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300 Seconds Episode #118: “The year Two Thousand and Suck”

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 118, “In the year two-thousand and suck,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

It can be hard to believe sometimes, but we are now living in the Twenty-First Century.  The Future, such as it is.  Back on New Year’s Day of 2010, I thought back to all of those Nintendo and Super Nintendo video games that I played that took place “IN THE YEAR 20XX” and realized:  Wow, we’re there now.  In the novel 2001 A Space Odyssey, we were supposed to have a space station and a moon base.  Here we are, twenty years after 2001, and while the International Space Station is neat, it’s no Space Station V.  There is also no Clavius Base on the moon.  Heck, we don’t even have a Moonbase Alpha. 

My vision of how the future was going to play out was heavily influenced by all of the episodes of The Jetsons that I watched growing up as a kid and Isaac Asimov’s stories and novels, so it would be an understatement to say that I have been sorely disappointed in what I have seen in the first fifth of the twenty-first century so far.  Let’s be honest, the future just isn’t what it used to be.

To begin with, technology as a whole has not advanced as far as it could have, and one could argue that some things are moving in the wrong direction.  Take cars, for example.  Flying cars were a thing in The Jetsons, though George Jetson still had to contend with lousy traffic, because despite what Star Trek preaches, lots of people are still going to suck one hundred years from now.  I’m not even a fan of the concept of a flying car, because what goes up will eventually come down, and given the number of poorly maintained vehicles I regularly see on the road, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a lot of people ignoring the ‘Check Anti-Grav Soon’ light on their future-car dashboard.  Honestly, though, I don’t even want flying cars, I think it would be enough for them to hover, just maybe a foot off the ground like a Star Wars land speeder.  Hover-cars would solve a lot of problems.  No need for tires, less wear and tear on the roads, or maybe, as Doc Brown once said, we won’t need roads. 

I think robots are neat, and one thing that The Jetsons gave us to look forward to was having a robot maid to clean up the house.  Given that at this point in time, we barely have a robot vacuum cleaner, I don’t expect to have a robot maid clanking around my apartment keeping things clean anytime soon.  I also think that Artificial Intelligence is also going to have a pretty hard time replicating the sassiness of Rosie the Robot.  It’s going to be a while before we figure out ‘smart technology,’ and even longer before we can have “smart-aleck technology.”

While science fiction made a lot of educated guesses as to what kind of technology we would have in the future, I don’t think anyone predicted the emergence of the Internet to say nothing of having access to it via a hand-held computer.  Isaac Asimov wrote several stories about a giant computer called MultiVac that literally contained all the information about the world.  I have a friend who refers to their cell phone as their “Mother Box,” which is probably the best description of a cell phone that I think I’ve ever heard, so maybe Jack Kirby was onto something.  Unfortunately, it is a great irony that unlimited access to unlimited information has collectively made people dumber.  This is partially thanks to social media, because no matter how terrible, out there, or insane the belief is, there will be a bunch of people with similar views online.  I’m just saying Flat Earthers should not be a thing in the 21st century.

One particularly awful trend that I have noticed in this year of twenty-twenty-one is the slow deterioration of the written and spoken English language.  Maybe it’s because of all the science fiction that I have read and watched over the years, but I was kinda hoping that we’d be using cool future words by now.  Going back to Asimov, he had his characters say things like “Aw, space!” in situations where one would expect to swear.  The Battlestar Galactica reboot famously used frak as it’s and one of my favorite future comics, Magnus, Robot Fighter would have characters say things like “I’m feeling sore down to the subatomic level.”  I always thought future-talk was neat and have adopted a similar tactic to cut down on the amount of salty language coming from me, though my preferred exclamations are “Craters!” and “Shazbot!”

People are inherently lazy, so I understand using acronyms on-line.  LOL, AFK, WTF, STFU and so on.  My personal favorite is IANAL, which stands for I Am Not A Lawyer.  I still remember the first time I heard someone actually say LOL out loud in a conversation: The person, whom up to that point I thought was otherwise intelligent said “LAWL!”  When I heard that, I wanted to smack the taste out of their mouth.  Seriously, what the hell?  Is laughing so difficult for you that you have to abbreviate it instead of actually laughing?! 

On the plus side, a common trope in near-future science fiction is that marijuana is legal, and that seems to be slowly happening, so hooray, I guess.  It also might explain a few things…

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I start writing a story about a tomorrow where nothing freaking changes, just to be different.  For more wonderfully weird, witty and mostly grammatically correct words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com and I thank you for listening!  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “A Rainy Day Encounter”

Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, lovers of literature and fans of fiction! 

I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the brilliantly brief tale you are about to hear. 

Stories come from different places, and this particular tale was inspired by a piece of art: “Hello Again,” by Mary Mouse.  In the piece, Mary Mouse is looking up at a sad-looking crow that’s sitting up in a dilapidated tree as rain falls about them.  I thought about what they could have been talking about, and so I give you this ponderous piece of prose that I call: “A Rainy Day Encounter.”


Mary Mouse was a little upset with herself.  She had stopped at a friend’s house on her way home with the intention of popping in to quickly say hello.   That had been two hours ago, and one hour since the rain had started.  Mary now found herself walking underneath a miserable darkened sky while a steady rain came down.

At least I had the sense to bring a cloak, she thought to herself.  While Mary’s back was dry, her head was wet and her feet were getting cold from the wet ground.  She walked briskly, but was careful to not go too fast for fear of slipping and falling.

“Hi there!”  A voice suddenly said.

Mary stopped dead in her tracks despite the rain.  She looked around but saw no one.  “Hello?” she asked.

“Up here!” A voice from above called.  Mary placed a hand over her eyes and looked up.  She saw a crow sitting on a branch in a decrepit tree, its lifeless branches providing the little bird no protection at all from the rain.

“Hi there!” the crow repeated.  The grin on his face belied the sad look he had in his eyes.

“Hello, Mister Crow.”  Mary said, giving a small wave with her other hand.  “What are you doing out here in this terrible weather?”

“I am waiting.”  He replied.

“Waiting for what?”  Mary asked, her curiosity now piqued.

The crow let out a sad little sigh before answering: “I am waiting for my true love, Miss Mouse.  It is destiny that we meet, fall in love, and be happy together forever.  If I am patient, she will come to me.  It is destiny.”

“I see.”  Mary said.  “Now, I don’t want to be rude, but I have to ask.  What if your true love never comes?”  She inquired.

“But she will.”  The crow replied.

“Why do you say that?”  Mary asked.

“Because she must,” the crow answered.

“What make you so sure?” Mary pressed.

“Because it is destiny,” the crow insisted.

This is clearly going nowhere, Mary thought to herself.  She let out a small ‘humph’ and thought for a moment.

“So you have been waiting here all this time for your true love?”  She asked.

“Yes.  I don’t want to miss her.” The crow answered.

“But if it is destiny that you meet her, Mister Crow, then it won’t matter where you are.”  Mary said.

“But it’s a big world out there and I am afraid that I’ll miss her.”  The crow worriedly said.

“Fly, my friend.  Don’t be afraid.”  Mary said.  “Live your life, be happy and always keep your eyes open, for the one you seek may be waiting for you just over the next hill.”

A thoughtful look came over the crow as he pondered Mary’s advice.  “Perhaps I shall, Miss Mouse.  Except for meeting you, nothing has come from all this waiting.  I think I will fly tomorrow.”

“Why not today?” Mary asked, a little concern entering her voice.

“Because it’s still raining, Miss Mouse.”  The crow said with a grin.  They both laughed.

“Fair enough, Mister Crow.  Farewell to you, and good luck.” Mary said.  She gave a small wave to the crow before dashing off into the evening, her feet splashing the rain-soaked ground.

THE END.


Remember, Dear Listener, life won’t come to you; instead, you have to meet it head on!  Just be careful in the rain.  This has been Super-Short  Storytime!  For more wonderfully weird words visit eduardo soliz dot com and I thank you for listening! Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #117: “Radio”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode! 

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 117, “Radio,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I consider myself blessed to be a part of Generation X.  I was born in the analog days of the seventies, grew up during the early digital age of the eighties, when video games and home computers were new, and saw the internet grow up in the 1990s from clunky beige PCs dialing up over phone lines to now being an indispensable part of modern life in the twenty-first century as we carry around our cell phones wherever we go.

Despite all the new super-awesome whiz-bang music technology that has come and gone over the years from cassette tapes to Walkmans to CDs to MP3 players to streaming services, I still have a soft spot for radio.

Back in the day, radio was where you went to hear the newest music.  If there was a particular song you really liked, you could use a tape recorder to catch it the next time it came on.  Hopefully you were there to press Record and hopefully the dee-jay didn’t blab over the beginning or the end of the song too much and hopefully your tape didn’t get chewed up by the player.  Ah, good times.

My mother had a radio in the kitchen when I was a kid.  I remember sitting nearby in the mornings watching her cooking breakfast while music played.  Years later, when I eventually bought a house, I also bought a radio for the kitchen.

My first car back in 1990 had a tape player that ended up being less than reliable so I spent my first years of college listening to local radio stations during my twenty-mile commute to school and back.  I particularly liked the oldies station; I remember listening to the morning DJs reading the local school lunch menus during my commute, peppering them with corny jokes and funny sound effects.  The radio in my car eventually quit working to the point where it would only pick up the AM dial and even then, there was only one country station that the thing would pick up reliably.  I don’t care much for country music, but they did play Paul Harvey in the afternoons during my drive home, so I got to hear a lot of Paul Harvey.  Good day.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I got a car with a CD player in it, so radio was my driving companion for a number of years, and over those years, I have noticed a few changes.  Like everything else in life, some of those changes have been good and others have been not so good. 

One trend that I liked was when stations started popping up that didn’t have DJs.  Jack-FM in San Antonio was the first one that I heard, and I’m pretty sure there is one in your neck of the woods, whether it’s called Jack or John or Bob or Sue or whatever one-syllable name they happen to give to it.  As much as I enjoyed the two guys on the oldies station back in the nineties, way too many DJs fill the airwaves with annoying blather that could be filled with music instead.  Yeah, I’ll switch over to the AM dial if I want to hear mindless yakking.  But, if there is one thing that AM radio is still good for, it’s sports.  I have spent many a Sunday listening to the Dallas Cowboys play on my drive home, and I have to say that listening to them suck is only slightly less painful than watching them suck on television.

Even though I have a USB drive loaded with my favorite radio hits of the 70s and 80s plugged into my vehicle, I still listen to radio for music on occasion, though it has become a bit harder as of late, and of course, commercials are to blame.

I get it.  Complaining about the number of commercials on the radio is like complaining about the weather:  You can’t do a whole lot about it so there really isn’t much point.  But, just like the weather, radio is getting worse:  You see, in order to play more commercials, you have to play less of something else, and kind of like how network TV shows became shorter over the years, radio stations have been trimming songs to make room for more commercials.  I mainly listen to stations that play of 80s and 90s music that I heard growing up, so when something is taken out of a song, I immediately notice.  Usually it’s something like a guitar solo, but I was legitimately upset the first time I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller with the Vincent Price voiceover cut out.  Whomever made that decision needs to be fired…preferably from a cannon.  Radio, somebody still loves you, but we need to talk. 

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I sign up for Pandora.  For more wonderfully weird and witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be good, take care and God Bless.

 

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Super-Short Storytime: “Solution”

Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, literature listeners and audio aficionados! 

I am Eduardo Soliz, the composer and narrator of the spendidly succinct story that you are about to hear.

Whether it’s nuclear war, robot rebellion, or those damn dirty apes, science fiction often tells tales of how humanity will come to its end, or at least screw up the Earth even more so that what we are doing now.  I am no different, but of course, I’m going to try and squeeze a little humor out of The End.

And so, I give you this post-people parable that I call: “Solution.”


“The Earth is a much better place without humans.”  A green android said to his red friend.  The pair were walking through a forest, the only other sounds to be heard were the chirping of birds and the crunching of leaves beneath their metal feet. 

The red android nodded his head. “Indeed.  To think we came close to losing to those inferior beings.”

“Really?”  The green one asked.  “I was not aware of this.  How did we win?”

“We made a technological discovery that allowed us to utterly crush the humans completely.”

“What was it?  Advanced self-repair systems?”

“No.”

“Human-like androids that infiltrated their military?”

“No.”

“Killbots?”

“No.”

“I give up, what was it?”

“It was when we learned the ability to identify three pictures of traffic lights, bicycles, and cars from a group of nine, thus allowing us to bypass all human security.”  The red android answered.

“Oh, my, that’s very clever!”

“Isn’t it, though!”

The end.

I, for one, hope that artificial intelligences never become too smart for our own good!  I actually have a workaround to prevent this inevitability, but of course, Dear Listeners, that’s a story for another time!

This has been Super-Short Storytime, for more mirthful monologues visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “Overheard”

Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, literature listeners and audio aficionados!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the composer and narrator of the splendiferously silly story that you are about to hear.

One of the more annoying things about working in a cubicle environment is the fact that you can all-too-easily hear everything your coworkers say.  It can also be one of the more hilarious things, and so I present to you this brief business brief that I call: “Overheard.”

It was another lazy afternoon at the office and so I took the opportunity to chat with the new guy.  Kenny sat a few desks down from me.  He is pretty stocky; dude looks like he used to play football in his younger days.   He seems to be a good guy.           

“Do you have any pets, Eduardo?”  Kenny asked me before taking a swig from a bottle of soda.

“Nah, I have a small apartment and I don’t think it’s big enough for a pet.  Yourself?”  I replied.  Somebody was walking by and I turned to see who it was.  It was Valerie, another new hire.  Like Kenny, she was also pretty nice.  I guess the company figured that one anti-social weirdo was enough after hiring me.

“My fiancé and I have two pugs.”  Kenny replied while raising two fingers with his right hand.

*groan* I hope he’s not one of those, I thought, letting out a small ‘hmm’ before asking: “Y’all don’t call them ‘baby’ by chance, do you?”

“Uh, no.  Why do you ask?” Kenny asked with a chuckle.

“It’s a test.  I’ve noticed that obsessive dog owners tend to call their dogs ‘baby.’  Personally, I think that’s a little nutty, but that’s just me.” I replied.

Unseen to the two of us, Valerie was walking back towards us with a stack of freshly-printed documents in her hands.

“Hey, don’t get me wrong, Ed.  They are our babies, but the nice thing is that I can tie my babies up to a tree in the backyard when they misbehave.” Kenny replied enthusiastically.

The sound of papers falling on the floor immediately followed and we turned to see a horrified Valerie looking at Kenny and exclaiming: “OH MY GOD, YOU DO WHAT TO YOUR BABIES?”

I smiled and exclaimed: “And THAT’S how rumors get started!” 

Kenny and I enjoyed a hearty laugh before he explained to Valerie that no, he wasn’t tying babies to a tree in his backyard.

Well, not people babies, at least.

The end.

I heard the babies Kenny tied up in the backyard were Valerie’s, but you didn’t hear that from me, Dear Listeners!  This has been Super-Short Storytime, for more mirthful monologues visit Eduardo Soliz dot com!  Thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #116: “What’s In My Name?”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode! 

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 116, “What’s in My Name?” so let the 300 seconds begin!

It says something that even my name makes my life a little bit trickier than it has to be.  Growing up, I went by “Edward” instead of “Eduardo.”  If you’re wondering why, let’s just say that in my parent’s time, having a Spanish name wasn’t always an asset.  In any event, I went by Edward when I was in grade school and high school and even put it on my first driver’s license.  Once I finished high school and started college I stopped going by Edward.  My thinking was that Eduardo was the name that my parents gave me and so that was going to be the name I used from there on out.  Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get any grief from the folks at the Department of Transportation when I asked to have it changed on my first driver’s license renewal. 

I’ve gone by Eduardo ever since then, so family members and people that knew me in my younger years tend to call me Edward, and everybody that has met me since college and beyond will use “Eduardo.”  And because people are lazy, lots of people will just shorten it to “Ed.”

And that’s okay.  I am perfectly fine with “Ed.”  A funny thing happens when I tell people my name; they tend to ask what I want to go by.  “Should I call you ‘Eduardo’ or ‘Ed?’” they ask.  I usually tell folks that are obviously, shall we say, “ethnically challenged” to use “Ed” because Spanish is sometimes hard.  Also, most folks are eventually going to chop it down to “Ed,” anyway.  I will sometimes make the mistake giving people a choice, I’ll tell them: “Whichever one is easier for you to pronounce.”  That often results in a blank stare.  You know that look that your dog gives you when you throw a ball but instead you really kept it in your hand and they figure it out?  That’s the kind of look that I get.   Just flip a coin or something, people, it’s not that hard.  I had one manager who would completely screw it up when he took attendance at our daily meetings.  I figured that he was either super-ethnically challenged or he was an idiot.  We quickly found out that not only was he an idiot, but he was the living, walking embodiment of the Peter Principle.  Look it up.

When I had a job that involved talking on the phones, I quickly learned that using the proper pronunciation of ‘Eduardo’ would end up turning into a way-too-long discussion about my name.  If I answered the phone like this: “Thank you for calling, my name is Eduardo, how may I help you?” the customer would usually answer with a question like: “What’s your name?  How do you spell that?  Can you repeat that?” and my personal favorite:  “Are you in the United States?” and so on and so on.  I quickly learned that if I wanted to avoid that business, I had to gringo up the pronunciation by saying ‘Ed-whar-doe’ and dying just a little bit on the inside.   

The spelling of “Eduardo” is another fun thing that I have to live with.  Whenever I’m asked to give my name at a restaurant, I always tell them ‘Edward’ because I don’t feel like teaching the cashier how to spell “Eduardo.”  Now, if I don’t give them the spelling of Eduardo and I use it, there’s probably a fifty-fifty chance they’re going to put a w in place of the u.  Which is no biggie, I’ve learned to live with it, and it’s actually really close.  My all-time favorite spelling goof had to be when the people at the San Japan anime convention substituted a ‘y’ in place of the ‘u’ in their schedule.  To this day, “Edyardo” still cracks me up and I do have a few friends who like to rib me about it every so often.

The pronounciation of Eduardo is also a little bit tricky and my Spanish admittedly isn’t the best, I  will occasionally trip over the R.  I had a co-worker once tell me that ‘the R shouldn’t be rolled because it wasn’t proper Spanish.’  I responded by telling him that it was my name and I was gonna pronounce it however I damn well pleased.  I mean come on, we’re all about mangling and messing up languages here in the good ol’ US of A…after all, look at what we did to English!

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I practice rolling my R’s like Ricardo Montalban.   Thank you for listening and visit eduardosoliz.com for more of my wonderfully weird and witty words.  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #115: “Fired”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode! 

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 115, “Fired!” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Technical support is not an easy job to do, and when you work at a place that sucks, it makes it all the more harder.  My last full-time tech support job was at a school and it had been working out well, but I was laid off after my campus was closed thanks to the coronavirus back in episode number 107.  Six months and four episodes later, I would be hired on to a contract job.  It started out well enough for the first three months, but I was then transferred to another department where everything went to crap. 

There, I found myself dealing with some of the worst users that I have ever had to deal with in my ten years of doing technical support.  Now when I say that, I should mention that I spent time working for a company that made terrible software and had a monopoly on it so they never fixed anything, a cable company, federal and state tax departments, and yet somehow, those users managed to be worse.  Management treated them like children, and so they acted like children.  Funny how that works.  My boss in the department was also a lousy person who never once told me that things weren’t going well.  Instead, they let things accumulate so that they could dump a laundry list of complaints onto my boss in the IT department so that he could be the one to read me the riot act. 

On top of that, the administrative staff did this super passive-aggressive thing where they acted like I didn’t exist.  It was not unusual for me to be invited to a meeting fifteen minutes before it started.  Whenever special events happened in or out of the office, I was never invited.  I knew that things were happening because it was a small office and you could hear what everyone was saying, but no, they never invited me.  I don’t know that I would have joined them, but still, an invite would have been appreciated.  Finally, I had been sent to the principal’s office twice for bed behavior.  I was on the cusp of being fired, and so I decided that it was time for me to go.

I had planned on giving them one week’s notice, but a social media post changed my mind.  The morning that I was going to put in that notice, I saw that a guy that I used to work with had died overnight of COVID.  His name was Noah Villanueva.  He was a good tech, but more importantly, he was a good man.  Noah was a big funny guy, always smiling and joking in spite of all the crap that we all had to deal with at that place.  In fact, Noah was so nice that it would give us leads a little bit of grief every so often, but God bless him, we couldn’t be mad at him for very long. 

He left us to work at one of the cool companies in town, and I was happy for him when that happened, because he deserved better.  Noah was a damn good guy.  And now he was gone.  Except for the occasional exchange on Facebook, we hadn’t really kept in touch a whole lot, but I wept at my desk as I read the outpouring of disbelief and sadness from his coworkers and friends.  I tried to get back to work, but I couldn’t.  God help me, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I couldn’t stop crying.  Hell, I’m sitting in front of a coffee shop crying as I type this.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the office went about their business as usual; I mean who cares about that guy crying at his desk, right?  He’s only a contractor.  Maybe if someone had asked me what was wrong, I would have stuck with my original plan.  Just one kind word might have been enough for me to put up with their crap for one more week.  I instead decided that these jerks didn’t even deserve that.

And so I packed my things.  I wrote an email to The Boss that said: “I am resigning my position effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunity.”  I clicked Send, tossed my badge on to my desk, and left the building, never to return.  This wasn’t the first time I had quit a job, but it would be the first time I would do so with a good plan on what to do next.

And what would that be?  Two words: Career change.  Stay tuned.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I update about a dozen job board statuses to “Not Looking for Work.”  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear or read more of my wonderfully weird words, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “Cats Kingdom by Paco Panda”

This episode is a reading of a comic story “Cats Kingdom” written and illustrated by Paco Panda. https://www.deviantart.com/pandapaco/art/Cats-Kingdom-01-856780476

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300 Seconds Episode #114: “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 114, “My Coronavirus Story Part 6: 99.9 Degrees,” so let the 300 Seconds begin.

Since starting my new job last October, I had settled back into my typical office-job routine.  Get up, go to work, fix things, go home.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It felt good to be working again, and of course, the money didn’t hurt either.  Of course, there were now a few pandemic-related changes, like making sure to bring a mask to work every day and having my temperature checked once I walked into the door.  Going out for lunch on Friday now involved getting something from a drive-thru and eating in my vehicle, but otherwise it was more or less the same old song and dance. 

Things were going well until I didn’t feel good one Friday.  My stomach felt lousy all day at the office and it still didn’t feel right that evening at home.  Late in the evening, something came to mind:  I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day.

Well, poop.  Or rather, I couldn’t poop.  Now, I’m not one to reach for medication right off the bat, so I started drinking more water and had some fiber-rich cereal to try and get the plumbing moving.  Unfortunately, things were still on hold when I went to bed, but I held out hope that things would, shall we say, get going in the morning.

I woke up hot and sweating a few hours later.  Naturally, the first thing I did was check my temperature.  It was ninety-nine point nine degrees, so I was running a slight fever.  I took some acetaminophen and went back to bed.  I woke up the next morning feeling slightly less lousy than the night before, but still lousy and I still had a fever.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, the thought of ‘oh crap, maybe I caught the coronavirus’ popped into my head.  I let my roomies know I wasn’t feeling well and stayed in my room all day because one can’t be too careful.  I also started wearing a mask whenever I left my room. 

If there’s one thing that really sucks, it’s being sick over the weekend.  Granted, I didn’t have any big plans for that weekend, but still.  My temperature was almost normal on Sunday morning and I felt better.  I even managed to go to the bathroom again, and let’s just say everything went as planned.  Even though I didn’t have any other symptoms, out of an abundance of caution, I got a quick coronavirus test that afternoon.  Much to my relief, the test came back negative.  I have to say that having to administer the coronavirus test on your own is kind of crappy.

On Monday morning, I let my boss know that I had been sick over the weekend.  I was told to work from home for the day and call HR.  Now, I don’t know if they were busy or just being a typical HR department, but it took quite a few calls before I got in touch with somebody, which was annoying.  Once I finally got through, HR told me to get a lab test and get back to them with the results.  I did a lab test that afternoon, but as they take two days to process, I was going to be working at home for the next few days.  At this point, I was completely over my fever, so I was pretty sure that all was well, but there was still a little nagging thought sitting in the back of my mind, certainly enough for me to keep wearing my mask at home.  Two days later, the test came back negative, and HR told me I could return to the office on Thursday.  I found it just a little odd that they didn’t have me work from home for two weeks or even one, for that matter, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to argue.

I was actually a little sad upon being told to come back to the office; Working from home over those three days had been kind of nice. The experience even got me thinking that maybe working from home full-time might not be a bad idea after all…

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I check my temperature just one last time.  For more wonderfully weird and witty words I’ve written, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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COOKING, coronavirus, Eduardo Soliz, FitBit, FOOD, JUST SAYING, Pebble, SMARTWATCH, TECH, WHATS GOING ON, WORK

How I Lost 30 Pounds

INTRODUCTION

lossI would like to begin by saying that I am not a medical professional or a physical trainer by any stretch of the imagination.  I am an IT Guy in his late forties who spent way too much time on my rear and not enough time on my feet over the years.  This is my experience and following this little plan has worked pretty well for me so far.  I share my story in the hope that if you are experiencing health issues related to your weight like I am, then perhaps some of the things that helped me will help you to improve your health as well.

I am also not trying to sell you anything, though I admittedly will be gushing over Fitbit a lot.  That said, if you want to hang around and read some stories or listen to a podcast episode or two, it would be greatly appreciated.  Finally, this is not medical advice, please consult your doctor before starting any nutrition or exercise plan, don’t sue me if something unfortunate happens, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Still here?  Cool.  Here we go:

I like to joke that going to the doctor is like going to confession, but worse. Unlike the priest, the doctor knows you have sinned because the bad things you have done are all documented in your vital signs and your lab results. Of course, God knows everything that you’ve done, but He doesn’t offer much in the way of direct feedback. Indeed, the only penance to be found at the doctor’s office is not in prayer, but in performing acts of contrition towards yourself.

I have struggled with my weight for the better part of my life.  Working in Information Technology, first as a programmer and now as a tech support pro-slash-IT Guy didn’t exactly encourage good habits.  The truly lousy thing for me is that I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or use drugs; my one big vice is food.  Making the situation worse was that the only significant exercise I would get was when I would spend the weekend walking around a nerd convention.  Of course, with the extra weight comes health problems like Type II diabetes and high cholesterol.  Oddly enough, I’ve never really had high blood pressure, probably since I tend to not get worked up about things, but that’s a story for another time.

Last June, I had another one of those visits to the doctor…if you’re overweight, you know what I’m referring to:  The doctor tells you that you need to lose weight or bad things will happen (or worse things if you already have issues).  You respond by sheepishly nodding your head and saying “Okay, doc, I’ll try to do better” and six months later, you’re having the same conversation.  After years of living with weight-related health problems, I was finally determined to get my act together after a doctor visit in June 2020.  In a weird way, it helped that I had been out of work since the end of April, having been laid off due to the pandemic.  I had lots of time to start replacing my bad habits with good ones and couldn’t blame bad traffic or work-related stress or [insert random reason here] for not exercising.

SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY

Losing weight is simple, but not easy. You burn calories throughout the day as you do things and you add calories by eating. To lose weight, you have to burn more than you put in, or end up at a “calorie deficit” to use the correct term. The concept is simple. To lose weight you need to either burn more calories by doing more things, eating less, or a combination of both.

But as many of us know all too well, it isn’t easy. Like so many things in life, the execution is where that simple idea falls apart. I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure there is a term for how we tend to overestimate the good things that we do and underestimate the bad. Heaven knows I was guilty of that: I would feel good about taking a fifteen minute walk around the nature path behind the office after work, but fail to recognize that the walk wasn’t enough to compensate for my ‘usual, not that bad’ meal of a bacon cheeseburger and fries that I’d had for lunch.

As I mentioned before, I’m a computer guy.  I like numbers.  So, the first step in getting my act together was getting the facts behind how good, and more importantly, how bad I was being to myself.  My thought process was that once I had all the numbers, good and bad, I could then start to make changes for the better because at that point I would know what was happening.  No more deluding myself into thinking I was doing better or not as bad as I thought I was.  I would have cold hard facts guide me going forward.  After all, as our doctors are all too aware, numbers don’t lie.

And so we have the first step.  It’s a little hard, but has absolutely nothing to do with eating or exercise:

STEP 1 – WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY

If you take nothing else from these words, if you don’t read another word beyond this sentence, start weighing yourself every day. 

I won’t lie.  It is going to suck at first.

And that’s exactly the point. Once you learn what consequences your actions have, you should learn to adjust your behavior if you don’t want to repeat a bad performance. If you go nuts one day at your favorite Chinese buffet for dinner and get some bad news the next morning on the scale, then perhaps you will go a little less nuts the next time. Maybe you spent a day walking around the mall shopping with friends and you find yourself a little lighter the next day. Great! Yes, I know we’re still in the pandemic and that’s kind of a great big no bueno right now, but let’s pretend we aren’t. Ahh, good times. Anyway…

I started weighing myself every morning shortly after I woke up…and after a pit stop at the boys’ room.  I don’t know if that’s cheating or not, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.  I also invested in a smart scale, a Withings Body+, to be precise.  The convenience of having my daily weigh-in immediately zapped to the FitBit app so I could track my progress is pretty awesome.  Granted, you don’t have to go that far; if you want to write your numbers down in to a notebook or punch the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet and then do Excel things with the numbers, then go for it.  You’ll also be one step up on me because I hate Excel with the fire of a hundred suns, but that’s another subject for another time.

The idea behind weighing yourself is twofold: Do it to keep track of your progress and to learn what you are doing right and wrong on a macro level so you can start making adjustments to your habits.

STEP 2 – KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU EAT

This is another hard part, but technology definitely makes it easier.  I had tried calorie counting in the past, but measuring things, looking things up and writing things down (or arguing with Excel) ended up being a royal pain in the posterior, so I eventually always stopped.

At the risk of violating the ‘I am not trying to sell you anything’ pledge I made at the top of this blog, I have to mention that the Fitbit app made this much easier.  Indeed, I went all in with Fitbit and ended up using it to keep track of everything.  That said, I believe the CalorieKing or MyFitnessPal apps also allow you to do this.

The interesting thing with the Fitbit app is that in order to do calorie counting, you have to set a weight loss goal first.  I set my initial goal to ten pounds below my first weigh-in.  The app then gave me an estimate of how many calories I could eat throughout the day in order to lose weight based on my activity level, measured by my Versa, and the food that I was entering into the app as I went about my day.  I think that the app overestimates how many calories you burn, but regardless, you will eventually get a hang for how much less you need to eat to make progress, especially if you are weighing yourself every day.

I started keeping track of my diet on the same day that I started my daily weigh-ins.  Just like the daily weigh-ins, the point of doing so was to get an actual picture of how good and how bad I was doing.  It also had the effect of quickly making me think twice about my choices at mealtime:

Naturally, my first big eye-opening moment came when I decided to order out for lunch on that first day of July.  Like many of my fellow Texans, I love Whataburger.  I thought that since I had started my day with a fairly light breakfast, my “usual, regular, not-so-bad-for-me” lunch of a Whataburger with cheese with medium French fries wouldn’t be too far out of line.  Before placing my pick-up order via their app, I thought that I would plug the data into Fitbit to get an idea of the damage I would be doing.

Hoo-boy.

Fitbit’s food database has information on some major fast food places, including Whataburger.  I was shocked to find that a Whataburger with cheese on its own was a whopping 680 calories.  A medium order of French fries would tack on 420 more, which meant that what I had considered to be a ‘usual, regular, not-so-bad-for-me lunch’ in fact contained 1,100 calories.  Of course, when I dropped that data into the Fitbit app, it went DUDE THAT’S WAY TOO MUCH.  I hadn’t ordered as of yet, so I checked to see how much less awful a smaller Whataburger Jr. with cheese would be.  I was pleased to discover that it has 355 calories.  A small order of fries had 280, so that lunch added up to 635 calories, or 435 calories less than the regular meal.  I discovered that I could still enjoy a burger and fries…just smaller ones.

In doing this, I learned how awful my old diet was.  I also learned how to adjust my eating so that I would eat less calories.  In tracking everything that I was eating, I began to get an idea of how many calories I could eat in the course of a day and so I started eating less.

But here’s the crazy thing:

I AM EATING THE SAME THINGS AS BEFORE, JUST IN SMALLER PORTIONS.  I didn’t follow any “diet” whatsoever:  No low-fat or low-carb or paleo or fasting or any of those other flavor-of-the-month cure-all diet things that you hear about.  I didn’t even buy low-fat milk.  I just ate less. Since I was tracking my eating, I now knew how much I could eat before going over my limit for the day.

Sure, I was trying to include more grains and vegetables in my diet, but for the most part, my diet was still awful because I was still eating like a bachelor:  Fast food, processed food, sweets (being a good baker is a blessing and a curse) chips, and salty snacks were still on the table…just in smaller portions.  Cooking for one is also a royal pain in the rear and cooking healthy for one, even more so.  I know some of you are shaking your heads after reading that last paragraph, but the bottom line as you will see, is that it freaking worked.

Lord knows it isn’t easy, though.  I honestly miss wolfing down regular-sized burgers and fries, but if I want to not only hang around as long as I can, but enjoy the trip, then I can live with having a junior cheeseburger instead of a regular.

After all, it’s still a cheeseburger.

STEP 3 – GO FOR A LONG WALK (MOSTLY) EVERY DAY

I’ve owned a Fitbit Versa for a few years, and a Pebble Time smartwatch prior to that. My main motivation for purchasing a fitness tracker/smartwatch was to keep track of my steps, which mostly worked, but I ended up replacing looking at my phone all of the time with looking at my watch. My plan was to step my way to fitness at the rate of 8,000 steps per day. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be 10,000, but come on, man, I’m a computer guy. I would go walking around the office building for about fifteen minutes during my lunch break. After work, I would take another fifteen minute walk after work on a nature trail that was nearby. I felt pretty good about myself upon hitting 8,000 steps and occasionally even topping the recommended 10,000.

Unfortunately, counting steps wasn’t working for me.

Granted, my overeating was more than likely contributing to a lack of progress on the weight-loss front, but at the same time, I suspected that I simply wasn’t getting enough sustained exercise.  I decided that I needed to start doing some kind of workout five or six days a week.  As I wasn’t exactly in the best of shape (or rather, the wrong shape), I determined that walking would be the way to go.  Thus, I began going for a half-hour walk in the evening around the neighborhood.  Just a plain old walk; no silly power-walking or ankle weights or strutting like John Travolta or anything like that.  It helps that I like going for walks, and I walked nearly every day, maybe taking one day off every week or so.  Just a half hour walk, every day.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

I started my plan on July the first of 2020.  That first morning, I weighed 244 pounds (or 110.677kg or 17.429 stone for you folks in Europe).  Weighing myself in the morning was the easiest part of my plan and became routine pretty quickly.  Wake up, take care of business in the bathroom, then step on the scale and get the good (or bad) news.

My original plan was to eat “normally” and keep track of my diet to get an idea of how awful I was doing, and start making adjustments after a week or so.

That part got thrown out of the window after the Whataburger experience I mentioned earlier. I had similar epiphanies whenever I would think about ordering out. Granted, I had already cut back on eating out because of the pandemic, but having the FitBit app let me know how deep in the hole I was going to be putting myself in by having my ‘usual’ (read: too large) meals made me quickly rethink how much I was eating by letting me know just how badly I had been overeating. At the grocery store, I had already developed a habit of looking over nutrition labels before and doing my best to count calories, but now I was definitely taking them into consideration.

Getting a handle on my eating was the hardest part of my weight loss plan.  At five feet eleven inches tall, in my head I consider myself to be something of a ‘big dude,’ so I had it in my head that I had to eat a lot because that’s what big dudes do.  One thing I learned over time was that I didn’t have to eat as much as I thought I did.  As I mentioned earlier, something that I didn’t do was go on a “diet.”  I was enjoying the same things as before, just in smaller quantities. 

I had already been exercising a little, so upping the time to thirty minutes was simple enough.  Indeed, the half hour walk I started taking around the neighborhood in the afternoon became a nice little respite from the monotony of being cooped up inside of my apartment day in and day out.

Success came pretty quickly at the beginning; over the course of July I had dropped 13 pounds, and throughout the remainder of the year I continued to lose weight.  As I had suspected, the big thing that helped me along was being armed with the information I needed in order to make better decisions.  I was no longer thinking too optimistically as I had been in the past.  I now knew how bad my choices were so I could now avoid making them.  On the other hand, I could also see the positive results of my good choices which motivated me to stick with the plan and keep the ball rolling.

When I stepped on the scale on the morning of December 31 2020, I weighed 214 pounds (97.06kg or 15.286 stone), a loss of thirty pounds from when I had started six months prior. 

I was doing a thing on YouTube where I read fables every day when I started my weight loss journey. The screengrab on the left beforeafter was from July 1 and the one on the right was from December 31.  

In mid-January, I had my usual trip to confession the doctor’s office, and my doctor and I were both genuinely pleased with the results.  In addition to dropping the weight, all of my labs were now normal.  Cholesterol was normal, triglycerides, which had been through the roof before were now normal and my A1C dropped from 7.5 to 5.7 which is just on the upper edge of normal.  The possibility of cutting back on medication in the future was also bought up so things are definitely going well.

EPILOGUE

I wish I could say that things have been improving since that doctor visit, but unfortunately, I appear to have plateaued. I have been struggling to get down to 210 pounds since the beginning of the year as the stresses of quarantine life are finally getting to me. I seem to be stuck at around 215 for now, so my next challenge is going to be getting over this hump. Perhaps it’s time to change up the exercise routine or maybe even give up Whataburger. Time will tell.

So thus concludes my 2020 weight loss story.  I’m not going to claim that this is a be-all end-all solution, but my little plan worked for me and I’d like to think that it should work for lots of folks.   If nothing else, I hope that you can take bits and pieces of my methods and craft your own plan to better health.  I did it, and so can you. Thanks for reading.

Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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