Friday, August 31, 2007

Executive Summary

Some of my coworkers are big fans of I'm not.

For those of you who might consider wading through the endless tirade of pompous naivety there, might I offer this succinct alternative.

That's pretty much all you need to know.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Fifteen Minutes

Apparently my little hobby is unique enough that the little Staff/Faculty newspaper here at EMU is running a story on me. I had a lengthy interview with someone doing an internship there yesterday afternoon, and I still need to meet with the university photographer so he can take a picture of me and my work.

The fact that I didn't actually win anything in Chicago didn't seem to phase them.

In other news, Brian and I played Warmachine last night after many months of hiatus. I was over at his place at almost exactly 7:00 PM, and left his place at 1:45 AM. Yikes, am I tired right now. Of course his Khador won against my Menites in the 750 point game, but it was the closest to beating him that I have come in a year. (Did I not mention previously that I stink at these games? I'm pretty sure I did.) The highlight of the game for me was when, after his Man o' War Drakhun (basically a huge armored guy on a huge armored horse) charged in and killed my warcaster (The Harbinger of Menoth) I decided to charge him with the 4 model choir that was hanging out near her before her demise. "The choir are enraged that you killed their beloved Harbinger, and they charge you," I said. Brian looked at me in disbelief. When the dice had stopped, the lowly choir had killed the elite Drakhun. I will never again underestimate the power of the choir or the fun of inventing narrative as you play tactical games. I guess you come up with meta games like that when you lose every stinking time. It's still fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Progressive to Me: Get Lost

We've had Progressive Auto Insurance for years now, but I'm a little ticked with them right now. Three years ago, when our van was almost exactly three years old, Stef got in a little accident, and the hood of the van was replaced. Over the course of the next three years, the hood has been very susceptible to stone chips, and has been developing large, deep gaps in the paint, all the way down to the metal. Our local Progressive rep in Livonia, Jason, asserts that this is normal wear and tear for a hood. I am skeptical. Never have a I seen long cracks in the paint emanating from the spot of a stone chip, or from the front corners of a hood. The old hood looked really good right up until the accident, and I would think the new hood would look pretty much the same at this point. Nope, according to them this series of deep cracks is perfectly normal, despite the fact that it occurs nowhere else on the vehicle, or for that matter on any vehicle I have ever owned.

At this point Progressive has used up my customer loyalty. If I can find cheaper insurance elsewhere I'm jumping ship. I pay for insurance so that I can get my car fixed correctly when something happens, not poorly fixed and then discarded. Add to this the fact that the van's CD player wouldn't work after the accident and they flatly refused to fix it, and you'll see why I'm at the end of my patience. I'm paying for a service and I'm not getting the service. Bye bye, Progressive Auto Insurance.

Wait a Minute....

Today The Morning Show had a segment on college murder cover-ups. I was not surprised to hear them talk about EMU's recent tragedy and the administrative debacle surrounding it, but what did surprise me was something said by Robert Dickinson, the father of slain student Laura. He recounted gathering the family and driving to EMU after hearing the news of his daughter's death. He then said he was told by the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner that there was no indication of foul play. Not an EMU source, but a Washtenaw County source, the same source that a report on the incident would claim as having reported to EMU sources that there was potential foul play. So now I'm at a loss of whom to believe. It occurs to me that if the medical examiner had told Robert Dickinson that there was no foul play, couldn't he also have told EMU authorities the same? I mean, isn't that the medical examiner's job to make those kinds of determinations? I know EMU has taken a lot of flak for not informing the campus of what happened, but for the first time I'm starting to wonder if it was the medical examiner who was the source of the controversy. I don't think anyone at EMU can realistically be expected to do the job of the medical examiner, and whether or not the situation looked like foul play to the untrained eye isn't the same as an official finding of foul play.

Looks like there's more of this story yet to unfold.

EDIT: Contrast this to the story from WZZM where Robert Dickinson says "We were told the night they found Laura that there was no foul play. Even when the medical examiner's report said foul-play suspected." All this time I had assumed the we were told meant we were told by EMU, when I now see that it might possibly mean we were told by the medical examiner.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Saturday I went to a family reunion for my dad's side of the tree. While there I noticed a large scale under the claw-footed tub, and realized that this was my first real opportunity to weigh myself since beginning my diet on July 23. I had originally planned on waiting until my next appointment with my regular doctor (September 5) to find out my progress, and for a minute or so I debated whether to just wait or go ahead and step on the scale. In the end, instant gratification won out and I stepped onto the scale .... 195! I had lost 25 lbs. in the past month! I was elated.

I have now set my final goal at 170, a full 50 lbs. less than I weighed in July. I'm hoping that another 2-3 months will get me there. The gratifying part is that it's working, and I think there are a few keys to my success so far. It would probably be more appropriate to talk about this after I had reached (and maintained) my eventual goal, but I feel like blabbing now.

Portion Control. The whole key for me has been a change in attitude toward what a reasonable meal quantity consists of. Once you get yourself accustomed to the amount of food that comprises 1000-1200 calories a day, 2000 calories in a day feels like a gi-normous binge in sheer volume. Getting used to stopping at the point where I would be just getting started previously took an act of will. I don't know if it's physical or psychological, but I don't really have the shut off when it comes to food. I could/can eat until I'm physically uncomfortable and still want to eat more. It's especially difficult in fast food places where the meals consist of a number of small, inexpensive items. Taco Bell is the primary example of this. I order way too much food, then eat all of it. Well, I used to anyway. Nowadays I can safely get one or two small items (after carefully consulting the nutrition guide) that still leave enough room in my remaining calorie allowance for a reasonable dinner.

Availability. As odd as it sounds, having predictable food options easily available to me has helped tremendously. I know that for lunch I'm going to get a Wendy's small chili, and it will be 220 calories. Every now and again, when I feel especially hungry at lunch, I supplement with a side salad, adding another 40-50 calories. It appeals to my frugality (at $1.26 it's the cheapest lunch this side of ramen) and leaves me enough calories to eat whatever I cook for dinner. If I had to pack a lunch I know I would likely pack (and eat) too much food, and the calorie count would be harder to control.

Accountability. I have told enough people about what I am doing that I cannot reasonably deviate from it without being confronted about my excess. At home it's easier to munch and nibble without really keeping track of what I'm eating, and that can lead to uncontrolled intake if I'm not especially careful. It is also incumbent on me to produce the results my doctor has recommended, which helps with the delayed gratification aspect.

Perspective. While at family camp, I decided to make the adult banquet dinner on Friday night a "Diet Free Zone" and eat whatever I wanted. For two days I anticipated how great everything would taste, and how good it would feel to each a steak and a baked potato, and even a dessert! In the end I was disappointed, not because the food was bad but because my memory of food was so much better. I was full after a fairly modest amount eaten, and the taste just wasn't as extraordinary as I was expecting. I had been initially afraid that any return to rich foods would made continuation of my diet nearly impossible, but that has not been the case. I have since afforded myself very small, occasional portions of ice cream or popcorn, keeping rigorous track of portion and calorie count of course, since then. I love food, but doesn't mean I'll enjoy it more if I eat a lot of it. I'm also getting more concerned about my health (gasp! a nearly 40-year old who suddenly is concerned about his health! Unprecedented!) and would like to feel good as I continue to age.

Two things that have helped a great deal are my brother's gastric bypass surgery and my friend Bill's "popcorn diet" concept. The popcorn diet is just a psychology trick. Bill really likes popcorn, so he tells himself, "If I eat a small dinner I can have popcorn later!" Typically, though, the popcorn gets forgotten as the evening continues. This attitude of "not forbidden, just not a high priority" has helped me control dinner time intake. I had a chance to spend a few meals around my brother after his surgery, and was amazed at how small the portions were that he could comfortably eat. That, in essence, was the bulk of how the surgery worked for him. He was stuffed to the point of feeling sick after only a few tablespoons of food, so his caloric intake was dramatically reduced. Maybe there's more to it than that, but it seemed that simple to me. I thought, "Well, I can just eat meals like a gastric bypass patient does, and that will achieve the same effect without going under the knife." I haven't gone to quite the same dramatic portion changes, and I have been wary about entering starvation mode, but the premise seems to have been correct.

Anyway, I'll look forward to a big, fat load of ridicule if I falter from my goals now that I've made my methods transparent.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Less vs. Fewer

Okay, people. I'm tired of this. You can talk about how much of something there is, or you can talk about how many of something there are, but you can't mix the terms.

Less refers to a decrease (either qualitative or quantitative) of a singular collective. I feel less happy. There is less pollution. I ate less than normal.

Fewer refers to a decrease in the quantifiable members of a set. We have fewer employees. I ate fewer calories than normal. I have received fewer emails since the server crashed.

I just sat through a two hour meeting to which the words whom and fewer were apparently not invited. I really like this language, and while I may not always be its best advocate I certainly find some of its misuses to be grating.

Back to Work!

We're back! It was great! Etc, etc...

I moved offices Friday before going on vacation, in anticipation of our team (web) switching offices with the DBA team. Now that switch has been put on hold, so I'm stranded with the DBA's for a while. They comprise a number of my regular friends here, but I still feel isolated from my team.

Painting has re-commenced! Man, I need to make this more of a painting blog and less of a diary.

Weight loss! I have no idea how much I weigh now, but I do weigh less. Taking various people's advice into consideration, I did a little research on what "starvation mode" typically comprises, and am well above the accepted starvation range at 1000-1200 calories per day. Again, I can't really quantify how much I have lost but I'm clearly losing it, as evidenced by belt notch utilization. I'd like to say I feel better, but my recently discovered enlarged spleen is just a bit uncomfortable (rather like having a side-stitch most of the time.) I plan on getting a weight reading on 9/5 when I return to the doctor, and not before then.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Family Camp Time Again

Well, we're off to family camp tomorrow. I plan on taking my paints, just like last year, but I don't know if I'll get to use them.

Things I like about family camp:
  • 24 hour coffee
  • no dogs
  • I don't have to cook
  • in-depth bible study
  • no dogs
The one thing I just can't seem to do at family camp is relax. A lot of the things that people like to do to relax just end up stressing me out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Phantom Itch

I had a little dentistry done today, namely a crown and a filling replacement. The teeth in question were adjacent to each other, so the amount of anesthesia used was enough to make half my face numb for six hours. The problem came about 6:00 PM, when I experienced an itch on my lip. I went to scratch, but the spot where I thought the itch was located was still numb. I could have scratched until I bled and I wouldn't have felt a thing! It was, without exception, the most frustrating itch I have ever experienced. I could touch the very spot of the itch, and yet I couldn't scratch it.

Posthumous Advice

A manager got laid off here last week. Today, the department secretary and the person who acts as office manager were cleaning out her office as I walked by. At least a year before her departure, on a bulletin board next to the door, the ex-occupant of the office had posted a quote.
It is wise to keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.
--Roger Babson
I'm sure that this seems wise as long as you are not suffering that sort of failure in this sort of economy. By this economy, I mean Michigan. It's bad here. It also might be unfair to brand it as failure, since it was an economically driven layoff. I'm sure it feels like failure. It would to me.

"Medical Week" continues for me. Yesterday I got fitted with an "event monitor" that I will be using to record unusual cardiac activity over the next 30 days. Honestly, I think my doctor was a bit alarmist setting me up with this thing. The sorts of issues I was having were tied inexorably to eating, and my current diet has kept the issues at bay for the past three weeks. I'm still experiencing the heartbeat increase, but the forceful pounding I was feeling is pretty much gone. It irritates me just a tad that I'm going to have to wear electrodes during the week we are at family camp. That's what I get for complaining, I suppose.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Hopefully GW won't crush me for linking an image from their site.

My giant is posted on the GW website! It's on the Chicago Games Day 2007 coverage page, in "Honorable Mentions Page 2."

So check it out and say, "Hey! I know the guy who painted that!"

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Bear with my while I pace the floor awaiting the GW news site to be updated with more photos. I desperately want to see my giant there, and nearly a week after games day the irrational impatience is killing me. It's uncharacteristic of me, or at least I would like to think it is. It takes time to prepare photos for web display, and there were an awful lot of great models that got photographed.

Please enjoy the pretty flowers while we wait.

Off topic, my "get less fat" crusade has been going quite well. I've managed to stay at about 1000 calories a day and maintain daily brisk walks without a significant amount of hunger or regret. When I think about all the food I have decided not to eat in the past 11 days it gives me a startling realization of how many calories I was actually taking in per day. I wonder if there is a maximum caloric absorption limit, after which any potential calories you have ingested just pass through untouched. That theory is the only dubious rationale I can imagine to explain why I don't weigh 500 lbs. Family Camp is Aug. 11-19, and eating small portions when I have a buffet available three meals a day will be a challenge. Hopefully Stef can give me a little willpower nudge if needed.