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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Android, Computers, CREATIVE, flying, FOOD, FURRY, fursuit, JUST SAYING, MUSIC, RANDOM REVIEW, Tablets, TECH, TRAVEL, WEATHER

A Few Things I Noticed While Flying

  1. BEFORE: “We’re flying you to Columbus, Ohio for training.” I’m not sure if that’s going to be better or worse than “PowerPoint hell.”
  2. I haven’t flown since 2010, so this is going to be interesting.
  3. It will also be interesting to compare this to my recent Amtrak trip to Dallas (see previous post).
  4. I recently moved, and I’m so glad I got my new driver’s license beforehand due to airport security. The picture on the new license is also of my currently less-fat self.
  5. Dear Uber driver: This is Texas. Turn on your gol-dang air conditioner.
  6. TRIP TO COLUMBUS: TSA was quick and pleasant; any delays were self-imposed.
  7. Then again, not having to do the TSA dance is a point in Amtrak’s favor
  8. Then again, an Amtrak to nearby Cincinnati would have taken nearly 2 days.
  9. The rollers on the X-Ray scanner quit rolling so we got held up just a little.
  10. I got to be zapped by the full-body scanner so I may be a little glowy while in Columbus.
  11. You’re darn skippy I’m going to savor every drop of this $3.25 airport Coca-Cola Zero
  12. Does wearing a Green Lantern ring qualify someone as a peace officer? Asking for a friend
  13. Coughing at the airport and thinking I should have had some Vitamin C with breakfast this morning
  14. Flying Southwest. Boarding group: C I guess I’m getting a window seat.
  15. Make that a center seat, which goes to show how long it’s been since I last flew.
  16. Amtrak seats are definitely better than airplane seats.
  17. Takeoffs make me a mite nervous, dunno that I’ll ever get used to it
  18. Seatmates aren’t very chatty but I have a slight headache so no biggie
  19. Actually, I talked a little with the gal who had the window seat…good luck with the marketing business!
  20. Other passengers: Read books and stories. Me: Write some 😉
  21. While I have a spare phone battery, I’m trying to keep from using it.
  22. I wonder how long it takes the plane to get out of Texas?
  23. Pretzels and cheese sandwich crackers. Mmm.
  24. Thing I forgot: Water bottle, which would have come in handy after the snack.
  25. I feel obligated to share my ‘peanut story’ with seatmates. Sorry.
  26. We’re all “random weirdos” here
  27. Complimentary drinks are a point in flying’s favor over Amtrak, but not so much due to the 4-ounce cups that are served.
  28. Tail’s dragging today; I stayed up way too late getting ready for the trip after driving up from Corpus Christi in the morning.
  29. I would like to sleep but I just can’t nod off on the plane. Being in the center seat doesn’t help.
  30. Thought about bringing my tablet along instead of my laptop but decided not to. After trying to type on the plane all squished up I definitely should have bought the tablet instead.
  31. Slight layover at Chicago Midway International. Part of me wishes I’d bought my fursuit along BECAUSE BEARS.
  32. Home Run Pizza hit the spot.
  33. I’m jonesing for some ice cream and I can’t find any at the airport. COME ON MAN
  34. At a Chicago airport yogurt shop:
    “Finally, some ice cream!”
    “It’s frozen yogurt, sir.”
    “Don’t ruin this for me, please.”
    “Yes, sir. It’s ice cream.”
  35. I just realized I should have worn something Texan but settled for furry instead. Oh well.
  36. I should have bought a bear souvenir while in Chicago. I HAVE FAILED MY PEOPLE.
  37. Head attendant on the second flight was kind of a wisenheimer, but he was a funny wisenheimer.
  38. Seatmates were glued to their phones on the second flight up.
  39. So was I. Yes, they had in flight WiFi, which we didn’t have on the flight to Chicago.
  40. Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi had 80s music, which made for a more pleasant flight!
  41. The presence of Wi-Fi is another point in air travel’s favor, though to get actual Internet you have to pay.  I dug the site where you can see your flight progress, though.
  42. Saw a seatmate playing Solitaire on his phone. Nice.
  43. Grey and rainy in Columbus. Just as well, given that I’m here for work!
  44. TRIP HOME: Got an email saying my flight home to San Antonio is delayed a half-hour. Crap.
  45. Having a company credit card means overpriced airport food is no biggie
  46. Thanks to my Furry Invasion t-shirt, I got to explain furry to a TSA agent in Columbus, Ohio.
  47. His coworker helped out, which made me wonder if she had something to share with the class. Hmm.
  48. Nearly showed up late to my flight home because I thought the plane was delayed (see #44)
  49. Was relieved to be in Group B for boarding which meant that I may be able to avoid another flight in the middle seat/steerage.
  50. Plane was only half-filled so I got an aisle seat for the flight home…in the same aisle with a toddler.
  51. Seatmate had a small dog in a carrier on the floor. Awww!
  52. Nothing says I’M A FURRY like watching the Walt Disney version of Robin Hood on your laptop for in-flight entertainment
  53. I was the only one who ordered ginger ale on the trip home so I got the whole can. Score!
  54. Arrived back home on time, which has me slightly irked at the time goof-up.
  55. Overall, flying wasn’t bad, though I would definitely take an Amtrak over it if I had the time: No TSA, roomier seats, lounge and dining cars, people appear more relaxed, and the ability to walk around the train make the train a much more pleasant experience.
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300 Seconds, COOKING, Eduardo Soliz, FOOD, HOUSE, PODCASTS, WEATHER

300 Seconds Episode #95 – “Home Less”

Listen to the episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 95, “Home Less,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Because life (or something like it) happened, I sold my house a few months ago.  Thus, after five years, I’m no longer a homeowner, and there are a few things I already miss about having a house.

To begin with, there is the notion that the place where I live is no longer ‘my’ place anymore.  I’m staying with some friends for the short term, and God bless ’em, because they’ve been pretty awesome.  At the same time, their house isn’t my house, you know?  When I owned my house, I could do whatever I wanted to, like using an old CD to fix a hole in the drywall or putting the TV set in front of the fireplace.  That feeling of ‘ownership’ is pretty nice and the lack thereof will continue to bother me until I own my home again.

I never had a garage growing up; my parent’s house didn’t have one, and so I didn’t see a need for one on the rare occasions when I was offered one as an option when leasing an apartment.  Once I started making use of my house’s garage, though, I loved it.  I remember being at the laundromat folding clothes one day, when it started raining.  I grumped about the rain for a few moments before coming to the delightful realization that I HAD A GARAGE AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO GET WET.  I got spoiled by having a garage; now I have to park my vehicle outside and have it, and me, get rained on.  But at least I have a place to park at, at my friend’s house; I’m really not looking forward to fighting with fellow apartment dwellers for prime parking places in the future.

Another thing I’m going to miss is solitude.  I like being by myself, especially after a day of dealing with silly people at work.  This isn’t really a big deal right now, because my roommates are cool, but once I move into an apartment, having people on the other side of the wall is probably going to drive me nuts…again

But the biggest thing that I miss the most about my old house is having natural gas.  It’s the best thing for cooking, it’s less expensive, and I’m sorry, but you just can’t heat tortillas properly on an electric stove or even one of those fancy pants convection ranges.  And no, I am never ever, EVER going to put a tortilla into the microwave because that’s just WRONG.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I warm a tortilla in my toaster oven.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to listen to, or read, more of my words and short stories, visit my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com.  Thank you for listening!

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CAMPING, COOKING, FOOD, list, SMARTWATCH

42 Things I Noticed at Guadalupe State Park

It has been a while since my last solo adventure at Guadalupe State Park. I had spent a night with friends in freezing temperatures back in December, but that’s neither here nor there.  As always, I noticed a few things…

handwriting

#1 Needs Improvement

  1. I wrote this list down on paper and thought about posting scans of the pages. I looked at my terrible handwriting and thought better of it.
  2. I think I like taking Blanco Road up to the park instead of 281, fewer lights and a more relaxed drive.
  3. Also more jackasses tailgating you on the slower parts, but what can you do?
  4. Had to take a site with electricity due to the water-only campsites being worked on, oh well.
  5. Nothing like that OH GOD, PLEASE DON’T BREAK feeling when putting up tent poles.
  6. Of course the sun comes out after I set up the tent and go hiking.
  7. Sound that I don’t miss: Vehicles.
  8. Yes, I have my phone on me, for pictures. With the ringer muted and my smartwatch on, I don’t have to worry about missing calls.
  9. There aren’t many people here, which is nice.
  10. Since I don’t go outdoors as often as I should, I find myself constantly wondering what all the noises are.
  11. Lots of butterflies about, even managed to photograph a few.
  12. More work in the park being done near the river, not sure what’s going on there.
  13. Beginning of hike: Feels good! One hour later: Whew!  Nearing camp on the hike back: OMG ARE WE THERE YET?
  14. Got spooked by a large bird taking off from the branches above me, nothing like that WOOSH of big wings flapping.
  15. As I neared camp, I wondered if maybe I should have packed sandwiches instead of canned food.

    butterfly

    #11 Butterfly!

  16. Surprised I haven’t burned off my eyebrows from lighting my camp stove yet.
  17. It’s nice to have camping cooking equipment instead of borrowing from the kitchen.
  18. Upon further review, hot food for lunch hit the spot!
  19. Slightly disappointed that I still have a cell signal, but at the same time it’s good to know it’s there.
  20. I’d been going nuts trying to find one of my flashlights only to find I had left it in my tent when I folded it up back in April.
  21. Note to self: Take the picture first before trying to move in closer. Armadillos spook easily.
  22. Also: Don’t only pack food things that contribute to heartburn. Off to H-E-B.
  23. Yes, I always have to say ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT’ whenever I light my lantern.
  24. Had a story idea pop in my head mid-afternnon. It had an unfortunate ending until a more optimistic one came to me during dinner. Don’t write when hangry if you want happy endings.
  25. If you like them, they’re ‘critters,’ if you don’t, they’re ‘varmints.’
  26. They had better not be any awoo-ing while I’m trying to sleep tonight.
  27. Heard a bunch of what I hope were fireworks at around 8:24pm.
  28. This being Texas, gunfire isn’t necessarily unusual, though.
  29. Shop towels aren’t bad for washing dishes.
  30. Always gotta find that one dark spot in camp for, how can I put it, ‘taking care of business’ without having to walk to the men’s room 😀
  31. Got spooked by a pair of raccoons fighting in a nearby tree.
  32. I had put up my food and know to not feed the wildlife, so to the victor, go no spoils.
  33. I’m not saying I’m paranoid about raccoons, but I’m making damn sure the Excelsior (my Honda CR-v) is locked whenever I’m not nearby.
  34. Almost fell into temptation during the trip to H-E-B, but avoided stopping at the Whataburger across the street for dinner.
  35. Thing I forgot: Radio.
  36. Idea: Replace the ‘nut-buster’ tripod chair I use in the tent with a small beanbag.
  37. Nice to know the animal I’ve been hearing for the last half hour was just an armadillo
  38. Armadillos are noisy!

    cooking

    #17 A perfect fit!

  39. My battery pack can charge my phone all the way…now that I have a smaller phone!
  40. The overnight weather was perfect, cool without being too cold.
  41. I chose poorly at breakfast; sometimes a McDonald’s McGriddle isn’t worth the lousy service.
  42. Going to pass by my old office on the drive home, going to be hard to not flip the bird at the building as I pass.
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RANDOM REVIEW: 2013 A.D.

2013As the final hours of the year tick away, I have to say that 2013 was a really good one for me.

After years of dealing with apartments and all that malarkey, I broke down and bought a house.  Home ownership has been pretty awesome so far: I went from one-bedroom apartments to a two-bedroom house with a garage and a huge backyard and rabbits and I can barbeque and have friends over and I love it.  Given the age of the house, home repairs and replacing things will eventually come but for now its been smooth sailing.

On the e-book front, I decided to try to sell printed copies of my work at a few conventions and events and failed spectacularly, at least from a business standpoint.  I can count my total sales on my hands.  People just don’t read much anymore, or at least not the types of folks that go to anime or furry conventions.  On the plus side, I did get to talk to lots of folks, present some panels and if nothing else, hopefully inspire some folks to ‘go it alone’ themselves.  I only published one new e-book (should have been two, but life and all that) and definitely need to up my output next year.

2013 was a fun year of conventions, camping, writing, video games, furries, cookies, home maintenance and most importantly, friends and family. I am optimistic that 2014 will be even better; my goal is to compete at least two story collections as well as the follow-up to “The Rules of Tech Support,” which is my best-seller so far.  I am also hoping to attend some new conventions, make new friends, and well, get some work done on the house.  So without any further ado:

MISSION START!

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51 Things I Noticed at Oklacon 11

oklaconlogoThis year marked my second Oklacon, and I did a much better job of keeping up my usual list despite, or maybe because I kept it on old-fashioned paper!

  1. Fursuit parts are apparently very good for keeping yourself warm.
  2. This is a great con for attention whores: Just yell or talk very loudly and EVERYONE on the campsite can hear you.
  3. Anyone playing the guitar at 7AM should be shot or at least kicked in the nards.
  4. I’m thinking that its about time to retire my old Sears Hillary tent. 😦
  5. I was happy I could get a signal on my Verizon iPad in nearby Watonga, OK, but then I got to the campsite annnd its gone!
  6. Even instant cappuccino tastes great when you’ve been sleeping in 30-degree weather.
  7. I’m not sure which is bothering me more: not wearing my university ring or not having a comb in my pocket.
  8. Someday Dr. Nuka will tire of my ‘What’s up Doc?’ greeting and get all sciencey on my tail.
  9. Somehow ‘All My Exes Live In Texas’ got stuck in my head.
  10. They should probably make sure the participants are able to play volleyball out of suit first.
  11. Plastic hammer + heavy metal stakes = FAIL
  12. I was a bit overdue for a shave on Thursday but the cold is keeping me from doing so.
  13. Good idea: Putting QR codes on my dealer’s table sign. Almost Good Idea: Putting QR codes on my dealer’s table sign at a con where cell reception sucks.
  14. Maybe its just me, other folks seem to be doing just fine. Just what I need: another reason to dump Sprint.
  15. I learned today that Canada apparently has its own version of Texas called Alberta. The thought that each country in the world may have its own ‘Texas’ might explain a lot…and fills me with fear.
  16. One of the researchers was having problems with her camera and was getting frustrated, I had to quip: “This is the part where they usually call me at work.”
  17. Even though I’m not at work, my tail was still dragging at about 4PM…should have had that second cup of coffee!
  18. The collective rolling of eyes could almost be heard whenever someone insisted they were the only one in the furry fandom whose fursona was an X.
  19. Best money I’ve spent recently: $15 for a small stool for sitting in the tent; its a little snug in the forbidden zone, but otherwise worked well.
  20. Its funny how the lack of data turned my smartphone into a glorified watch…and a phone.
  21. I only posted once to social media all weekend and haven’t missed it. It feels good to be talking to people that are actually sane.
  22. The rain snuck up on us Friday night but surprisingly nothing got into the tent…there but for the grace of God go I.
  23. Unlike last year, the bathrooms were kept up and I even contributed by plunging a few times and even fixing a toilet, nice to put that homeowner skill to use.
  24. I should have been annoyed by Reville being played at 9am, but instead I found it amusing…because I was already awake.
  25. My writing panel went well, four people showed up!
  26. Hot dogs? At a furry con? Say it ain’t so!
  27. My laptop is a battery…a big, frakking, heavy battery.
  28. The zipper on my tent was misbehaving and the first thing that came to mind was ‘MY KINGDOM FOR SOME DUCT TAPE!’
  29. Things I forgot to bring: wet naps, duct tape, mayonnaise and once again, a roll of toilet paper.
  30. I could only not shave for so long, Saturday night the face fuzz was gone.
  31. I might need to switch to Mountain Dew from coffee, the Dew seemed to keep Nuka going.
  32. He graciously gave me one of his, and I gave him some of my cough drops, balance of the universe and all that.
  33. Yeah, it was great to hear my dealer-neighbors bicker back and forth like an old married couple…which they probably were.
  34. Furries apparently really hate sports, which is yet another way I stick out in that club in addition to being straight and over 30.
  35. From the ‘clever idea’ department: Previous year’s con shirts: $12 for 1 or $10 for 2
  36. Hearing the rules for ‘Predator and Prey’ made me think of ‘Calvinball.’
  37. When in Rome: I got mustard on my camera’s strap during lunch and my first instinct was to try to suck/gnaw it off.
  38. Part of me want to either stay in a tent alone or get an A-frame bunk next year…hmm.
  39. f I had known coffee cups/mugs were going to be sold at the auction I would have been there in a shot.
  40. I wonder what the organizer thought when I gave him my tax form that said “Sales: $4”
  41. A guy nearby needed help tearing down his ‘insta-tent.’ I knew there was a reason I didn’t like those things.
  42. Well, that and they cost twice as frakking much.
  43. Very thankful to have a second person in the car on the drive home, I probably would have had to stop for sleep otherwise.
  44. Saw so many Braum’s burger/ice cream/grocery joints on the drive up/back that we had to stop at one on the way home. Quite good!  Still haven’t been to Waffle House.
  45. Put over 1,100 miles on the Excelsior the whole trip and used up just over two and a half tankfuls of gas.
  46. Flying J has REALLY good coffee.  That, or drinking instant coffee at work for so long has ruined my taste buds.
  47. We encountered absolutely zero traffic problems on I-35 from Oklahoma City all the way down UNTIL we hit San Antonio and spent 25 frakking minutes going the last 5 miles home…REALLY, SAN ANTONIO?
  48. Good Idea: Empty fridge beforehand so no food goes bad during the drip. Problem: No food in fridge to eat upon return.
  49. While I only sold 2 storybooks during the weekend, it was still 2 more than I sold during Furry Fiesta. *shrug*
  50. Thank you, Sharon.
  51. I can’t wait to do it again!
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How Home Sweet Home It Is!

homeAfter years of dealing with annoying neighbors one wall (or floor) over, lousy parking, poor management, constantly increasing rents and not being able to own a cat without a big deposit and paying ‘pet rent.’ I am finally going to take the plunge and buy a house.  I’m almost there, too:  if all goes well I’ll be a homeowner within a few weeks.

Its a big step for me and more than a little bit scary.  For better or for worse, I am setting down roots here in San Antonio.  There’s also the whole ‘what happens if I lose my job’ bit, but these days, that cloud is constantly hovering over everyone’s head, so that’s nothing new.  Instead, I choose to focus on the Good Things associated with having my own home:

It’s my house, and if you don’t like it… – On a philosophical level, an apartment is never ‘really’ yours, and it will be nice to do whatever I want without having to ask myself whether I’ll be dinged for something when I move out.  Also, there is the whole ‘investment’ angle, but I don’t care too much about that.  In my opinion, the mentality of the home one lives in being an ‘asset’ instead of a ‘home’ is partially to blame for the nutzoid homeowner’s associations I always hear about in the news.

More room! – I have always lived in one-bedroom apartments and even lived in a efficiency once when things got tight.  Unless I get a Unabomber special (i.e. an isolated shack)  I’ll be getting a 2-bedroom house at the bare minimum and it will more than likely have a garage, too.  That’s going to be a LOT of extra space that I’m not sure I know what to do with.  I might rent out the extra room and I hear garages are great places to store things.  I’m also looking forward to hosting parties again, it has been way too long since I’ve hosted a Super Bowl or New Year’s Eve gathering.

Do What I Want – One of the crappier parts of living in apartments is you have to be careful with your noise level lest you arouse the ire of your neighbors.  While I am not a very noisy person, I do like to turn up the sound when I play video games and movies and have occasionally been ‘that guy’ that has had his stereo or surround sound system up too loud.  Conversely, I have also had to bang on a few doors and tell neighbors to tone it down.

WOW a Garage! – My parent’s house does not have a garage and so I have never had the pleasure of having one.  Based on what I have seen from friends, I understand it is a storage space.  I might go nuts and actually keep my vehicle in mine.

KITTEH! – I have wanted to have a cat for some time, but as I mentioned in the intro, certain things about apartments have kept me from getting one.  I can now acquire a cat and hug him and pet him and hold him and call him George. 🙂

Good Old Gas – My parents have a gas stove, and it is awesome.  I have not lived in a place that has had a gas stove since I moved out, and cooking food has royally sucked since.  One of my requirements for a home is that it have a gas connection so that I can once again experience the joy of heating up tortillas and hot dogs the way God intended.

House Party – When I had a bigger apartment a few years ago, I loved having friends over for games and even Super Bowl and New Year’s parties or two.  It won’t be too long before I’ll be hosting get-togethers and this time we can crank up the tunes! 😀

Buying a house is big and scary and fraught with pitfalls, but I’ll take the hits as they come and look forward to the good things that come with owning a home, like freshly-warmed tortillas!

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Headlines and Butterflies

Must be a country music fan…

I don’t have a family of my own as of yet, so I spend Thanksgiving with my parents.  I drive down to my hometown, catch up with friends, bake a pie or two, eat lots of Mom’s good food, watch football and maybe do a little shopping.  I also make it a point to read the town newspaper.  I saw the article pictured at right and chuckled to myself, thinking: ‘yeah, its amateur night.’  It also made me think about the time I had applied for a job at that same newspaper years ago.

I didn’t get the gig because I didn’t have any writing samples on me at the time.  I remember being irritated about that after the fact because I have two college degrees and this wasn’t exactly The Washington Post I was applying to.  “How hard is it to write about honor rolls, City Council meetings and the occasional tractor accident?” I probably thought to myself at the time.

I got over it, life went on and I would eventually go on to write other things: short stories, video game reviews, podcasts and this blog.  I never again thought about the snub until I saw that poorly written headline.  As people are oft to do, I started to think about ‘what might have been.’  I quickly dismissed those thoughts to the back recesses of my mind, because I had better things for it to do, like get to work on the two short stories I need to have done by the end of next week.

Among other things, I subscribe to what is called the “Butterfly Effect.”  Simply put, it states that a small change can ultimately have a much larger impact at a later point in time.  “Does the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas,” and all that.  You see the theory mentioned a lot in science fiction, especially where time travel is concerned, and it is also the title of a movie that I’ve never bothered to see.

Thus, I believe that if you are truly happy in your current situation, you cannot have any regrets at all.  Even the smallest decision or event from years ago may have significantly altered your destiny.  So don’t waste your time wistfully thinking about ‘what might have been.’  If you are not happy with your situation, do something about it, even if it is a small step.  Small steps can eventually lead to something bigger and doing something is always better than doing nothing.  On the other hand:

If you are content with your life…

Be happy,

Be thankful,

but most of all, be you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Oklacon 2012 Journal #1: Off the Grid

Furries under the stars!

Oklacon is just a few days away, and I am in the process of getting things ready: making a list of equipment to bring, topping off stuff with fuel, getting warmer clothing out of storage, making sure I have plenty of batteries, and so on and so forth.  In viewing various posts here and there I had heard of something called ‘cell phone hill’ so on a hunch, I decided to check Sprint’s coverage.

Yikes.  It looks as if I’m going to be outside of Sprint’s coverage area, so I’m going to be roaming, which probably means no data.  Now, I presume that no data means no internets, and I find myself just a little bit apprehensive at the thought of really being ‘off the grid.’  As you may guess, I’m one of those people that is always checking my smartphone or laptop for e-mails or Facebook posts or tweets or comments on my blogs (like this one!) and so on and so forth.

While the thought of not having access to the tubes is a little bit scary (I think I may have a problem), on the other hand, its something else I can take a vacation from, and it’ll probably do me some good…I hope!

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24 Things I Noticed While Moving for the Umpteenth Time

Well that's just ducky!

What every new home needs!

I turned in the keys to my old apartment today, and so I once again bid farewell to one apartment while getting settled into a new one.

  1. Whily my method of shuttling stuff back and forth with my compact car is horribly inefficient, it gets me plenty of exercise.
  2. Okay, yeah, its ridonkulous and I should just do everything at once next time.
  3. I thought “why is it pink instead of blue?” upon seeing the toilet paper and rubber duckie above and then I saw the Susan G. Komen card and pink ribbon.  Ohhhh.  Derp.
  4. Speaking of which, I always leave a roll of toilet paper in the old place. I’m not sure why, its just something I do.
  5. Sometimes I wonder if I am really this elated at being here, or am I just high from paint fumes?
  6. It only took two trips to move the crap that wouldn’t fit in my car, so yeah, I should have packed everything else up.
  7. Cable guys are much more efficient when you have the apartment folks call them.
  8. That’s a good thing, too, because once again, I’m facing the wrong way to get a satellite.  Rats.
  9. Digital thermostats are awesome.
  10. The new place’s built-in shelves can hold all of my games and movies, and it is BEAUTIFUL!
  11. I have been in such a better mood now that my commute has been cut in half.  God, how I hate traffic, and once those really tall ramps (or skyways as I like to call ’em) on 281/1604 are done, the commute should be smooth sailing.
  12. My commute should be cut about in half, which is good because holy cats, gas is getting expensive!
  13. It really says something when even the dollar store in the new neighborhood is nicer.
  14. The nearest HEB is an older one.  Somehow, this isn’t a problem.
  15. The nearest Wal-Mart got upgraded from a “Raunchy-Mart” to a Supercenter since my last visit.  Nice.
  16. The nearest Best Buy might just be a little too close, I think I need to freeze my credit card…I mean literally, as in ICE.
  17. I should have gotten rid of that old living room furniture a LONG time ago.
  18. Shopping for new furniture has been a drag so far, maybe I should just get a bunch of beanbags, or move my bed into the living room.
  19. Moving stuff while working the 9-6 shift work during the wintertime SUCKS.
  20. Really, it wasn’t until that first Saturday that I went, “Gee, this is what this place looks like during the day.”
  21. The water heater at my old place didn’t hold enough hot water to take a bath, no wonder I was so cranky there.
  22. The oven here isn’t much bigger than the one at my old place, but at least it has A LIGHT! Seriously, the last one felt like an Easy-Bake.
  23. The margin of error on that thing is pretty darn thin, though, one long paragraph or trip to the bathroom and I end up with dark brown instead of golden brown cookies.
  24. My TV looks kind of small now, maybe its time to upgrade! 🙂
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