially, I was consuming 2,200 calories per day with carbohydrates between 40 and 60 grams and protein falling between 70 and 160 grams. I had to bump my calories up because of an initial dump of weight (a pound per day for two weeks, and nearly that for the next two weeks), bringing me up to 2,600 calories per day. Today, my caloric goal is 1,700 calories per day with between 60 and 120 grams of carbs and 70 to 160 grams of protein. I am not, at this time, paying any attention to fat or sodium intake.

Boy, Dieting Must Suck

Overall, I’m still feeling really positive toward the whole experience. My principle goal was to change my entire attitude toward food consumption. When I was constantly moving and getting tons of exercise, had a ridiculous metabolism, and hadn’t yet aged myself into fat gain, I could afford to eat more of what tasted good and less of what didn’t and ignore such things as “calories”…and “portions”…and “nutrients”…and the ability to see my “genitalia.”

My quality of life has not really diminished at all. I’m simply making relatively minor changes to my way of life. I eat less carby things—when I’m out, I look for things that aren’t smothered in sauce or sitting next to a pile of starch. I am more cognizant of how many calories things are—generally I try to enter my food intake before I start eating it so that I get a feel for how much I’ll be ingesting. Generally, this results in feeling full sooner; as in, “Wow, I must be 500 calories into this steak, and I’m pretty stuffed. Weird.2” Other times I just say, “You know what, calorie count? Fuck you in the face. I want to eat those motherfucking Chipotle Chicken Crispers and there’s not a thing you can do about it!…MMMMmmmmm…do you hear that? That’s the sound of extra-thick batter soaking up grease and transporting it directly to my moobs. It is the sound of shame and failure! And those are widely regarded as the most delicious emotions!3

My cheat day is a day that I can eat whatever the hell I want, and so it leaves me never feeling deprived. I don’t have to say, “no, I don’t eat $X anymore” where $X is some (probably delicious) thing that is not conducive to weight loss. Instead, several times per week I say, “Oooh, on Saturday, that shit is going in me!” On cheat day, I almost never get around to cheating as hard as I plan during the week (although there was an outlier that involved a 2,600 calorie lunch that included a Mac N’ Cheese Big Daddy Patty Melt and mac n’ cheese smothered fries and a side of mac n’ cheese, but it’s best not to discuss such things). I pretty much never feel deprived (although, I do miss sushi fairly often.

An important note about the food restrictions, though: I don’t let it get me down when I fail…and I do fail. A histogram of my caloric intake shows numerous spikes of “Oh shit, why did I eat that” moments, but I have to remind myself regularly that I am not on a diet. I have changed the way I eat. This is a permanent change, and like most permanent changes, they aren’t required to be absolutes. If I decide to watch less television, I don’t castigate myself for watching a bit here and there. If I decide to spend more time with my family, I don’t begrudge myself some lapses into overtime here and there. I have decided to eat healthier, and I am way happier if I don’t beat myself up over a decision to ignore that once in a while.

I have added some medical resources to the mix, though. I am seeing my doctor regularly, and we’re keeping an eye on my blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, enzymes, and a bunch of other stuff that sounds like Latin and probably translates to “things fatties have to worry about.”

I am on something whose name I cannot recall now (but I think begins with a ‘T’) to aid in getting to sleep and staying that way, and it is amazing. I am sleeping around 6 or 7 hours per night now. Re-read that sentence, because I just said that I…sleep…7…uninterrupted…hours…now! It’s madness. I genuinely feel the lack of sleep when I get less. If I do get woken up in the night, I just go back to sleep. Lunacy!!

I am also back on phentermine. I took it for two months then stopped refilling the prescription because I assumed that it was okay to stop I hate pills. When I had my last appointment, my doctor got ready to write me a new prescription for them and I pointed out that I had stopped taking them a few weeks before. She responded with the same look that she used when I described how I ate 80% of my calories after 6pm (and many of those after 9pm) most of the time. It’s a look that says, “can you actually be this stupid, or are you yanking my chain?” I love my doctor. She reminded me that we’re trying to fix my metabolism, and me jerking with my meds for no apparent reason isn’t going to help. She also gently reminded me that it isn’t much good for me to come see her if I then ignore her on things that are trivial to do.

She is entirely correct. I am back on phentermine.

The results have been a huge help too. My weight has fairly steadily decreased at basically the desired rate. More importantly, when my loss plateaued recently, I continued to decrease in size according to the measuring tape, so I didn’t feel like there was no progress. I am starting to hear from people that see me infrequently that I appear smaller, which is nicer than I’d expected, since I didn’t really feel like I cared that much about the appearance part of it. An entire section of my wardrobe has opened up to me. A suit that I had adjusted to better accommodate my rotund stature a couple of years ago is now a bit loose on me; pants that were snug or wouldn’t even fit now will not stay up without a belt. One of my belts, one that I used to have to suck-in-my-gut-and-tug to get into the first notch, now rests comfortably in the third or fourth notches. My most frequently used belt used to have about 2 inches of excess hanging out of it; it now has about 6 inches.

I’m clearly somewhat smaller. That, or somebody is sneaking in and replacing my stuff with bigger stuff, which…well…well played, I suppose.

There’s not a lot to say about the exercise and stress relief parts. I have not brought my stress levels down as much as I probably should have (although I have taken decidedly less involved positions in both Penguicon and ConFusion), and I haven’t really had both time and cash to blow on frivolity like massages. For exercise, I’m still walking several miles per week when I can fit it into my schedule, cycling when I get the time (which is pretty rare) and lifting weights for stamina more than strength. Time has been as much of a factor as anything in that area, but that’s not new material if you know me very well.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So from here, I guess it’s just more of the same. I am going to continue to keep track of things on myfitnesspal, as it’s more convenient and quick to use than was Spark. My calories will continue to get adjusted periodically, and my carbs will rise infrequently as well.

I am really hoping to work out a way to get more exercise in (I really wanna play racquetball again) but with my daughter starting sports after school, my already stretched schedule is going to be pretty screwed. I’m hoping to see at least 30 to 40 more pounds of loss, but at a more reasonable rate, so with luck by next summer things will have tapered off to a natural weight for me. If it doesn’t, though, I’m not going to sweat it.

In all, I’m pretty happy with the way things are going; and that’s important, because as I was explaining to someone a week or so ago, there’s no finish-line on this one. This isn’t a diet, it’s a new version of my diet. I’m making changes that will hopefully last, so it’s important that I am pleased with how things are. That’s really the essential bit.


1I realize that this isn’t “correct”, but consistency is more important than accuracy here, and always measuring the largest point is hopefully going to help with consistency. (Back to reading)

2I am such a pitifully simple creature. (Back to reading)

3Widely regarded, in this case, means “regarded by me.4” (Back to reading)

4See what I did there? That’s a fat joke, is what that is. (Back to reading)

Turning 35

Today, I turn 35. Just over the half-way point for the world’s average life expectancy. In the latter half of the 1800s, I would be old by any reasonable measure of the term. As late as the turn of the 20th century I would be at the statistical end-of-life at this ripe old age.

Coincidentally, today marks the day that I had always blithely referred to as beyond my life expectancy— as in, “Yeah, like I’ll see 35…” I am grateful that the idiotic dalliances with chemicals and people that were the principle characteristics of my youth didn’t rob me of the chance to celebrate my three and one-half decades of life with friends and family.

I generally don’t celebrate my birthday—not because I’m ashamed of aging, but because I’m genuinely embarrassed by such a me-centric event (as discussed a couple of birthdays ago[1]—but last night at an evening out with friend, I was surprised with a birthday celebration; the first I recall ever having. It really meant a lot…more than I’d have ever realized, and I appreciate it.

So today I’ll celebrate the happy event in which my cheat day and my birthday coincide by over eating and demanding attention and overt displays of affection—or, you know, business as usual :)

On Health and Diet (and Moobs)

On Friday, I had yet another followup appointment with the Doctor. It went about as well as I could have hoped…but wait, let me back up a little bit first.

It’s no particular secret that my body has made the (probably accurate) determination that I am a absentee landlord/slumlord and has largely given up trying to support my hedonistic1 lifestyle, but in the past several months it has gotten to the point where I really felt like I had to do something I tend to avoid doing…I went and saw a doctor.

Now, it’s not that I specifically have a problem with doctors. I recognize that I’m not immortal and that they serve a very necessary purpose in my life, but I maintain this knowledge while at the same time having precious little real desire to go see one for trivial things like flat feet, insomnia, tendonitis, or weight gain.

So, around three weeks ago, I took my flat feet, insomnia, tendonitis, and weight gain to a local doctor that I met when taking my daughter to her office. We have a good rapport and she seems smart, trustworthy, and not liable to be entirely aghast at my shenanigans. Some orthotics were prescribed for my flat feet, some cortisone was injected into my elbow for my tendonitis, and we started what was to become multiple rounds of blood work to establish the cause of my recent rapid weight gain, my inability to lose any weight regardless the circumstances, and my inability to sleep for periods of time longer than 4 hours.

My weight became something of a concern almost two months prior to the visit, when I decided that I’d finally had enough of a break in my schedule to do something about my massive weight gain. After spending two weeks recording my food intake (and doing little else), I decided to cut my caloric intake by 1000 calories (from an average of about 3200/day to 2000-2200/day) and add walking 2 miles each of two to three times per week.

I nailed it. Over the course of about six weeks, my highest intake day was just under 2400 calories, and that was the only day that it was over 2200. Most days I was under 2000. I missed only one complete week of walking during that time, but every other week walked my 2 miles at least twice, averaging around 30-35 minutes per trip. I went in for my follow-up expecting to see a nice, gentle 2 pounds down per week (I’d have been happy with 1, but I secretly hoped to see 3). The grand total I lost after what amounted to a fairly extenuating change?

Can I get a drumroll!? (And if you don’t see where this is going, I’m awfully disapointed in you.)

I lost a grand total of -1 pounds. That’s right, I was a pound heavier than when I started. Well, technically speaking, 0.9 pounds, but you catch my drift.

The Rich Get Richer, the Fat Get Fatter

Needless to say, I was annoyed. My bloodwork showed very mildly elevated liver enzymes and NOTHING else. My cholesterol was great, my blood pressure was great, my fasting blood sugar was fine, my iron was okay—everything was peachy. So we sat down and we went over my diet. During the time we were discussing, I wasn’t excessively carb heavy, but I didn’t limit my carbs. I don’t really do sugar, so there were no sweets to speak of. The fat content of my daily intake was within the range we discussed most days (generally in the middle of the range). I’d even started eating three meals per day at more regular intervals than in the past.

“Wait right there,” she said, “explain ‘started eating three meals per day’ and ‘more regular intervals than in the past’ for me.”

So I explained. I explained about how generally I’m not hungry in the mornings, so I rarely eat breakfast. Around lunch time I’m pretty hungry, but usually busy, so if I eat, I don’t eat a ton. I explained about dinner time, and how when it rolls around I’m usually starving, so I eat a TON. I explained about how I often eat again later because I’m still hungry. Throughout the telling, she inquired about various things, and I labored to answer as fully as possible given how little attention I’ve always paid to such things. In answer to what percentages of my daily food intake I thought took place before noon, before 8 and after 8, I guessed 20%, 40%, and 40%, roughly?

She immediately interjected, “Hold on, so if you were eating 3000 calories, that means you were eating only about 600 of them in the morning, and at night, after 8pm, you were eating 1200 or more calories?”

I acknowledged the accuracy of her math, and we discussed the factors that could be contributing to my weight. As she described it, if she were to explain to someone how to best gain fat as quickly and efficiently as possible, she would basically describe my lifestyle (only she would add cheesecake, an amendment I heartily endorse): limit sleep as much as possible, work a sedentary job, add a ton of stress, and load as many calories as you can as late as you can and in as few meals as you can. It’s the Jer Diet, guaranteed to boost your weight or your money back!2 My metabolism, as she put it, no longer metabolized; I had essentially made it dormant by keeping it in a sustained fight-or-flight food hoarding frenzy through stress, starvation followed by binging (alas, no purging though), and torturing my body with exhaustion. Food came in, and my body screamed out “MINE!” and resolved to let as little out as possible since I was constantly tricking it into thinking we were starving to death.

Fair enough, but what about the six weeks wherein I didn’t do that? What gives?

She opined that my metabolism, after nearly a decade of such abuse, might need a lot more to kick back into normal gear. So we developed a new plan.

The Plan

She said that I needed to pull three areas of my life together. First, I needed to start sleeping. Perhaps I wasn’t the sort of person that needed 8 hours per day, but obviously I need more than 4 or I wouldn’t survive on caffeine and sarcasm (probably just the sarcasm). She put me on an anti-depressant (whose name escapes me) that, as she put it, “is not a very good anti-depressant, but makes a pretty good sleep aid.” More importantly, she felt that with the way my sleep issues manifest and the fact that I’m a recovering drug addict, this was my best bet for some much needed sleep.

The second area: stress. She reiterated back to me the list of things to which I’ve whittled my responsibilities and pointed out that it was still a lot. Quite a lot. I agreed. My doctor and I both agreed that since I was unlikely to cut MUCH more from my plate, what I had to do was actually schedule relaxation and stress relief. She wants me to get a massage (and sure, money permitting, I’ll get right on that…I’m guessing insurance won’t cover stress relief massages), do a relaxing hobby, spend time with friends and family—all on a schedule. The premise being that if I schedule this time, it’s time into which I can’t schedule other things, so I’ll be forced to relax some. We shall see how that works, but I’m game to try.

Finally, there was my diet. I simply had to get my metabolism going. To do so, I had to schedule my meals better, consume less carbs (not a low carb diet in the Atkins or South Beach sense, but low carb in the “only one serving per meal and make it a non-white carb if possible” sense), and eat much more protein. I looked at Tim Ferris’s Slow Carb Diet (or 4 Hour Body), and while it intrigues me and is close to what my doctor prescribed, it is dissimilar enough that I want to wait until I’ve given her program a run before I diverge. In order to kick-start things metabolically and supress my appetite some, she gave me a prescription for phentermine once per day in the morning. While I’m on that, I’m not doing energy drinks so as to minimize the chances of some of the more heinous potential side effects.

So, for about the last week, that’s what I’ve been doing: trying to relax, taking my go pills in the morning, taking my stop pills shortly before sleep, and concentrating on fixing my eating. So far, I feel great (but when in the history of dieting has the first week ever not been the best week, eh?). Last night I slept an uninterrupted 7.5 hours and I feel really good today. After getting over the initial hump of taking phentermine (when taken on an empty stomach, it makes me feel unpleasant and drug-trigger-y), that is settling in. I’m still consuming 2000 calories or less per day (closer to 1800, atually), but now it’s pretty close to even across all three meals, and there’s no second dinner. I’m consuming at least 40 grams of protein within a half hour of waking up to get things moving (a big protein shake is really helping there) and am making my meals pretty carb-light and protein heavy. The upside is, I generally feel more full despite the fact that every night this week I’ve noted that I’ve fallen short of my caloric goal by around 100-200 calories.

Moving Forward

Will this work? Who knows. The only real diet that I’ve ever been on in the past was when I was lifting and trying to get more muscle definition. At the time, it worked great. At the time, however, my principle caloric load was beer and protein—heavier on the beer than the protein. That said, I was a super lean 185 and very, very drunk. I forsee a very different result here. Ideally, I would like to end up having dropped 80-90 pounds. When I was under 200, I looked emaciated. I think 200 to 220 is a good weight for my frame, but I have a fairly long 75 to 95 pounds shed on the way there. What I won’t be doing is daily updates on my social media feeds. I hate seeing it, and while I know that it is supposedly meant to breed accountability, the fact is that I don’t feel particularly accountable to you guys and gals, no offense. I have one friend that does it ‘right’ by my reckoning: she has lost something like 100 pounds and periodically she’d just point out that she was up or down X pounds. It was like a normal status update; like it should be. That’s what you can expect, normal Jer-like lamentations about how I want to make sweet love to a Double Whopper while eating a (different) Double Whopper or how I’ve gained 2 pounds and am going to go slice off a moob3. Perhaps, if we’re all lucky, you’ll get notices about how I’m losing weight like crazy, looking all buff, and sending pictures of my weiner to interns…but now with SHIRT OFF! You know, business as usual…

[Updated 11 Sep 2011]: If you’re interested in how it’s turning out, there is a follow up here.


1 For a loosely-defined version of “hedonism” that basically consists of swearing, petulance, energy drinks, and leering.
2 Not a diet. There is no guarantee. You’ll get no money back. You probably won’t even survive it. Do at your own risk. Unless I hate you…then, fire away!
3 Moob: Man Boob. If I shaved them, I could probably get off to pictures of them.

Happy Anniversary, Baby

A warning for most of my readers: this particular post is a note to my wife. You’re welcome to read on, but I imagine it will be boring if you are not Ger.

Ger, the background music for this post can be found (at least for now) right here (opens in a new tab).

Now, back to the letter…

Happy anniversary baby,

Two years ago, you did what is generally considered to be the stupidest thing a young lady can do and married me. It could not have been a better move on my part.

I love you more than you could possibly imagine. The understanding I’ve had of what it means to be married was so woefully shy of what marriage could actually be like; it is amazing. I have a partner in life that is in every possible way my complement. You take care of my considerably whiny ass when I’m sick. You remind me that I’m a bit demanding when I’m out of control. You keep my ego in check, but not too in check. You allow your one special weekend per year—this anniversary of our marriage—to be a weekend consumed by planning efforts for the convention at which we met. I can think of no stronger expression of your love and understanding of all that is me than that. You are a strong, intelligent, beautiful, and wonderful woman, and I can no longer imagine my life without you in it.

Thank you for sharing your life with me, for standing beside me when I’m exhausted, overworked, unhealthy and showing no signs of correcting it, and for accepting me when I’m not doing a particularly great job of showing you how important you are to me. You remain the most amazing person in my life, and I love you. You truly would somersault in sand with me.

Here’s to another year…and next year, an anniversary without a convention.

How Not To Contact Me

Ahh, technology. There are about a thousand ways to get in contact with people anymore, and all have their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Add to that the fact that most of the time we all find our own ways to use (and abuse) that communication tech, so what works for one person might not work at all for another, and you have quite the recipe for confusion. I often lament about the myriad ways that various people fail entirely to live up to my unspoken, secret, and quirky code of contact; so today it occurred to me, perhaps I could elucidate (and more importantly, spawn some conversation to boot).

There are countless different methods of categorization of modes of communication (which I will refer to as “com-modes” here [wait, commode means something different, doesn’t it?]) so I will address four major methods that I find important: transience, reliability, professionalism, and usefulness. I will evaluate these by relating them to the primary modes of communication by which folks try to interact with me: social media (which includes mostly Facebook and Twitter), SMS, telephone, IM, and email; then I will attempt to give my assessment of each by the aforementioned standards. Afterwards, I will outline my personal communication standards (so that you can then continue to ignore, causing me untold grief).

Transience

For me, transience really boils down to two essential parts: the duration of time the message remains available and the duration of time it can be usefully maintained. Social media, for example, has moderate transience by the former scale—messages sent last for a reasonably long time—but a damnably low rating by the latter—it is nigh impossible to find the right message when needed. Email has excellent transience in both categories. Telephone calls have virtually none. IM, as I use it, has fairly high, albeit unreliable, transience (I log almost all messages that hit my laptop, but none that hit my mobile phone), whereas SMS has falls fairly in the middle. Were I to organize the communication modes from highest to least transience, it would be:

Transience
Highest Email
IM
SMS
Social media
Lowest Telephone

Reliability

The reliability of a mode of communication should focus both on whether or not the messages arrive reliably and on if there is a way to establish whether or not communication has been made. By these measures, a phone call is clearly the winner; either you have made connection and had a communication (which is profoundly reliable in this age of mobile phone technology) or you have not; very little room for ambiguity. IM does an excellent job of providing reliability only when used synchronously—when used asynchronously, there is literally NO way of knowing if a message has even landed, and the reliability of message logging is severely suspect. I often have the following situation occur: I leave my computer on, it collects tons of IMs, I suspend my laptop without having read them, then when Ubuntu decides it doesn’t like waking up from suspend I never see those messages at all. Messy. SMS has far too high a failure rate to be considered even slightly reliable, and social media has such a high level of noise in the signal (in volume alone, even if one ignores spam) that it is easy for messages to be missed (“What’s that, you tried to contact me? I’m sorry, my friend Jen decided she needed nails for her WhoreFarm or whatever”). Add to that the fact that most social media is treated as a toy, often social media messages are the first ones ignored when things get busy. Organizing by reliability, then, would look like this:

Transience Reliability
Highest Email Telephone
IM Email
SMS IM
Social media Social media
Lowest Telephone SMS

Professionalism

Ignoring, for the moment, the simple appearance of professionalism, I would prefer to focus on the accoutrements of professionalism: does it allow for one to get the job done? By that measure, SMS and social media fall woefully short—SMS due to character lengths and difficulties in collaboration and social media due to the platform specific nature and quirks like character limitations, difficulties collaborating, etc. Various IMs suffer the same problem as do social media methods—you have to hope the person you need uses that platform and they use it regularly enough for it to be reliable. At this point, though, everyone has a phone and virtually everyone has an email—and those are cross-platform, so individuals on Verizon’s service can speak to those on TMobile; folks who use GMail can speak to those on Hotmail. Email and telephony are the hands-down winners in this respect.

If you then factor back in the appearance of professionalism, there’s no question that communications via Facebook or Twitter (or even SMS) suffer from the suggestion of trivialness. Indeed, Facebook and Twitter are often outright banned by many employers.

Transience Reliability Professionalism
Highest Email Telephone Telephone
IM Email Email
SMS IM IM
Social media Social media Social media
Lowest Telephone SMS SMS

Usefulness

This is the most vague category, but possibly the most important. Usefulness, as I’m defining it here, means how effective is it in helping communication happen. Asynchronous modes of communication are, necessarily, the most useful in my experience, as they allow the recipient of the communication the power to decide under what circumstances things are continued. Text-based asynchronous communications are better still, if one wants to maximize the possible opportunities by which communication can continue. When I’m sitting in a meeting or lying in bed next to my sleeping wife, I am unlikely to answer a phone call or listen to a voice mail. I can, however, glance at an email, text, tweet, or IM and determine what the degree of urgency is. I can even give complete or partial responses in such cases—something as simple as “call you back in 20 minutes, in a meeting” can be of inestimable value. There is a certain sacrifice that is made by losing tone and vocal cadence, just as on the phone body language cues are lost; but that is a small price to pay for such a large degree of convenience and usefulness (and, as often happens, conversations can be moved into verbal modes as a result of successfully making contact via a more useful method.)

The usefulness can further be ascertained by additional features, such as enhanced formatting, ability to include links and/or attachments, ability to collaborate, etc. Clearly, methods with more features would be more useful, so long as those features don’t IMPEDE conversation. If all of this is to be assumed accurate (and why wouldn’t I assume myself correct) then the hierarchy would favor asynchronous communication modes in a fairly arbitrary way:

Transience Reliability Professionalism Usefulness
Highest Email Telephone Telephone Email
IM Email Email Social media
SMS IM IM IM
Social media Social media Social media SMS
Lowest Telephone SMS SMS Telephone

Results

Assigning not-entirely-but-awfully-close-to-arbitrary values to these rankings allows me to mathematically estimate the overall “worthiness” of a form of communication for general, professional purposes…for doing work, that is. Treating the top two boxes as generally comparable and therefore both worth 3 points, the next box as worth 2 point, the next as worth 1, and the bottom ranking as worth 0, we end up with the following scoring:

Transience Reliability Professionalism Usefulness Overall
3 Email Telephone Telephone Email Email (12)
3 IM Email Email Social media IM (9)
2 SMS IM IM IM Telephone (6)
1 Social media Social media Social media SMS Social Media (5)
0 Telephone SMS SMS Telephone SMS (3)

The results I find relatively unsurprising as I strongly prefer email and I’m confident that my approach and the measures I chose to include heavily weight things in my preferred form’s favor. The questions I have for the reader, then, include: What measures are important to you? Should I have weighted these differently? Should I have included other measures? Recognizing the statistical instability of this ludicrously unscientific model, should I not have used a top-two box? Comment below and let me know!

Communicating with Me

Regardless of the above, the realities of contacting me are pretty straightforward. Email is beyond a doubt the best way to contact me. I sometimes go weeks without checking up on my social media (and in fact pretty much never check the private messages I get through them), and I avoid answering the phone entirely. Often I get a voicemail, think “Oh, I’ll answer him or her later today” then remember that I had a call to return a week later. For anything important, send email. Also important, send email to the right place: if you send email about official Penguicon business, for example, to my private email address, I will delete it if it suits me or respond if I feel like it. This is true even if you also included a penguicon email address as well. I don’t reinforce bad behavior; if you want a response, stop cluttering up my personal email.

For “fun” communication (meaning non-professional, or non-business), SMS or social media is fine. SMS is more likely to get a response, and infinitely more likely to get a prompt one. Private messages should all go through SMS, though—I pretty much never check or respond to private Twitter/Facebook messages.

IMing is also fine, but don’t use it as a messaging service. If I don’t respond to your IM, there’s a high percentage chance I’ll never even see it. If you have a question, comment, or link to leave me…find a more permanent method.

Take a Bow

Let me begin by thanking Scott, Lucy, Randy, and Sheryl for their help yesterday. Without them, the party that followed my graduation ceremony could not have gone anywhere nearly as smoothly and a relatively hectic and busy day would have been infinitely more chaotic and stressful. Of course, that is pretty much the theme of the achievement that I’m celebrating—to paraphrase the Beatles, I got by with a little help from my friends.

I know it is the standard cliche…“blah blah couldn’t have done it without my friends and family blah blah,” but nothing could be more literally true than that. Each and every one of you—all family by varying definitions—played an integral part in the creation of this achievement, and you should all be proud. Everyone suffered; my poor, beleaguered children bore the brunt of five years of me being tired, distracted, stressed, and busy, and they did it while finding countless ways to ease our collective burden for example. My wife walked into this relationship IN THE MIDDLE of all of the stress, looked around, and said, “Yeah, why not, I’m in.” Next time you are mistakenly thinking your significant other is the best, remember that Ger not only tolerates all that goes into the hot mess that is me, not only does she tolerate that all at my absolute ball-of-stress worst, but she does it without ever having seen me at my now-we-can-relax best1.

All of you have been amazing though. Each one of you that has, for years, gone out of your way to make your schedules fit my lunacy. All of you who have braved my calendar’s oppressive, colorful, and packed pages in order to set up dinner plans or a meeting for an event. Those among you who have dealt with cranky Jer, tired Jer, not-entirely-coherent Jer, and finding-his-stress-relief-at-the-expense-of-strangers-in-social-situations Jer because, in theory, there’s a fun to be around Jer somewhere in the mix too—despite the growing infrequency of his appearances.

Let me not ignore the fact that many of you have at times shown support in tangible ways too! Some of you have helped bridge financial gaps, been a sounding board when I wanted to pull heads off others, or have just been a set of helping hands when the number of balls I have kept in the air2 proved to be a few too many for even me.

So I mean it when I say that you should all pat yourself on the back, because all I did was the homework3, you guys made a college graduate. Congratulations. Now…about these student loans…

 


1 We are making several assumptions here, of course: I am capable of relaxing, relaxed me is actually better, and of course that relaxation is in my plans.
2 <Jer> tag.
3 And make no mistake, I did a LOT of homework. And tests. And notes. And studying. Well, maybe not the last one.

Twilight “New Moon” in 73 Tweets

After having snarked my way through the entire first movie, “Twilight”, with just my wife to share my pain, I decided to share a bit more…expansively?…with the Intarwebs. Randy, Sheryl, Ger and I set up camp at the Castle and plodded our way through the flick while I live-tweeted my snark. The result is what is found below posted—in order—with time stamps based on movie-start (so that, if you happened to be a masochist, you could follow along).

Oh, my mini review? It sucked. It sucked only marginally less than did the first movie, which is like saying the Spanish Inquisition sucked less than the Crusades, because of the classy red hats (clearly, my knowledge of history is plucked straight from Monty Python, so please don’t confuse me by supplying corrections.) This movie sucked in a way that only another movie that closely adheres to a book that sucks could suck. It sucks in epic, painful, and entirely unfunny ways. Even if it were a sucky B-movie, I could stand watch again with friends to mock…I am unlikely to ever give this movie such treatment. It is more than it deserves. It is decidedly not good. I give it 13 thumbs down. Even if it were reshot with Kristen Stewart nude throughout, it would not be watchable.

Okay, the last bit is uncalled for…I would totally watch that. I love your Kristen Stewart, you and your emotionless face. I forgive you.

Anyway…without further ado, let’s get to the tweets: Continue reading Twilight “New Moon” in 73 Tweets

I’m Gonna Make a Change, For Once in My Life…

Gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
–Michael Jackson, “Man in the Mirror”

The problem is, I bought into my own myth.

Whining and Self-Aggrandizing

I have been slugging along accomplishing—DOING—for so long that I began to believe the tales of my own legendary productivity. Apparently, somewhere, there was a campfire around which people sat and spun yarns in hushed tones of Jer Lance, indefatigable doer of things and achiever of objectives. Far and wide, these stories spread, so when things needed doing, I would get an email in my inbox or a mention at a party…just this little thing that needs doing. “Email it to me and I’ll look into it,” I would say; and I would. All of them. Every single one.

Now, it just so happens that I am fairly well connected. I am not sure how it happened, but after a few short years around Michigan fandom, I hang out with or communicate with the people who make so many of the local (and to a lesser degree, non-local) conventions and events happen that I tend to have a pretty good informal relationship with them. As a result, I have a pretty effective track record of finding a solution to those ‘little things that need doing’ that get brought to me, so the legend grows.

And it is entirely my fault, because—as I started this out by stating—I bought into my own myth. I came to genuinely believe that I could survive endlessly on 4 hours of sleep and no actual breaks. I have been under the illusion that using my relaxation time as time to pretend to relax while secretly working would actually fool my body and my mind into thinking that I’ve really been socializing when I have been doing anything but. I legitimately convinced myself that running an audio broadcast at a party was the same thing as socially hanging out at a party. In the universe of people who have hugely sold themselves a bill of goods, I am a hall of famer, and it has exhausted me. I am now just fundamentally incapable of being that guy. I have finally hit that wall, a wall that I have been warned about time and again but never truly believed I could hit—I am a fucking legend, remember? My response time is getting slower. Things are slipping by. I am taking on less and less, but still not able to accomplish it. My legendary 4 hours of sleep has stretched to 6, and I’m still left waking each morning feeling entirely unawake. My relentless productivity is flagging and my mythical 16-hour, full-court-press attacks on mounds of work have softened to 2 hour micro-bursts interrupted by thirty minutes of staring like a zombie into space trying to muster a combination of will-power and coherent thought.

I am failing. I am failing you guys and I am failing me. Worse, I am failing and beating myself up about it considerably; nobody has been as hard on me about this as I have been. I am working harder than ever and getting far less done. I am genuinely upset with my body for needing so much sleep. I get so frustrated I want to cry when I can only find the creativity and ability to write so rarely that I am almost never at a keyboard when it happens; so much is left unwritten. I want to punch things when my mind doesn’t have the acumen to make the sharp, decisive leaps that it was capable of a year ago. I am so unbelievably angry with myself for not having enough will power to just FORCE MYSELF to work my way through my to-do list. This is who I am, why can I not be that person now? Last night, while trying to get some of the massive pile of work I had before me completed, I was forced by my body to lie down on a couch at a friend’s house in the middle of a crowd of people and take a brief (oh, oh so very brief it felt) nap. I woke, and still was so wiped that I could get nothing done. I was near tears for the hour I spent dropping my son off at his mother’s place because of the frustration, the tiredness, the soreness, and the hopelessness of not being able to do what it is that I do.

It is taking a toll on my health, too. I am eating healthier than ever, but my body is falling apart. I am getting random nose bleeds. I have gotten even fatter despite a healthier diet and cutting out most fast food. The persistent headache that has gone on almost entirely uninterrupted for a couple of years now has now become stronger and added to its repetoire the combination of occasional spots in my vision and waves of nausea. I am cranky. I am frustrated when I have to explain what I need from people more than once. My low-grade level of dickishness has turned into full-on assholery when dealing with the people that frustrate me. My tolerance for ineptitude has waned to near non-existant levels.

I am not even me, anymore…I am some critically exhausted, pathetic simulacrum of me. And when I say exhausted, I am not talking about the standard ‘I am in need of a night of uninterrupted sleep or a weekend off’ I keep talking about. No, I am ‘I need to make functional life changes before I collapse in on myself like an imploding star, with all of the requisite fireworks that coincide with such an event.’ So I need to make some kind of change. Last night, Ger and I discussed exactly what that change is going to have to be.

Solving the Problem

I need to stop taking on the little shit. As I evaluated where my time goes, that was the big thing that stuck out…none of the hats that I wear are specifically time consuming. Work, School, Penguicon 2010, Penguicon 2011, ConFusion 2011, and AASFA are all relatively time-light. They each have their moments, but those moments rarely flare up all at once. No, what beats me down is the steady flow of ‘little things that need doing’, both externally and internally. So I need to divide all of my tasks into things that will remain, things that I am quashing or delaying indefinitely, things I will add, and things that I haven’t really decided about yet. To that end:

Things that stay:

  • School. Duh.
  • Work. Equally duh. :)
  • Convention jobs I have already taken on. If I have agreed to it, I will do it. This includes what I have agreed to for Penguicons 2010 and 2011 and ConFusion 2011
  • AASFA. I will continue to do what I have taken on, and I will definitely run if nominated (and will likely nominate myself if not nominated.) The time spent is minimal, and it is really important to me.
Things I am delaying indefinitely (but certainly until the summer) include:

  • SMOScasts—both recording and editing. I might finish off one of the two shows I have in the can, but that is only if I *feel like it* not because I will have to. I am not committing to getting it done at all.
  • Draft 2 of the (heretofore unnamed) book
  • Any ‘Writing’ not related to the above list of jobs (blogging/micro-blogging will happen, but I won’t go out of my way to whip together big posts or real writing)
  • Freelance work. I’ll just have to commit to being poor and not taking classes this summer…it’s an extra semester, I’ll live.
  • Odd jobs for the conventions. If it isn’t in the list of jobs I have already committed to, I’m not doing it.
  • Nothing else extra, period.
Things that I am adding:

  • Going to parties to socialize.
  • Taking at least 2 days every 2 weeks as days of no work.
  • Blocking one hour each day to relax. I relax a bit now, but always while feeling guilty. This is scheduled, so, no guilt, eh?
Things I am unsure about right now:

  • The Sexual Harassment project. I want this to happen, it needs to be done, but it will have to be post-Penguicon if I am to do it. So torn, so torn.
  • My idea for a charity drive at Penguicon. This might just have to happen next year.

So there we are. Hopefully, this will help…I know sharing it has helped lift a load from my chest that I’ve been carrying for quite a while now in relative silence (or, at least, as much silence as I have ever been capable of), so by that measure, it is already a success. Thankfully, my wife has agreed to be my gatekeeper on new tasks, by which I basically mean that when I think about taking on a new task, she has undertaken the job of saying “No!” or to forward me a link back to this so that I can avoid being stupid. This is going to be a good thing. It is going to make me happier, more productive, and hopefully healthier…

…but I still want to be super-me again. :(

Bloviating Wildly