Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I finally succumbed to the new computer fever. I have not been able to make the shell thing work; in fact, it's only made the fever worse, since most of the shells and other skinnable programs work either exclusively or best with Win XP. Add to that the fact that I'm driving a rent-a-car with more cargo space while the Batmobile is being repaired, and the fact that the computer I almost bought last time is on sale again, and well... it's hard to resist. It's only been The Wife's disapproval which has held me off this long.

So I went in yesterday to look at it again, and while I was there, I decided to apply for the credit to buy it. If I couldn't get the credit, I wasn't meant to have it.

I got the credit.

Still, I couldn't quite commit. So I left and mentioned I might come back. I finally broke down and went after work today. "I think I'm going to get it," I said to the same salesman I spoke to yesterday.

They were sold out.

But they have more due in tomorrow, so The Wife can't completely exhale in relief yet.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Working the Bag

So for much of the 90 days I was doing P90X, I was looking forward to going back to heavy lifting: bench presses and squats. But I find that since I've put up the punching bag, I really like that most of all. I looked up a few articles on-line that basically all said the same thing: hit the bag for three-minute rounds, just like a boxing match. So that's what I've been doing: three three-minute rounds, with one-minute of rest between.

The first round is just getting into the rhythm. I mainly do straight jabs and crosses, nothing fancy. I'm working up a good sweat by the time that's done. The minute of rest feels like a long time, but I make myself wait it out. The second round, I mainly do hooks and uppercuts. Because I'm still not a skilled puncher, and because the bag's light, hooks set the bag spinning like crazy, so I have to switch hands to counter-spin it. I've got a couple of sandbag-type wrist weights in the bottom of the bag, so uppercuts are met with really stiff resistance. By the the end of the second round, sweat is flying and I'm panting so hard that I can smell the drool spewing out with every breath. The second rest period is the same length as the first, but it feels much shorter.

The third round I go mainly for long combinations, four, five, six punches. As I concentrate on stringing together quick combinations, I find myself barely slapping the bag. I have to remind myself to hit hard, and a few seconds later, I have to remind myself again. My shoulders and arms are running out of gas, and my lungs aren't keeping up with the pace. The last thirty seconds, I try to keep up a sustained flurry of punches, but I haven't got the stamina to go full-tilt. I can either hit fast or hard, not both, and I have to pause for a second here and there to get my breath back.

It may sound like torture written out like this, but it's fast and intense and it's over quickly. In eleven minutes, I'm done and ready for something more relaxing. I've also used the bag for some other training moves. I rucked up with it the other day and ran/walked ten or eleven laps around my cul-de-sac with all 40-50 lbs. on my back. It's hard to sprint with that much weight on your back, but it was an interesting change from the normal slow-to-moderate running I normally do. I've also done torso twists while swinging the bag to work on my upper back and obliques. I'm trying to incorporate Art DeVany's ideas about short, intense workouts and play. One problem I've had in maintaining a fitness regimen is that I get bored after about three months or so of doing the same thing all the time. Incorporating the bag work with my weights has been an excellent addition so far, at least in terms of motivation; we'll see if I get any results from it (which to be honest, I probably won't if I only do it once a week as I have been, but it's summer and I'm busy).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Behind the Curve

So I've had Winamp forever, just because I thought it was cool to have a program I could pick the skin for, but I've never really gotten into the whole "music-ripping" thing, until just recently. The last couple of weeks, I've been ripping MP3's like crazy. I've got almost 100 songs now, totaling almost 6 hours of music, and I've only nibbled around the most esoteric edges of our CD collection, usually ripping fewer than 5 songs per CD. For instance, I haven't even touched the Oingo Boingo stuff yet, and I've got almost all of their albums. Just the Oingo Boingo sutff will probably total well over an hour, and that's just ripping the songs I really like. I've got the Dickies, but not the Ramones. I've got the Wonders ("That Thing You Do" soundtrack), but not the Beatles. There's been no rhyme or reason to what I've done so far, but I must admit, it's addictive.

It was Lileks who got me thinking about doing this lately. As an avowed Apple addict, he bought an iPod Shuffle when they came out, and likes to mention the odd musical juxtapositions this produces. What I'm finding, now that I've got enough songs to decently shuffle, is a sense of ongoing delight at not knowing what's coming next, but knowing it will be something I like. The one thing that's missing between this and listening to the radio is the sense of true surprise when you hear a song you've never heard before that just blows your socks off, but I don't mind trading that for no commercials, no asshole deejays, and no clunkers in the mix.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tweaking Pt 2

Wow, what a pain. I have no idea how people get this stuff to work. First, bbLean killed my system. There's a plugin called bbSysMon that lets me look at what my system is doing - how much RAM is being used and how much the CPU is being tasked. I could sit and do nothing and watch the RAM fill up, and once it got full, that was all she wrote for my system. Trav at work calls this "memory leak." I figured out, though, that the memory leak was mainly caused by the plug-in. When I run bbLean without the system monitor, I can get a good twenty-thirty minutes out of it instead of 5. Eh.

So I decided to go ahead and try LiteStep, since it's the most established. I downloaded it and installed it; it worked like a dream compared to bbLean. Then I signed off my computer and came back to sign on again later in the day. Windows wouldn't start. I had to boot up in Safe mode and switch my shell back to Explorer. When I got back up and running, I tried to run LiteStep again to see if I could fix it. It was gone. The entire folder had been deleted from my hard drive. So I reinstalled it and tried downloading a couple of themes, but I couldn't find any that I liked that also worked with Windows 98. This time when I shut down, I made sure to switch my shell back to Explorer first. However, when my wife tried to get on later in the day, once again, she had to boot up in safe mode, and the LiteStep folder is gone once again, as well as another random folder on the hard drive. So no more LiteStep for me.

I've never been much impressed with Windows. Windows always seemed to be trying to do what other operating systems (like Amiga and Mac) seemed to do so easily with far less bloat. But I have new respect for Windows now. I still think it could improve a lot, but after trying a couple of alternatives, I get the idea that this stuff is really hard to do right. I still wish I could have a lean operating system without so many elements I'm never going to use filling up my hard drive, but overall, I guess I'm going to stick with Windows 98 for now. My new computer fever isn't over, but I'm going to have to find some other way to fight it, I guess.

Maybe I'll try just one more shell...

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Writers meeting last night. It was a lot of fun, although I drank a bit too much port.

In an attempt to cure or at least vitiate my new computer fever, I've been looking into tweaking my current system with some addo-ons. I started out to investigate new shells. I had initially been interested in something called Litestep, but I read several articles on-line that mentioned that it was difficult to configure. So instead I downloaded something called bbLean. It looks really cool, but I had serious performance problems with it (probably something I was doing wrong, but it served to make me leery of it). So I may try some other shells before giving up on the idea. My ultimate goal is to put together a complete computer experience: from log-on to log-off, I want the entire experience to be entirely seamless, stable and fast. This means customizing the look and feel of the OS, as well as the log-on screens for Windows (and eventually the manufacturer's logo coming off the BIOS as well). Pretty ambitious for a non-tech savvy guy, and I'm not sure how successful I'll be, considering the machine I'm wanting to customize is a PII I'm using for writing in my office. But I hope it will be fun and that I'll come out the other side both more knowledgeable and having more fun with writing.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cheap Shoes

I have this thing I do with the big toe on my right foot. I apparently lift it when I'm walking so that it presses against the top of the shoe; I know this because I sometimes develop a hole in the top of my right shoe right over the toe. I've got a pair of sneakers that I bought cheap at Wal-Mart a few months ago, and already they're developing the same hole. Right now, it's more like a cut; invisible until I lift my right foot and then the white of my sock flashes briefly through the hole in the black shoe. When I curl my toe down, the slit closes and the white disappears.

So now I'm very self-conscious when I walk, trying to consciously turn my toes down. It's a pain in the ass.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Vegetarians and odd sales pitches

Okay, first off, this is pretty awesome.

Now that that's out of the way, I was skiimming my friend Matt's blog yesterday and started following links here and there, and ended up on the blog of another writer (I'm not linking or naming names because I'm not going to be too complimentary here). I'm reading her blog, and she's describing the panoply of health-problems she's having and the array of medications she takes and the delicate balancing act that requires and the fact that she goes to have blood work done so often that the folks at the lab know her on sight now, and I'm thinking "wow, sucks to be her."

So the blog links to her website and I jump over there and end up on a page where she describes the reasons she has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. What's reason number two? You guessed it: because it's so healthy.

Not to be unsympathetic or anything, but if you're going to proselityze for the vegetarian lifestyle based on the supposed health benefits, you might want to spend a little less time complaining about the wreck you've made of your "meat suit" and the medley of medicines you have to take to get through every day. Because that'll send me running for a bacon cheeseburger every time.

I know, I'm going to hell. But you know what? I'll bet you can eat veal there, and nobody will try to make you feel guilty for it. So save me a seat.

UPDATE: did a little more skimming and found out she has lupus. Doesn't change my point, but yeah, my face got a little red for a moment.

BTW, my daughter got an electronic toy for her birthday that we finally opened the other day. I had to go scrounging all through the house for three AA batteries to run the thing; eventually scavenged them out of a talking Tigger doll. Also included in the box was an electronic sound unit that would give a sales pitch about the educational benefits of the toy in question. Printed on the side, it says, "Please discard this sound unit when disposing of package. It is not part of the toy." I got curious about whether I could use the guts for anything else, so I took it apart before throwing it away. Guess what was inside? That's right.

Three AA batteries.

Short Short

My writers group is having a cookout Saturday. Instead of the normal readings, we're going to have a contest: the challenge is to write a ghost/monster story, the kind of thing that could be told around a campfire, in 1,000 words or less. I sat own and did mine yesterday. Less than 450 words. Is it good? Eh. I think it will get a laugh, which is about all I'm hoping for. Considering I still have over 500 words to play with, I suppose I could try to expand and deepen it, but really, what's the point? It works as a little vignette, a scrap, a slice, and adding depth to it will just muddle the impact of the twist ending. It's like yanking off a Band-Aid. Get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible.

I was in a car accident yesterday. I was pulling into the Taco Mayo parking lot, where a pickup was in the process of pulling out. I stopped to let the truck out, because I really hate it when I'm halfway out of a parking spot and some impatient asshole decides to zoom on past. Next thing I know, my rear view mirror turns gray, because there's a Chevy Tahoe looming up behind me, and CRUNCH! It didn't feel like much, but my tail light lens is broken out, and it looks like a couple of body pieces have been shoved in. I need to get an estimate quickly, because I want my tail light fixed.

And this the day after a body shop guy told me my front end problems were not frame damage-related. I was all happy, thinking my car could be fixed more easily and cheaply than I had thought, and then, BAM! Now I'm back a square.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Well, after 4 1/2 years, I went out and got my hair cut. Since it was kind of an event, I decided to splurge a little. I went to this place called Troy Mitchell's, where they gave me a complimentary beer and cut my hair in this padded easy chair that made the stylist lean way over to cut my bangs. I look a lot younger (and a lot grayer, sadly). I didn't realize until it was gone just how much I had come to dread brushing my hair after a shower; my hair is very fine and tangles easily. Now it's just swipe, swipe and I'm done. Now I can start riding with the top down on the Batmobile.

Speaking of, The Girl was riding with me the other day and started talking about the ledge behind the seats being the car's throat, which would make the red leather interior a big red mouth. Like I really needed that image.

So lots of stuff is happening at work that I don't want to talk about because people get fired over that sort of thing. But we have this show called Starting Over that, God help me, I'm actually getting into. I hate to admit it, because it's one of those chick shows, and it features Iyanla Vanzant, whose awful talk show used to air on our station (the promos used to feature her laughing, and I swear, if you weren't looking at the screen, you'd think the promo had switched to one for The Simpsons featuring Krusty the Clown). But Starting Over is fascinating, because it is about women trying to change their lives, and there's this amazing tension between the women being asked to do all this bullshit navel-gazing and female empowerment stuff, and then being called on their BS when they fall into the same defensive patterns over and over again. It's also interesting to see how they react when they are pushed to step outside their comfort zones.

Evolutionary Fitness

There are two blogs I read every day. One is Lileks, which I've mentioned before. The other is Arthur De Vany's. I discovered him several years ago (I want to say 1999), when I was starting to explore the low-carb/paleo diet philosophy (one which I endorse intellectually more than by actual example). De Vany's website included pictures of an incredibly fit man in his late 50's/early 60's, along with a fascinating description of the diet and fitness lifestyle he follows, which he claims is derived from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle our ancestors were evolved to follow. There was no plan to adopt, per se; part of De Vany's philosophy is play, which means free-form activities that don't lend themselves to rigid plans. Similarly, his diet advice was less than complete, but basically "meat plus vegetables - play with the colors."

Of course, the reason why the information on his site was limited was because he was in the process of writing a book, or the process of planning to write a book. Now it's 2005, and according to his new blog, he's fixing to get around to writing that book any second now. In the meantime, the blog itself is fascinating stuff: thoughts on health and fitness and diet and disease and economics. He may never get around to writing the book, but then again, I might not be able to follow the "Evo-Fitness" lifestyle even if he did. For now, I'm just enjoying the daily thoughts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Fighting the Urge

I'm deep in the throes of new computer fever right now. I think I've managed to fight it off for now; I have too many other things to spend my money on, and if I got the computer I want, I would have no wiggle room for future emergencies. But oh, i's on sale and so sweet. Trying to talk myself into just getting a new game (actually, an old game, since my present machine can't play new games, but new to me - Half-Life or Heroes of Might and Magic 4) instead, but it's funny. I'd rather pay $1200 for a new computer on credit than reach in my pocket and pull out $20 cash to buy a game. How odd is that?

A couple of friends have new books out. Richard Cox's The God Particle went on sale in stores yesterday. I read the MS, and it's a good techno-thriller, with all you'd want to know about particle physics and the rigors of being a TV news reporter. And my friend John Wooley has two new books coming out: Voices from the Hill, a history of Oklahoma Military Academy (coming soon), and The Big Book of Biker Flicks, co-written with Michael Price. I wasn't too excited about this one, until I saw him talking about it on OETA the other night, and his enthusiasm got me excited. So I may have to pick it up.