Monday, March 30, 2009

Every hour is Earth Hour

Did you participate in Earth Hour? I wasn't going to because it seems the only ones who do are the ones who are already aware. My daughter shamed me into it, though. I spent the time taking a leisurely bath by candlelight. Shaving my legs in the semi-dark went okay, but don't try to clip toenails when you can't really see what you are doing. I peaked out the windows occasionally and determined I was the only one in my neighborhood who had turned off any lights.

Tonight is the end of the four-day jump-start for the Flat Belly Diet. I stuck with it, more or less. Saturday night I got hungry late in the evening and cheated by nibbling an extra tablespoon of pumpkin seeds. By suppertime Sunday evening, I was starving, so cheated again, by having 3.75 oz. of chicken instead of 3 and adding a teaspoon of butter to my potatoes. Then I ate so fast I gave myself heartburn, which is one way to kill one's appetite. Tonight I celebrated my relative success with a bite of dark chocolate, but I can tell I will need something more before bedtime. If I had to remain on 1200 calories a day, I would be miserable.

My analog scales say I lost several pounds. You know and I know that the weight loss is mostly water, but I will take what I can get. I don't feel lighter, but my face looks thinner, now that it is not all bloated with fluid.

Tomorrow I get to up my calorie intake to 1600 calories a day - four meals of 400 calories each. Whoo-hoo!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mad as hell

The other day I stopped by Kohl's to buy some slacks. The two pairs I have been wearing all winter are "winter weight" and I wanted some light weight ones for warmer weather (which I still believe in my heart of hearts WILL arrive someday soon). But while pawing through the size 16 "comfort fit" Lee's, I grew angrier and angrier because, once again, I am looking for "fat clothes" when I have a closet full of apparel I could wear if I lost 10-15 pounds. I left the store in a self-directed huff.

A co-worker of mine recently lost weight, after reading Mindless Eating but when I read the book, I gained ten pounds. The holidays might have had something to do with it, but still. All diet books I have read have been less than helpful. For one thing, they don't tell me anything I don't already know. Eat fruit instead of donuts? Duh. Avoid fried food? Double duh. Eat less and exercise more? Triple duh. And their recipes are either too difficult and/or time consuming to prepare or contain exotic ingredients not readily available in these here parts of the Midwest (although that is improving) or become tiresome after a while (Atkins - never thought I would get sick of bacon). And they don't tell you what to do when you feel HUNGRY.

And yet hope springs eternal. After I left Kohl's, I stopped at the library to pick up a book I had placed on hold: Flat Belly Diet. My expectations were low, but after perusing the menus, I thought, Hey, I think I can do this. For one thing, the foods are ones I eat already. Except for the occasional Peanut Buster Parfait (which are currently ON SALE), I make healthy food choices. I just eat too much of those healthy choices. And this book's gimmick are MUFA's - monounsaturated fats - which may help me with that hunger thing.

The FBD has a four-day jump-start phase, for which they even supply a shopping list, so Thursday I shopped up a storm at the Co-op and Krogers. Already I hit a hitch - some of the items on the shopping list are not available, like unsweetened corn flakes (or did they mean unfrosted?) and cream of wheat in individual servings. I'm not much of a cereal person, so I decided the Rice Krispies could substitute for all the cereals. I wish I had paid more attention to the jump-start menus, too, as I thought two "bunches" of mint would be like two bunches of parsley (i.e. HUGE). I could not find any bunches of mint, though, so I bought two little packages of fresh mint plus a box of mint tea. The mint is for their "Sassy" water and it turns out you need only 12 leaves of mint for each day's worth, so I have plenty.

Anyway, about $100 later (a lot of what I bought was organic) I was on my way. Yesterday was day 1. The Sassy water (flavored with grated ginger, cucumber, lemon, and that mint) is actually quite good. I'm not very hungry when I get up, so I decided I would have the snack for breakfast: one blueberry smoothie and two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds. Lunch was deli turkey, string cheese, and a whole pint of grape tomatoes (with NO SALT). I ate breakfast for my afternoon snack: Rice Krispies, skim milk, and applesauce; I ate the allowed quarter-cup of sunflower seeds midmorning. I'm not much of a fish eater, so I substituted chicken for tilapia for supper, which I ate with green beans and a measly half-cup of potatoes.

And you know what? I didn't really feel hungry all day, just vaguely dissatisfied. There is a journal to keep along with the FBD where you can rate your hunger, mood, etc. Since I became more disciplined about morning meditation, my nervous/emotional eating has decreased, so I'm not too concerned with my mood, so as long as I don't feel hungry, I should be okay.

Except for that no-coffee thing. The FBD is about avoiding anything that might cause bloating or water retention. I question the science behind some of their contentions, but decided I would take a hiatus from coffee. Or try to. I drank less than my usual yesterday and went to bed with a slight headache that turned into a major cranial meltdown by this morning. One cup of coffee and two Advil later, I was functioning, albeit in a bit of a fog. An afternoon nap and another cup cleared things up. Tomorrow I will try to get by with just one cup. Maybe. We'll see. I really like coffee. That and swearing are my final two vices.

Anyway, the jump-start part of the diet is 1200 calories a day, which I think is very low, so I am surprised I do not feel hungry. I tend to eat less on weekends, so I'm hoping I can stick with the plan. The regular days of FBD consist of 1600 calories, which will not cause rapid weight loss but should be doable. I would be more than satisfied with a 4-5 pound weight loss per month.

Which brings me to the before-and-after pictures in the book. One aspect of the FBD is to flatten your belly by reducing bloating and water retention. The other aspect is to flatten your belly by weight reduction. The photos represent one month of progress for each person profiled. Not a lot of weight was lost in one month by anyone, but some of those photos look fake, like the subject is either sticking her belly out in the before photo and/or sucking it in for the after photo. I am not taking any before pictures, but I did record my weight and a cluster of measurements for comparison purposes.

Every time I feed the dog, I think, This is what I need: a pre-measured amount of food, twice a day, to keep me slim. The FBD is kind of like that, because it says eat this and this and this, in these amounts, and no more. I am cautiously optimistic. But if I never blog about the FBD again, you will know it was a FAIL.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

That was Thursday. Not only had some erroneous data magically crept into the database of one project I support, but on another project, one on which the end user was about to sign off on the requirements for new (and high profile) functionality, said end user uncovered my total incompetence. Not only had I supplied the business analyst with an outdated user manual to use as a starting point for adding the new functionality, I myself was working off an outdated code base. Then when I went looking for the most recent code, I could not find all of it. This resulted in many mea culpa's on my part while I surreptitiously and unsuccessfully tried to finger someone else for the blame and dealt with that stomach-twisting sensation I get when I screw up.

What I could not understand is that ordinarily I am compulsive about backing up my work. In the bad old days of software development, it was ridiculously easy to accidentally delete a whole project or format a hard drive or damage a disk. But now we have version control systems and network backups and trash folders to save us from ourselves. There is only one caveat - one must actually make use of these tools for them to work. And I thought I had. And if I didn't, I should hang up my keyboard and mouse.

I wasn't the only one having a bad day. A co-worker who was also working a bit later than usual dropped the F-bomb, which is unusual in this office. I said, My sentiments exactly, and we traded our tales of woe. He made his sound worse, but I think mine topped his by one ulcer and a dire need for a grammartini.

My plan was to crawl home and inter myself under the covers, but my daughter showed up to walk, which was a good thing even though it was unexpected. The fresh air helped, as did a small supper of black soy bean soup (much better than it sounds) and dark chocolate, a little meditation, a little yarn winding (aka merino therapy), writing in my journal (mostly in all caps), a warm shower, a crossword puzzle, and listening to my life-is-but-a-dream tape. At least I got a halfway decent night's sleep.

Friday morning I kept looking for the missing files, still not believing I had not backed them up, while also trying to solve the firstly mentioned data problem. By lunch, the bad data had been removed but it looked like I was going to have to recreate the missing code. So I fetched the latest code base from the repository, opened up the project, and THERE IT WAS! The missing code! WTF?!?

As near as I can figure, I DID back up the project, but I had renamed a form which I thought would also rename the file it was in, but it did not. So the functionality I thought was missing was there all along, disguised by a misleading filename. That does not explain why the code on my PC was outdated, but at least I am not totally incompetent; I'm just a half-assed fuck-up. What a relief!

(Sorry if this was too nerdy for most of you, but someday, when I am perusing old postings, I will be reminded of my fallibility. Not that I'm not reminded on a daily basis, but I don't usually create such a detailed account of it for public consumption.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Turning the corner

Last week I listened to a co-worker sneeze, blow his nose, and occasionally cough up an ocean of phlegm. I smugly said, Try sinus massage, drink this echinacia tea, get more sleep. Then yesterday I slammed into a wall of inertia that quickly brought me down. Damn his virulent germs!

I don't remember getting sick from my kids. My theory is they brought home a plethora of public school microbes every day, but in amounts my immune system could combat. Now I isolate myself to a handful of public places, thereby reducing the general germ hazard but leaving me susceptible to periodic mass invasion. The good news is my symptoms are minimal and I usually bounce back in a day or two, assuming that day or two are spent at home on the couch.

Maybe I should visit the mall more often and make sure to touch a lot of common surfaces, then eat at the food court without washing my hands first, to mimic the mini-exposures I used to experience. Or maybe I should just barricade myself at home, have my groceries delivered and telecommute. The latter is tempting, but even a misanthrope such as myself needs human contact once in a while.

Back to work it is.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

I watched this movie several weeks ago, but forgot to post my "review". So here ya go!

Just as "Vera Drake" was about abortion, "Pierrepoint" is about capital punishment. Like "Vera Drake," it doesn't beat you about the head and shoulders with pros and cons. Instead, it tells the story of Britain's most prolific executioner, then lets you form your own opinion.

Albert Pierrepoint follows in his father's footsteps by qualifying to be on "the list" of executioners who carry out the courts' orders. He does his job well, performing the executions in a few seconds to prevent prolonging the condemn's agony, then treating the dead body with dignity. His work exists in the shadows and his identity remains a secret, until the end of World War II, when his professionalism earns him the privilege of executing war criminals in Germany.

Up until this point, Pierrepoint has carefully compartmentalized his emotions, viewing himself as a tool of the justice system. But the number of executions he performs in Germany undoes something within him. Also, the powers that be, wishing to present themselves as humane executioners, are not above publicizing his identity. His newfound fame does not sit well with him, but his wife is quick to capitalize on it. They buy a pub and his notoriety helps bring in customers.

I won't reveal more about the plot other than to say the movie raises the issues surrounding capital punishment and depicts the public's change in attitude toward it. Regardless of your own position on the issue, the film will make you think.