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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #106: “Weight off my shoulders, my stomach, my legs, and so on…”

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. 😉

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 106, “Weight off my shoulders, my stomach, my legs, and so on” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I like to joke that going to the doctor feels like going to confession, because in both instances you have to own up to your sins.  Actually, seeing the doctor is worse, because the doctor knows what you did or didn’t do.  After all, the numbers on the scale and on your lab results don’t lie.  Thus, all you can do is suck it up and own to all the sins that you have committed towards yourself since your previous visit.  Penance is optional, but there is no absolution to be found until you get your act together. 

After my latest less-than-pleasant checkup, I finally decided to get more serious about losing more weight.  For years my weight had hovered around two hundred and seventy-five pounds, topping out at two hundred and eighty a few  years back.  Thanks to a change in medication, I’d gotten it down to two hundred and forty five, but clearly, we still had more work to do.

I used to be a programmer and I’m a numbers guy, so I decided to go all in and use the FitBit app to keep track of everything.  First my activity, or lack thereof: I’d been using a FitBit for a while to track my steps, trying my best to get 8,000 steps a day.  Yes, I know that should be ten thousand but I do computer nerd things for a living, so come on, man.

I had been concentrating on the number of steps; doing a twenty minute walk in the morning around my apartment complex and maybe a lap or two in the evening if I was short of my step goal.  I decided that counting steps was not enough and that I needed to do a sustained workout.  I started doing a half hour walk around the neighborhood every morning.  In addition to the increased distance, the roads had some ups and downs which required a little more effort than the relatively flat apartment roads.  Suddenly, reaching my step goal didn’t require too much additional effort.

Next was weight, so I bought a smart scale.  It’s one of those fancy ones that also estimates your body fat percentage.  I was already in the habit of weighing myself every morning, but syncing the scale with the app required less effort than typing everything into Excel and it also made it easier to see patterns.  Also, I hate Excel, but that’s a topic for another time. Of course, that first weigh-in was pretty eye-opening; while I wasn’t overly surprised by how much I weighed, the body fat percentage was definitely an unpleasant surprise.

Finally, and most importantly, my diet. I set up a weight loss goal using the FitBit app and picked up a kitchen scale so that I could start practicing some portion control.  As I’m sure most of y’all can relate to; this was the hardest part.

I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m sure there’s a name for the psychological thing where you delude yourself into thinking “Oh, I’m not doing that bad” when in fact you are doing AWFUL.  Once I actually saw how many calories the things that I loved to eat contained, my first thought was: GEEZ, NO WONDER I CAN’T LOSE ANY WEIGHT.  I then started weighing my portions and thinking really hard about where and what I would eat on those now-fewer occasions when I would order take-out.

Armed with all the data I that needed, all I had to do now was execute my  plan, and I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy at the start.  Living in South Texas meant waking up early to avoid the summer heat, and it was a struggle during that first week, especially since I’ve been out of work these last few months.  The walk itself isn’t too bad, and I even went as far as to lengthen it by taking a lap around the apartment complex to start off.  So I don’t get burned out, I take it easy on the weekends by walking just around the apartment complex like I used to.

Now getting a handle on my eating was definitely hard.  What I’m eating hasn’t really changed a whole lot, but what has changed is how much.  With a few exceptions, if I want to get take-out now, I have to adjust my diet for the rest of the day so I don’t completely destroy my calorie goal.  Because the FitBit app sets a goal based on your activity level, that goal fluctuates throughout the day.  The app also tries to guess how many calories you’re burning when you aren’t exercising, but I think it overestimates that part.  Either way, I’m learning to adjust as time goes on now that I’m armed with all the information.

It has been a month and change since I started this plan and so far I have lost over ten pounds. I’ve also been feeling better overall.  Things being what they are right now in the time of coronavirus, I am fortunate to be able to devote the time to exercise and measure what I eat and so on and so forth. I’m pretty happy with how things are going right now.  The next challenge is going to be maintaining these good habits once life inevitably returns to something resembling normal.

You know, I think I might actually be looking forward to my next trip to confession!

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I think  really hard about what I’m going to have for dinner.  For more podcasts, check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #105: “My Coronavirus Story Part 2- Work From Home?”

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 105, “My Coronavirus Story Part Two: Work From Home?” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I am a creature of habit.  As such, I like routines, especially when it comes to my job.  Wake up at a certain time, go for a walk, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, drive to the office, drink coffee, fix stuff, drink coffee, have lunch, drink some more coffee, fix some more stuff and then drive home.  Monday through Friday, five days out of the week, that is my work life and I’m fine with it.  I don’t do quite as well with open-ended jobs where I am left to my own devices without an overarching plan of some sort, but that’s a topic for another time. 

Monday, March the 16th was my first full week of working from home following the shutdown of our offices the previous week (and the previous episode) so I had to create a new routine to settle into.  I set my work laptop up on the dinner table and dedicated that space to be my ‘home office’ for the time being.  Like everything else in life, the new normal that I settled into had its ups and downs.  One immediate improvement was that since I no longer had a commute, that time that I was spending on the road could be put to better use in bed sleeping.  Not having to wear pants or even a polo shirt was also nice.  The biggest downsides of working from home were the lack of human contact and the blurring of lines between home life and work life.  I’m one of these people who likes to use a giant metaphorical Sharpie to draw a big thick metaphorical line between my home life and my work life.  I will say that having a dedicated work area away from my personal space helped immensely.  After all, even before we were forced to isolate, the dining room table didn’t get much use.

My new routine quickly became: wake up, go for a walk, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, sit at the dining room table, log into my work laptop, have a cup of coffee, wait for things to happen, have lunch, sign in to our afternoon meeting, wait for things to happen again, and then log out of the laptop.  There wasn’t much work to do for reasons I’ll go into in a moment.

But first, I have to bring up our daily meetings.  Holy cats, those daily meetings sucked.  Over the course of my 20+ year career, daily meetings have always sucked.  Inevitably, they turn into the same thing every day and they usually go away in favor of weekly meetings which eventually go away to monthly meetings, which eventually die out completely.  Our daily meetings got dull to the point where our supervisor flat-out told us that he didn’t even care for them, but we had to have them because the home office said so.  Thus, every day we all spent the better part of five or ten minutes looking at our screens waiting for somebody else to bring up a question or issue that hadn’t already been bought up in our team chat.  It rarely happened.

Another thing that rarely happened was actual work.  We had a small team of techs that handled remote issues over the phone.  It was very rare that we in-person techs had to pick up their slack because they were always on the ball.  But with everyone working from home, we now had four to five times as many techs now handling the same number of remote issues.  At first, there was work to do helping folks, particularly the staff members, get their work from home setups established, but once that was over with the amount of work available to everyone dried up considerably.  We were stuck hunting for open tickets in the system and occasionally asking if there were things we could help with in chat and during our daily meetings. 

The days turned into weeks, and with no end to the pandemic on the horizon, I couldn’t help but wonder how long this state of affairs would last.  I would get an answer to that question at the end of April, and you’ll get the answer in the next episode.

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I make a cup of coffee.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more wonderfully weird words written by me!  I am Eduardo Soliz and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #104: “My Coronavirus Story: The Fiesta’s Over”

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

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number one hundred and four: “My Coronavirus Story: The Fiesta’s Over,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

For me, the whole coronavirus business started with an e-mail that dropped into my inbox one afternoon in mid-March, which now seems so long ago.  My job at the time was being the computer tech at a local night school.  The campus was small and the people there were nice, so it was a pretty cushy gig.  Except for the weirdo night school schedule and having to work the occasional Saturday, it would have been the perfect job, but that’s a conversation for another time.

I was aware of the coronavirus situation, though not a whole lot had changed for me personally; the security guard would spend time each day sanitizing door latches with Lysol and I had started sanitizing the keyboards and mice that were in the classrooms.  The week before, there had been a bit of a stir when one of the folks in quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base had gone to a local mall before testing positive for the virus, resulting in the mall shutting down for deep cleaning.  I remember Mayor Nirenberg having lunch at that mall after the reopening to reassure the public that all was well; I had actually gone to the same mall for lunch that day and joked to my friends about missing him.  While at the mall, I asked the gal at the register if things had slowed own and she gave a resounding yes with no hesitation whatsoever.

Otherwise, Thursday, March the 12th of 2020 was just another day at the office for me keeping computers, projectors, servers, staff, and professors up and running.  Sometime after lunch, the e-mail that would change everything arrived.  That night’s classes would be the final one of the session because all campuses were closing down.  From here on out, classes would be online only and everyone would be working from home.  That meant that folks had to gather up laptops, docks, monitors, keyboards, mice and pretty much anything else they might need to work from home.  The email mentioned that the closure would be through the end of the month, though I quickly heard rumors that the closure would last though the end of April.

My day became much more interesting after that. All I had to do to prepare for working from home was pack my work laptop and the professors were already accustomed to working from home.  That left campus staff who came to me asking for extra cables, headsets, mice, monitors and even a few docking stations.  After I took care of them, I began packing up the personal items that I had in my office.  That took some time, because as office workers are oft to do, I had accumulated quite a few things.  My Spidey-sense told me that I would not be coming back for a while, so I packed everything up.  Of course, at the time, nobody had any idea of how bad things were going to get.

The next day, March the thirteenth, was a sad and crazy day in San Antonio both at the same time.  Speculation had been circulating that Fiesta, the Alamo City’s 17-day long celebration of Texas independence, would be cancelled, and on that day, it was.  I honestly believe that the majority of folks in San Antonio did not take the coronavirus seriously until Fiesta was cancelled.  I say this because I decided to take a trip to HEB during my lunch break for a few things and it was INSANE.  The closest parking spot was in front of the store next door, and upon stepping inside, I was greeted by a mob of people with full shopping carts lined up all the way to the back of the store.  I quickly left upon seeing this and went to another store that wasn’t quite as packed.

I spent that workday logged into my work laptop monitoring queues and chats, waiting for something to happen.  It didn’t.

Ready or not, The New Normal was here to stay; it was just a matter of how long it was going to last.  It would turn to be longer than I had hoped and also shorter than I had expected.  You’ll see what I mean in the next episode.

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I double-check on my stock of toilet paper.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more words written by me!  I am Eduardo Soliz and I thank you for listening!

Be Good, Take Care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #98: “Job Search Blues- Recruiters and Staffing Agencies”

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 98, “Job Search Blues: Recruiters and Staffing Agencies,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I will start off by saying that I’ve dealt with a bunch of recruiters over the course of my career.  Some good, some bad, and of course, a bunch in between.  Naturally, I consider the ones that got me a job “good ones” but at the same time there were a few that did a great job, even though ultimately, I didn’t end up getting the job.  Of course, I’ll be focusing on the more sucky ones because, well, that’s more entertaining, and after two months of being out of work, I’m starting to get just a little stir-crazy, so on with the show.

I’ve established that looking for a job online kinda sucks and job fairs kinda suck too.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone!  There are companies and people out there that will be more than happy to help you find a job…sort of.

Oh, recruiting agencies and their recruiters.  If you’re online, you have have a pulse, and your work history is longer than five days, you’ve likely been e-mailed or called by a recruiter at some point in your career.  These overly enthusiastic people will talk to you like they’re your best friend.  Many are genuinely friendly, but at the same time, a lot them sound like car salesmen.

After introducing themselves, the recruiter will then ask if you are looking for a job.  If you answer yes, then they’ll tell you about position and requirements, and where it’s at, how much it pays and all that wonderful stuff.  Often, they’ll also send you an email with job details, and ask you to send back a current resume in response, and then you never ever, hear from them again, which kinda sucks.

It’s a lousy thing to do, it’s unprofessional, as well as a bunch of other mean things that I’d rather not say.  I need to say that I don’t know how these people work.  For all I know they’re calling fifty people a day and don’t have the time to call all them back to say ‘sorry, we don’t need you right now.’  I get that.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure there is some kind of computerized system keeping track of all this stuff.  If that computer would just send me an email saying : “Sorry, it didn’t work out,” that would be great.  On the rare occasion when a recruiter DOES keep in touch after the fact, I make sure to let them know that I appreciate their professionalism.  Sadly, that’s more the exception rather than the rule.

One thing that always throws me off is when I get multiple calls from different people at the same staffing agency within the same week.  Once again, I don’t know how things work at those places.  I don’t know if potential hires are assigned to a specific recruiter, but when that second guy or gal calls from the same recruiting agency, in my head I’m thinking: “Waitaminute, isn’t the first person already working with me?”  The conversation usually gets a little bit awkward after that.

It’s also fun when they don’t bother to check if you aren’t already in their system.  Had a fun talk with one of those lately.  What made that situation even more maddeing was that I had actually WORKED for that agency years ago.

Equally annoying is when the recruiter does not read your online profile and tries to submit you for a job that you are clearly not qualified for.  I have some interest in being a technical writer, so if an entry-level opportunity were to come about, or if someone was willing to give me a shot…HINT HINT…I’d take it.  I have to wonder, though, about a recruiter that submits me for a tech writer role that requires years of experience, even after I send them my resume that indicates very little actual tech writing experience.  Again, I don’t know how these people or these agencies work, so I wonder if they’re just trying to meet some quota when we go through those motions.

Lately, I’ve been getting a bunch of calls from recruiters that are from, to put it politely: “out of town.”  I’ve been contacted by so many of them, at this point that I could set my watch to the routine:  First, a phone call comes in from some random state.  I tend to not answer out-of-state calls, so after about a minute or so, I find a voicemail waiting for me.  Upon listening to the voicemail, I can very easily tell that the caller, to put it politely again, does not speak the language.  I will confess to taking particular delight at how these people stumble over and completely mangle my name.  I’ve gotten used to the gringo pronunciation of ‘Edwardo’ by now, but folks from a certain part of the world have no idea what to do with it.  By the time I have listened to the voice mail, and deleted it, an email will have popped into one of my accounts from that same person featuring poor grammar and a position I have absolutely no interest in.

I then block the phone number, report that email address as spam, and wait for the process to repeat itself.  Sorry guys, but no thanks, and I’d rather you not come again.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I add another phone number to the block list.  I am Eduardo Soliz, check out Eduardo Soliz dot com for more podcasts and short fiction, and I thank you for listening!

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300 Seconds Episode 90: “A few words before Furry Invasion 2018”

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I was recently a guest on Tommy Kovacs Splat from the Past podcast. Join us as we discuss our convention experiences in California and Texas.  That’s Splat from the Past, episode number 215, on YouTube. And now, on with the show…

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 90:  A few words before Furry Invasion: The Road to Furdition, so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Furry Invasion will be happening at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel in San Antonio this weekend, October 5-7 with badge pickup happening tomorrow night.  Because life has been getting in the way of my fun lately, I will only be at Furry Invasion Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  I’ll be presenting my Furry 101 panel on Saturday afternoon at 5PM in the Bolivar C room.  If you or someone you know would like to know more about the fandom, then come on down.

This is the second year for Furry Invasion; last year’s show was a solid first effort that had a few hiccups here and there, including a few that affected me personally, so just a heads up, this is going to get just a little bitey.

The biggest issues that I had last year were the slow registration line and the panel schedule being disorganized.  The problem with registration last year was that attendees were required to print their registration sheets at the convention which slowed down the process considerably.  At other conventions, attendees are allowed to print out their preregistrations beforehand, allowing them to be processed much more quickly.  I’m happy to report that I was allowed to print out my registration paperwork after paying, so that should make things more efficient.  While that problem appears to have been solved, a new one has been introduced by the convention’s choice to put registration in the hotel’s ballroom, which is in the back of the hotel and on the third floor.  This is going to make signage VERY important and staff should also be aware of how to get to registration so they can direct people there.

My second beef last year was with the panel scheduling; the schedule that was printed in the conbook ended up being different than the actual schedule, due to some changes being made after the original schedule was made.  This led to some confusion among attendees and presenters, including myself.  Fortunately, the Powers That Be decided to make the schedule digital this year, which means that last minute-changes can be made without fear of ending up with an outdated print schedule, so good on them.  What I’m hoping happens is that they print out each panel room’s schedule and post it outside so folks can see what is happening.

While Furry Invasion has made efforts to fix their registration and panel scheduling issues from last year, one thing that was sadly not addressed, was the weather.  Now, you may be asking yourself: What can the convention do about the weather?  Well, they can try to push the con ahead a week or two in the hopes that the weather cools down.  Cooler weather makes it easier for fursuiters to go outside and have fun, puts less strain on the venue’s air conditioning and is just nicer.  Should there be a third go-round, Furry Invasion really needs to look at pushing their date forward a week or two.

I openly admit that yes, I am harping on the convention a bit, but that’s mainly because the first two issues I mentioned were really touchy issues for me personally.  As I mentioned at the top, the first Furry Invasion went well; if the registration and panel problems weren’t there it likely would have been a great show instead of a good one.  Year two should be better since steps have been taken to address most of the issues from last year and the staff will have a year of experience under their belt to build on.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after the convention.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 seconds subscribe to this podcast or check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com for more podcasts and short stories.  Thank you for listening!

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You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 85: “Self-Checked Out” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After hearing good things from friends about the movie Coco for the last few weeks, I decided to finally watch it the other day.  I don’t go to the movies very often, and when I do, I like to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.  Also, the fact that the tickets are cheaper is also a nice bonus.  I woke up and got dressed a little too late to catch the earliest show that was nearby, so I thought I’d catch the next one which was a few miles away.  The theater was one that I hadn’t been to since I moved out of that area a number of years ago, and it was a little bit of a drive.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and I’m a breakfast guy.   Whataburger is my usual go-to in the mornings, but I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ that comes in just after breakfast hours asking for breakfast.   As a quick side note: Honey-butter chicken biscuits and BoBs would be great any time of the day, Whataburger.  I’m just sayin’

I remembered there was also McDonald’s on the way and thought a sausage biscuit would at least  get me through the movie.  Unless I’m in a huge hurry, I don’t like using the drive-thru window.  Since I spend nearly all of my workday sitting behind a computer and then go home and…sit behind a computer, I like to get on my feet whenever I can, so I parked my car and went inside.

I had never been to this McDonald’s before, but I figured it that it would be like most of the others I had been to.   I mean, it’s a McDonald’s, you know?  I walked in and the first thing I noticed was four giant screens to my left, beckoning me to use them place an order.  The second thing that I noticed was that nobody was using them, and since there w ere a few people in line, I thought I’d walk up to the touch screen and get a taste of The Future!

I have to admit, it was pretty neat ordering, it was like using an app on a really big phone.  Since there was nobody waiting behind me in line, I could take my time looking over the menu.  There was also an option to customize my order, which I didn’t really need but something to check out for later.  A card reader just below the screen allowed me to pay, and my receipt popped out of a slot to the left of the screen.  I placed my order, then walked away from the screen to wait.  Was it faster than going to the register?  Probably not, because not only did I take my time looking over the menu, but I had to learn how to use the system.

As I stood and waited for my order, a woman walked into the restaurant and also walked up to one of the screens.  She stared at it for a few seconds, tentatively poked at the screen a few times, then turned to ask somebody:  “Do I have to use the screen?”

The other customer told her ‘no’ and pointed to the register.  With a sigh of relief, the woman said “Oh, good” and she walked over to wait in line at the register.  I smiled.  Clearly, The Future had not arrived for her just yet.  I was genuinely surprised, because the woman was not very old.  Now don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t very young, either, but to me, at least, she appeared to be young enough to go: “Okay, maybe I’ll give this a shot.”

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how automated kiosks and self-check-outs are going to put people out of work, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.  Lots of folks, like the woman I saw in that McDonald’s, just aren’t going to be willing to try the new thing, and for people that are willing to try it, there is going to be a learning curve which will take some time to work through.  Let’s also not forget the people that do try it and get stuck, which I know all of you have witnessed if you’ve spent any time in a grocery store self-checkout.

As for me, I look forward to taking the opportunity to avoid any unnecessary human contact, because, well, I’m a computer guy, and that’s what we do.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after my I pre-order my tickets for Wreck-It-Ralph 2.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 Seconds subscribe via iTunes and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and thanks you for listening!

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