Yearly Archives: 2007

My kingdom for a reliable metric

I went to the doctor on Wednesday to get her to fill out a release form for the fitness center at my office. The scale at the doctor's office says I'm down to 206. The scale in my bathroom, however, insists I'm still in the 207-208 area. At least both numbers are better than the 215 that registered on the first day I bought the scale.

So what do I believe? The scale in the doctor's office, or the scale in my bathroom? The optimist in me would like to believe the former, but the realist in me thinks the latter number provides more of an incentive to work.

It's been two weeks since I started to work out in earnest, and the novelty of adding a new activity to my day has worn off. I'm already starting to ask myself, "Can I skip today?" Inevitably, I don't give myself permission. At 9 p.m., I put on my shoes, grab the iPod and head to the workout room. For 35 minutes, I'm on that treadmill, working up a sweat.

When I get back to the apartment, I'm pretty much wiped out, and I usually welcome that feeling — it means an easier time going to bed.

But new habits come with new side effects:

  • I usually have to go the bathroom right around 4 a.m. because of all the water I drink immediately after working out. Hydration is a bitch.
  • It's usually no problem for to go back to sleep after the 4 a.m. wake-up call, but that just means it gets harder for me to gain consciousness at my usual 6 a.m. Even without the 4 a.m. trip, I find myself sleeping so soundly, my internal alarm clock doesn't get triggered.

At the start of the summer, I noticed all my shirts felt a bit tighter, and even the looser shirts would brush against "my girth". Maybe I'm just imagining it, but I think my shirts are just slightly looser now. I would like to think the approximately 5-11 lbs. shaved off makes a difference, but since I can't narrow down how much I've really lost, I'm just going to pass it off as a fluke.

I'll start to believe that feeling when the scale says I'm below 200. That should be in another month if I'm not distracted too much.

Does this thing work? Oh, I guess it doesn’t.

The situation with my weight turns out to be more dire than I thought.

For years, my scale had been telling me I was 200 pounds. Nah, it seemed to reassure me, you're not budging. The shirts are only feeling tighter because they've been in the wash too many times. Clothes shrink. That's what they do. I'm 200 pounds, so there's no way I could be getting bigger.

I didn't realize there was a little dial that could serve as a tear weight, and it got nudged off of zero. I thought something was busted, and I needed a new scale. So I bought a new one on Saturday and discovered the dial on the old scale. Still, I wanted to compare the two readings, just to see if I really needed the new scale. Old scale told me I was 200. New scale told me was … 215.

Oh, shit. I was inching toward 220. I passed critical mass a long time back.

I immediately jumped online to research weight loss techniques and walking and heart rates and calories and all that stuff. I went to the workout room twice that day, half hour each visit. I've adjusted my short-term goals. Now I'm walking for 35 minutes, not 20, and I'm keeping a heart rate between 129 and 147. These past two days, I managed to reach roughly 75% of my maximum heart rate.

For now I'm concentrating on making sure I get my 35 minutes of treadmill time everyday. I've finished week one, and the scale says I'm down to about 210. Five pounds isn't very significant. I'll feel I have momentum when I'm down to 205, and I'll start feeling some modicum of success when I'm at 200.

But to give my short-term goal a motivation for continuing, I'm aiming to hit 150. I don't care about the timetable for me to get there. I'm starting to delude myself into thinking these 5 pounds in one week could get me to that goal in roughly 10 weeks. I'd be very happy if that were the case.

I'm not counting on it. I'm not setting my expectations high either.

I do, however, have another intangible goal I want to achieve. There's a guy in my department that I've developed a bit of a crush on. I'm not sure where the turning point was, because the first time I met him, I didn't think anything about his attractiveness. But something about the way his clothes hug his body kind of … gets my attention. He's not buff or muscular, but he is just nice to look at. And it seems like this change is a somewhat recent development too. Perhaps it helps that he's stopped wearing the same white business shirt he wore when he first moved to the US, and in the past few weeks, he's even worn t-shirts.

Still, I want to illicit that kind of reaction in someone else.

I want someone to look at me the way I'm looking at this guy. Maybe someday I'll get serious about becoming a gay stereotype and have the abs and muscles. Right now, I just want my clothes to drape my body in a way that suggests more than it probably will ever have.

892 Momona St.

(And no, I did not see Superbad. I don't think I'm the target audience.)

Today marks the second day in a row I went to my apartment building's workout room to use the treadmill. Working out is not part of my fabric, and it's not a habit I developed. There was a summer in college where I had a gym membership, and for a while, I managed to lose a few pounds. It all came back when work and school took over my life. I got a free membership to Gold's Gym through an old job, from which I got laid off. So no, I didn't have that membership for long.

When it comes to prioritizing expenses, I'll put music gear far above physical fitness anyday. I'm too cheap to pay for a membership with the gym on the campus of my current job, although that may change depending on the raise I may get in October.

With such a spotty history with exercise, what spurred me to go to the workout room of an apartment complex in which I've been living for 10 years? Well, I stepped on my dilapidated scale earlier in the week, and adjusting for the broken meter, I've inched closer to — if not crossed — the 205-pound threshold. I haven't been happy with my weight, but I wasn't so distraught to do anything about it. For many years, I leveled off at 200 pounds. When I was working at Waterloo Records, I managed to shave down to about 185. Walking eight hours a day, four days a week can have that effect on a person. But then I got an office job, and I got it all back … and then some.

I told myself if I ever start inching beyond 200 pounds, I'd finally crack down. Well, that day has arrived. I can't keep saying my clothes are shrinking forever. The shirts are getting smaller because I'm getting bigger.

So I'm taking a very holistic approach to this whole working out thing. I'm not going to turn into a gym rat and/or bunny. I'm not going to start tracking every little thing I eat, and I'm not going to start downing supplements, although I did look into fat burners this evening. (Ruled out — they have stimulants, and I have high blood pressure.) If anything, I should get into the mindset that I'm doing this for my blood pressure.

But I want to start pulling away from the 200 pound mark. I wouldn't mind being 170 or 160 again, but I don't want to set my expectations too high. I'm going to start with very short-term goal — walk the treadmill 20 minutes a day, everyday.

I want that to become a habit, something that wouldn't make my day complete were I to miss it. I won't care about the impact it'll have on my blood pressure. I won't care about how much weight I might be losing. I don't want any of that stuff to distract me or get me down. I just want to be able to get into that workout room everyday and walk for at least 20 minutes.

It's like when I had to start taking my blood pressure medicine. I resisted and would "forget" to take it. But then I decided I just need a time in the day to do it and not think about it. I started feeling so much better, I made sure the habit stuck. Now it's to the point where on some mornings when I'm not completely awake, I'll ask myself if I took my medicine. I can usually feel the effects of not taking my meds within an hour or two, but most times, I'll discover I did indeed take them.

I'm using that sort of short-term vision with working out. Concentrate on the task at hand, and when it's mastered, take a step back to see what are the results.

I know what you did all summer

I think I noticed a subtle change in the way the sunlight came in through the window this morning. It was enough to make me realize there are approximately two weeks left in August. Once September starts, the length of the days start to contact noticeably.

Must have been all the rain we had this summer because it doesn't feel like the days actually got longer. Of course, they did, because the sun would not go down till after 8:30 p.m. But on those particularly rainy days, who could tell?

All that to say the summer seemed to have passed quickly. When I attempt to account for the time, I realize I spent most of it working.

Back in early June, I was writing lyrics. By early July, I was writing new music, By early August, I was recording vocals. I managed to write music for one album, salvage some compositions from college and fleshed out a cross section of stuff I recorded over the last two years.

I was kind of glad when I actually reached a stopping point where I could concentrate on other things, and it made me realize I spent most of the season focusing on studio work. Not that I could get out much with my income being decimated by bills.

Aside from working in the studio, I did manage to see a few movies, far more than I usually do. I took in Once, Sicko, The Simpsons Movie and Stardust. I'm aiming to watch The Bourne Ultimatum on Wednesday.

I'm a TV junkie, though, but even my TV jones took a backseat to the studio. Man, I love TiVo — I think I can hold it mostly responsible for my productivity. I've been watching The Closer (not fond of this season), Eureka (is Henry turning evil?), Psych (not enjoying it as much, and James Roday needs a shave), Burn Notice (new favorite), Mythbusters (how have I missed this show all this time?), The 4400 (thank diety they got rid of Freak of the Week) and Bleach (I thought I was too old for anime).

But I haven't travel — I did that back in April — and I haven't gone to any shows. Not a thrilling summer by any traditional criteria. But I did learn how to record vocals, and I used Ableton live to do a solo performance of Terry Riley's In C. That counts for something — in my world, at least.

Presumputous, much?

My office gives us two days off the July 4 holiday, so I decided to burn a day of vacation and extend it to three. As a result, I had five days off. Nice!

For most of that weekend, I was working in the studio, recording material for what would eventually become the fifth full-length unfinished Eponymous 4 album. It's called 「健忘症」 (Kenboushou). I've got a lot of material for someone who doesn't actually have a music career.

A few weeks back, I went through all the songs I've recorded in the last two years to see if I could come up with a pretend "best-of" collection. I would call it Original Confidence, which is the Japanese equivalent of the Billboard charts.

Here's what it would sound like:

  1. Untold Demons
  2. Revulsion
  3. Epiphany
  4. Destruction Baby
  5. Dusk
  6. Go
  7. The One to Make You Whole
  8. Imprint
  9. NaSoPiAlMo No. 5
  10. enigmatics IV
  11. Silver Sting
  12. What I Deserve
  13. Speechless

Come into my parlor

Here's what my bedroom studio looked like before I moved to a new apartment:

Studio Bueno: In full

Here's what it looked like right before the move-in date:

Studio Bueno v. 1.9

Here's what it looks like now:

Studio Bueno v. 2.0

An entire room for music equipment! I used the master bedroom because I wanted the equipment to be spread. Also, there's a walk-in closet I turned into a make-shift isolation booth. You can see it before its transformation like so:

Studio Bueno v. 2.0 (or the Closet?)

I'm thinking of renaming my studio from "Studio Bueno" to "The Closet", just so I can put something clever in my liner notes. ("Recorded in the Closet.")

For a complete tour of the new apartment, take a look at my Flickr set.

My new bill-paying technique is unstoppable!

Now that I'm paying significantly more rent — without an accompanying significant raise in income — I have to be much more vigilant about how bills are paid. I am paid just enough per month to clear all the bills, but the first paycheck of the month is not enough to cover them all.

(On some months, said paycheck was indeed insufficient to cover them, but more times than not, I could blow one check on bills, the other on whatever.)

In the past, I would pay all bills at the first of the month, regardless of when they were due. Then I got laid off in 2002, and I paid bills as close to their due date as possible. I came to prefer this method of payment because, really — why should the payees get my money any sooner than they need it?

This method will no longer work with kind of expenses I now accrue. So it's back to the first-of-the-month method but with a significant twist.

Starting this month, I'm splitting the balances of my bills in two, paying the first half of the bills with the first paycheck, and the second half of the bills with the second paycheck. It requires organization to use this method, but I'm nothing if not a few hand washes shy of extremely mild obsessive compulsion. (I doth protest too much, no?)

Some expenses will be easier to pay than others. The car loan and laptop loans have a set schedule and a regular payment, so I can anticipate those with ease. So too rent. The cable and phone bills are pretty consistent, insurance  and water slightly less so. The electricity and credit card bills will be the hardest to predict.

I won't really know how effective this new technique will be, unfortunately, till July, if not the end of the summer. The next bills will have all sorts of transfer fees, and they won't be indicative of the true cost of living in the newer, bigger digs. I just have to hold out till October and November, when my office loosens the purse strings enough for mad holiday consumerism.

Some hateful lists

Things about the old apartment I will not miss:

  • The temperamental toilet. It flushes weakly and fills up slowly. Also, the seat rim has a bad habit of slamming down unprovoked.
  • The a/c vent in the bedroom. When I'm working on audio, the white noise it generates interferes with my listening.
  • The space-hogging fireplace which I never used in the seven cumulative years I lived in that unit.
  • The back door, which tends to get hard to closer when the weather is extremely hot or extremely cold. Austin weather is rarely ever temperate.
  • Carrying groceries up six flights of steps. My eating habits have deteriorated to whatever I can drag up in the fewest amount of trips.

Things about packing I hate:

  • I cannot pack everything up days ahead. I would have liked to pack my plates, silverware and bathroom items days ago, but then what would I use till the actual move date?
  • When everything is put into boxes, it's difficult to move around the apartment.
  • It takes so fucking long!
  • I refuse to ask friends to help me move because I don't want to be asked to help with a move, so I end up cursing multiple trips up and down six flights of stairs.

Things about the new apartment I won't look forward to:

  • As I was bringing things over last night, I could hear my upstairs neighbor pounding away on a stairmaster or some such thing. That's really going to fuck with recording vocals.
  • I spotted roaches.

This is why I don't move very often.

A suitable match … on which planet?

Exactly one year ago, I wrote an open letter to technology staffing agencies, imploring them to heed the preferences of my Monster profile. The letter was more for me to vent than for anyone to read, but now I have to reconsider.

Shortly after writing that letter, I changed my profile to remove any trace of a phone number, stating instead to e-mail me first. I'm not sure how Monster works for employers, but many agencies have kept my number. And they still call, some using an alternate number (my cellphone) which I should have never divulged.

Has the demand for developers really gotten that tight? I'm getting contacted by totally random people for positions that don't even reflect the preferences I selected on Monster.

A few weeks back, I made a slight change to my Monster profile — I removed Austin as a location in which I'm interested for opportunities. (Yes, folks, that's my passive-aggressive way of finding a way out of this city.) In the past, I would re-activate my profile to indicate to employers I want to be found. This time, I did not reactivate the profile — I wanted to see if I would attract attention with that slight edit. It seems I have.

Two recruiters wanted to pitch me jobs in Houston. Another wanted to pitch a job in Utah. I don't even list Austin as a preferred city. How much less for Houston, let alone Utah?

One recruiter thought I was qualified for a VB.Net job, and I've never worked with .Net. (I worked with ASP 6 years ago.) Another recruiter pitched me a job involving JSP, and I've never worked with that either. Two recruiters sent me user-interface positions, but I say in my profile I would rather work on the server side. One of those position was a senior position, and I say in my profile I am not interested in a senior position.

Don't get me started on the recruiters who pitch me contract jobs, when I specifically say I am not interested in contract jobs.

Yes, the ability to read from and write to a database through a web interface employs similar principles regardless of platform — PHP, ASP, JSP, Ruby on Rails. But c'mon — how is it I'm getting pitched jobs with acronyms not remotely listed in my profile?

The fact these agencies contact me makes me think:

  • There's more demand than supply as far as web developers go.
  • These agencies are really scraping bottom to get in touch with me.
  • These recruiters don't know how to read.

I haven't followed up with any of them, especially the ones who just say, "I have something for you, so send me your resume!" I was told never to accept candy from strangers.

The only e-mail I did return was from the CTO of a media company. If he was willing to bypass the staffing agencies — some who have questionable judgment about my abilities — he probably saw something in my job history to catch his attention.

But that case was the exception. More often, staffing agencies want to hook me up with jobs that I wouldn't even apply for myself.

Buyer’s regret

The buyer's regret is starting to sink in. Today was damn hot, and I packed my CDs, a task that took an episode of Grey's Anatomy and two episodes of Law & Order to finish. The weatherman said the 90-degree high today was unseasonably warm. My apartment hasn't really cooled down all day.

It made me realize that with 273 more square feet of space comes a proportional increase in my utilities bills. Electricity is already a killer, and it will be moreso come July and August. Water, I'm sure, will double. I'm considering getting rid of the telephone land line and — diety forbid — go entirely cellphone. My land line is the spam catcher of my phone — all the unwanted calls get directed there.

I also have another option — find a new job. I've been getting calls from staffing agencies, wanting to hook me up with their clients. I haven't followed up on any such leads. I do have a phone interview on Monday with the CTO of a media company. He contacted me, which means something, I guess.

I've characterized my job search so far as passive. I'm not looking for anything, but I wouldn't mind being found. And while I do like the stability my current job offers, the pay will always be an issue.

This moving thing has really thrown some screwdrivers into the gears. I liked the idea of a new job when it was an option. Now it's looking more like a necessity.