The To Read pile - 1/1/12

So yesterday was the first and since I’d felt like I’d been totally social all week I had a don’t-leave-the-house day and just cleaned up all the silted-in crap that had been lingering on the “one of these days…” lists. So I got the vacuum out, and framed and hung some photos that had been sitting around, and piled all the “to read” books into one big pile, and cleaned the yik off of the dish drainer, and mailed off some overdue notes and papers and stuff, and put away some stuff that really should go away. It was great. I even got the rowing machine out and flailed around on it a bit. I was also able to blow my nose finally according to doctor’s orders. Gross but fascinating!

I woke up today in a house that didn’t seem like a project. It’s easy to blame the short grey days and prednisone and holiday eating for feeling sluggish and unmotivated, but that doesn’t really help with the actual getting up and getting stuff done part. Internet people have taught me that “fake it until you make it” tends to work for things like this, so I got up and got dressed as if I actually had stuff to do and sure enough, got stuff done.

The exercise thing is more of a small part of my life now than it was back when I was swimming at least a few miles a week. I had another shoulder problem this year which was probably brought on by NOT swimming as much (I think it corrects for some of my over-mousing). That, combined with the nose stuff and bereavement/travel stuff made it a pokey year, exercise-wise. That said, it looks like I didn’t even do an end-of-the-year exercise post last year. My goal this year is to do a few miles of something every week, and I’m happy that I have four pleasant choices of ways to do that.

Am also focusing on Albatross List tasks including things like Sell My House and Get Stuff from Indiana [formerly Seattle] and both are proceeding but if you have help/suggestions, I’m all ears. Thanks. And happy new year.

down/up with this sort of thing!

So as a result of the post-holiday morass, I haven’t done other wrap-ups or much else. I had a week of good sleep and getting ready for work and then I woke up with the sniffles and was like “Oh THIS again” but it seems to be mostly at bay. Works going fine. I quit my job at the library. You can read about that decision over at I still feel pretty weird about it. I’m sort of at a point where if I make a big decision in my life, I’m likely to have a bunch of people being supportive (see comments). This is lucky for me, I’m fortunate to have a large peer group of people who mostly like me, and yet it’s hard when I’m doing something that feels wrong. I wonder if they’d tell me if I was screwing it all up? Maybe I can’t screw it all up.

Unlike in the past where I’ve had a chart about swimming, last year I switched to a more maintenance approach to exercise. That is, I do it for mood balancing and if I feel I have been slacking in the fitness department, but not in the same auto-competitive way as years past. I also started running. I know, weird right? I had always assumed I couldn’t really run, both because of my mild asthma and also my “loose ankles” which means I was always spraining them. Some combination of years of swimming and better footwear seems to have mostly fixed this. I now trod along on the treadmill sometimes instead of swimming. I like this because I can listen to music and the time commitment is less and my pulse races higher. I can do a mile in 13:22. I am aiming for 12:00, for starters. Kelly’s been good at setting me up with some good habits and now I’m sort of motoring along on my own.

As a result of this, I had to buy sneakers. Since I’m paid something like adult-level wages now — and we got healthcare and assorted benefits with my job at MetaFilter this year — I figured I should invest in some decent clothes. So I now have a new winter vest, new sneakers, new “snow clogs” and a few sharp-looking pairs of second-hand pants. I agonize over spending money like this, but less than I worry about becoming some crazed Hetty Green type person, so sometimes I shop.

A few more things you should know:

– As a result of rejiggering my morning routine, I have now created a slot for brushing my teeth and do it every day. I’m dumbly proud of this, as well as embarassed that it took me this long to figure out how to do this.
– I have decided that if I’m going to eat soup every night [I love soup!] like some rooming house hotplate owner, I could at least make it myself. So there’s been some cooking going on. Man… soup!
– I’ve got a caretaker in Topsham who is paying (a little bit of) rent and that seems to be working nicely for both of us.
– The plan for this year is much less travelling-for-work. We’ll see how that goes. More to the point, I feel that there was some aspect of me that enjoyed scooting around and overprogramming myself because I was concerned about having downtime, maybe being bored? I have decided that I am never bored (even in the absence of the internet) and have set out to prove that with more opportunities for doing what my Dad calls “the nothing” We shall see.


I always write a lot on my various blogomachines when I have a talk to prepare for. I’m going to Michigan this week for a flyby visit to Lansing and the Michigan Library Association conference. I was writing an update to this post from last September and realized that my various archives are sort of fucked. So I had to go and move include and archive files around and now they’re mostly okay and wow there’s another hour gone. I have this real back and forth about the time here, whether it’s “need another hour” or “get rid of another hour, please!” This set of weeks is the best for it because all the clocks, in an effort to be helpful and set themselves for us, have derailed us. All the Windows machines at school say it’s an hour ago. Most of my clocks at home say it’s now. My new-to-me car doesn’t have a clock at all, and my wristwatch is … someplace. So this means I’ve been showing up at work sometime between early and on time, not knowing which until I walk in the door and I’m still a little amazed that works as well as it does. But I had other numbers to talk about.

I upgraded the RAM (2 GB) and the hard drive (160GB) in my year-old laptop (details here, nothing special) which was a process involving a few screws, a few hundred dollars, some savvy online shopping, and a half an hour. And, as always, I think about the people I work with who are still at the Mousercise stage of their computer learning. The fact that you can now do a lot of this work yourself makes computers in some ways more affordable. The fact that it’s still thought of as esoteric mojo, going under the hood so to speak, does not. We’re working on some open source chicanery in Vermont, getting serious about an open source online catalog at some of our small libraries. Part of the plan is to have geeking sessions where people actually bring their CPU and we install server software together, transfer records and data together, hammer things out together. This has always been the way geek projects have worked, to some extent, but in a profession with more of a sense of “authority” getting people to trust each other and not people higher in the food chain has been a challenge. I’m excited for it.
prepared, waiting
And, speaking of exciting challenges and what got me sitting down to type besides my current Distraction Initiative, I’m checking in on how last year’s “do exercise, eat well, be fit, look fit (and don’t look bad in photos)” plan is going. It’s not bad. Since I started this all last Fall, I’ve lost a little over twenty pounds with what I considered to be a medium amount of attention and no amount of deprivation. When I first started — after what was already a few months of exercise and attention to eating, but a serious dread of the scale — I weighed 161. Today I weigh 140.

It’s been a simple plan really, involving basically The Hacker’s Diet and a lot of time in the pool and lately, in the backyard doing garden stuff. There’s also a really short list of things that have been helpful which I’ll note for future reference.

  • Getting on the scale – if you want to lose weight to lose weight (not so your clothes fit better, for example) this is mission critical. I use a little widget called The Google 15 where I give it my goal weight, tell it what I weigh every morning that I remember, and it does a five day average and tells me if I’m getting closer or farther from that goal. It’s stupid easy. Everyone has their own technique for fitness and weight loss, but I really believe if you’re not getting on the scale, you may not be totally serious.
  • Exercise goals – while I’m probably not going to make it the length of Lake Champlain this year — thanks to shoulder injuries and a life that’s gotten busy — having something to work towards kept me going even on days I felt lazy or cranky. This was a good thing and I’m sure I exercised just a little more because I was, theoretically, going somewhere. Having an exercise buddy can help with this, but you have to make sure your goals are somewhat similar.
  • Cooking at home – not only is it easier to calorie check what you’re eating, you’re unlikely to make yourself too much food, as opposed to restaurants that pretty much always serve too much food for what I want to eat but it’s SO TASTY (mmm butter and salt!) that I’ll eat it anyhow. At the outset, I decided I liked food too much to really diet, so my other main option (really there are only two) was to exercise more. I developed a bunch of tasty not-super-high-calories small meals and just got used to preparing and enjoying them. I swap out a lot of stuff: tea for juice, fat free for lowfat milk, turkey for beef. If you’re really into doing all this stuff in slow motion, all you need is to eat 100 calories less a day and you lose a pound a month. One less glass of orange juice. One less cookie. Ten more minutes in the pool.
  • No bargaining – I think it’s an easy step to take, to make deals with yourself about eating and exercise, less now more later or vice versa. My deal with me is to do what the hell I want and let the scale (over time that is, it’s easy to see your weight shift 2-4 pounds daily, hence the Google averager) be the arbiter. So I don’t not eat food that I like. I let myself stay home from the pool if I want to. I’ll have a third delicious empty-calorie beer if I’m having a good time. I eat what my friends are serving. Once you make yourself your own opponent for health and fitness, you’re really having a different problem.

So yeah it’s been a slow process and one that I’m sure is ongoing. I felt like I’d mention it again. Maybe I’ll mention it once a year, since it’s good to remember just how much in our lives is actually under our control. As for me, I sort of like my jawline and I’m happy to have it back. I like the pool and I’m happy to be there a lot. I like it when people say “Wow you’re looking great.” The one downside, if there is one, is that those extra twenty pounds kept me warmer at low temperatures. I may have to invest in long underwear.