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airport.

April 2, 2014

People often wonder how I handle traveling every week for work. But it’s easier than you would think. Traveling sucks if you do it rarely. There’s never any perks. You don’t get upgraded. You don’t get priority boarding. You don’t get TSA pre-check. You pay for checking bags. You often have to check your carry-ons at the gate. You pay for extra leg room. You wait in the customer service line for missed connections and canceled flights. I sympathize. That’s why I try to stick with my preferred carrier.

More than that, if you only travel rarely, bad experiences tend to stick in your memory. Only flew twice in the last year and once you got delayed (ps. delays under an hour don’t count)? 50% success rate sucks. In 5 years of traveling, I have only gotten stuck in a connection city 4 times and never had a lost bag. Sure I get delayed a bunch, but not nearly enough for it to annoy me – especially when it’s a weather delay. Who wants to fly through thunderstorms or land in snow storms? One other tip – look out the window next time you’re landing at a major airport and often you’ll see all the planes in the air lining up to try to land. It makes it more understandable if you ever have circled around before landing.

Anyway, after traveling so much, I’ve kept a list in my head of all the airports I like and dislike. It’s here.

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book goal pt. 1

March 24, 2014

Been reading a lot lately. I’ve made a goal to read 52 books this year, with half being non-fiction. With all my long flights lately, it’s been pretty easy to stay on track. I’m 17 books down already. Here are the highlights.

Into Thin Air – First book I’ve read by John Krakauer (since I’ve always been hesitant to read Into the Wild). I was really thinking this book was going to be the inspiring, “make you want to climb a mountain” kind of book. I really had no idea about the expedition that this book talks about and how tragic it was. There is nothing in this book that makes me want to climb a mountain. But it is an incredibly compelling story. Fast read. Couldn’t put it down.

Unbearable Lightness – Portia de Rossi’s memoir of her time on Ally McBeal while she struggled with eating disorders and other issues. I find reading stories about eating disorders weirdly fascinating. It’s a level of crazy that is so unreal. Anyway, the end is really disappointing because the book was so good at describing her struggle and then just sums up her recovery in the epilogue. It makes it seem like fixing her problems was easy compared to having the problems, which I can’t imagine to be true.

Daemon – Techno-thriller (first of two books) about a self-sufficient program created by some genius, which is now taking over the world. I’m not technical enough to flat-out think “that’s impossible” so it was still a fun read. Except when the self driving cars get a bit too involved… Either way, it’s interesting to think how much in our lives is controlled by technology and how that could be manipulated.

Books that disappointed me:

The Gift of Fear – I’ve heard so much about this book and how great it is. It’s written by this security guy. But I found the book really repetitive and I think I just wanted more anecdotes and something more. Less self-help.

Requiem – Third and final book in the Delirium series (YA series about a dystopian world where love is considered a disease). Terrible. First, it totally skips the fact that the second book ended in a cliff-hanger. Second, it ends in the middle of a battle. What?!

Decoded –  Jay-Z wrote a book about his songs. I thought it was going to be as awesome as Ice-T’s book (that everyone should read). It was not awesome. It sounds like answers in an interview – very filtered.

David and Goliath – I liked Gladwell’s other books. There was just something about this one that didn’t hook me. Maybe I’ve outgrown my love of pop science.

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diet update 2.

March 11, 2014

I can’t believe it’s been a month already since my last update.

It feels like it’s gotten better. But I think it’s mostly due to not thinking quite as hard about it and falling off the wagon quite a bit this past month. See, I started a new work contract in Cedar Rapids, IA. While I have nothing against Iowa in general, it has been pretty tricky trying to avoid grains and dairy and still eat a variety of foods. That being said, the lack of variety has also made my eating somewhat routine – which is supposed to be ideal for dieting. On a regular week, I can stop by Super Target or Hy-vee (I still find it interesting that every city has their own grocery store chain) to pick up lunch and snacks for the week.

Lunch: frozen meals; most often Amy’s and Kashi because they offer lots of protein, interesting grains and I can recognize all their ingredients. Portion control is still my biggest enemy. So while frozen entrees aren’t the best, they work pretty well for me. Also, they’re warm, which is key when it’s freezing cold outside. Maybe salad will make it back into the rotation once it’s spring.

Snacks: berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), pre cut cauliflower/broccoli, sugar snap peas, apples, peanut butter and nuts. Keeping snacks to fruits and veggies is huge to me. Healthy mindless eating. If only these snacks could lean toward salty instead of sweet. I make up for it by having popcorn once a week.

That all is totally within my diet. But of course, I’ve been pretty lax on the weekends. Dumplings, ramen, pasta carbonara, Indian food for dinner, and sandwiches in the airport… At least I have successfully avoided the ice cream and other desserts I am always tempted to buy.

Results: Down 5 lbs!

Possibly just a fluke on the day I weighed myself. This is the lowest weight I’ve been in the last 5 years.

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yoga requirements.

February 6, 2014

On any normal week, I try to go to a yoga class on Fridays. It’s my day off, so I can go during work hours and classes aren’t usually packed. My work offers a nice fitness reimbursement that can cover the cost. And it helps mix things up for my body so it doesn’t just get used to boring hotel workouts. I’m all about keeping things interesting so my body doesn’t adjust to just one kind of exercise. And yoga adds in the stretching and strength training that I’m sorely missing when I work out on my own.

For the past year I’ve been really lucky. I found a studio close to my house. They offer classes during work hours for $10, which is awesome. The class I like to attend on Fridays is a Vinyasa class for all levels. It was always really small (usually less than 10 people). My teacher was really good at instructions and modifications. And the studio has rope walls, which I’d never used before but are pretty awesome.

Then, over the holidays, the studio had a fire. And it unfortunately seems like they will not be reopening any time soon. Which means I’ve been on the market for a new class. And let me tell you – it is hard to find. It was just dumb luck that I stumbled upon my previous studio and it was awesome. But because yoga practice can vary so much, it actually takes a lot of effort to find one you like.

My requirements? No chanting, no music, no philosophy, no meditation. No fashion, no lifestyle, no crunchiness. I’m not into hot yoga. I’m not into slow yoga. I’m not into yoga that’s $20 a class. Class has to be on Fridays, ideally in the morning. Also ideally, near my house. After writing it all down, I realize that’s a lot of restrictions. No wonder it’s so hard. But I am looking for yoga to be a workout, not a way of life. The newest place I’ve found is close to home, on Fridays and has just a little bit of philosophy thrown in. But it’ll do for class once a week.

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diet update 1.

February 4, 2014

I’m counting this as the end of the first month of my no dairy/no white grain diet. This kind of cheating (since I didn’t really start at the beginning of January) is pretty much the theme of my whole month – you’ll see. I have lots of thoughts.

In a nutshell: it totally sucks.

Here’s the thing – it’s hard to change eating habits. And it’s hard in an unimaginable, un-talked about way. I’m pretty sure everyone can imagine the difficulty of running X miles or trying a crossfit class or exercising an hour every day. That physical effort and preparation is something people get without actually doing it.

But eating? Even for me, and I eat pretty healthy to start. It’s hard to imagine how much time you suddenly have to spend determining what you can eat. How much you should eat. When you should eat. What to do when you go out to eat. And that’s just logistics of getting food without too much disruption to your normal life. Then there are tons of small parts that pop up – how do you get the same satisfaction from eating? How do you kick any food habits and traditions? What do you do when you realize all the times you mindlessly snack?

Essentially,  I cheated probably every day. Morning coffee with milk. A piece of chocolate in the afternoon. A salad that had cheese in it. French fries because I love potatoes. Ramen because I got sick.  Pizza because it was the Superbowl. But besides all that, I have been eating a lot more vegetables. And quinoa. And I did give up my morning latte for regular coffee (or soy lattes, but it’s not the same).

Results: unmeasured.

I didn’t do before pictures or measurements. The number on the scale hasn’t changed. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m eating more sugar in a way to compensate for what I feel like I’m missing. The amount of effort I’m spending when traveling to find things to eat is ridiculous. My portion control is getting better which has led to fewer energy level spikes and crashes. However, I have to be more conscious of when and how much I eat in order to keep energy levels at a regular level.

All this could be partially due to the fact that I’ve also been working out like crazy. So it’s a bit unclear what are diet effects and what are exercise effects.

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flu.

January 17, 2014

There seems to be a lot of news about how the flu season this year has been pretty bad. Good thing I got my flu shot!

Thing is, the only reason I got a shot was because the hospital made me (under threat of termination). Then they made it really easy by sending people to the office to give us flu shots. But with this approach, they vaccinated 99% of their 15,000 employees. That’s incredibly awesome. I wish all large companies did this.

But I have to admit that I never go out of my way to get a flu shot every year. If it’s easily available, then sure – why not? If I have to go somewhere to get one – eh, I have a lot of faith in my immune system. I have a very selfish perspective on vaccines. That is terrible thinking. While I might not be prone to getting sick or be in a high risk population, germs find a way of getting around. My vaccination helps protect the other people around me. That’s really why everyone should get their flu shot.

Did you get yours?

 

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book dump.

January 11, 2014

I read too much to go for months without giving recommendations. At any given time, I’m probably reading several books – a nonfiction, a bad mystery or chick lit to read on the treadmill, a good fiction, and probably a sci-fi/fantasy one too. Here’s my list of favorites since my last book post in April.

Complications – must read of my year. Written by Atul Gawande (I think this guy is brilliant), it talks about medicine from the view of a surgical resident. He splits his stories into three sections – Fallibility, Mystery, and Uncertainty. In general I really like healthcare books – ones that show that doctors are human and medicine is hard. Parts are scary and other parts are inspiring.

Second Sons Trilogy - I’d highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys fantasy series. The basic plot is the High Priestess is in power over a world with two suns, so it never gets dark. She cemented her power when the Goddess told her a human sacrifice was necessary to end the Age of Shadows (a period of years when the suns disappeared and plunged the world into darkness and chaos). But Dirk, the genius son of a supposed heretic, begins to uncover a different version of history. It kicks off a story of massive political maneuvering.

Wool Books 1 to 5 – I’m not one to read short stories, but Book 1 was rated very highly and was free on Kindle. Get it – even as a stand alone story it was really good. Taking place in the future, society now lives inside a silo, viewing an outside world too toxic to inhabit. The rule-breakers are sent to death – to go outside to clean the view for the people inside. It’s a cool idea. There’s several more stories in the series, but 1-5 comprise the first story arc.

Gone Girl – and Sharp Objects and Dark Places. In order of how I would recommend them. Gillian Flynn writes creepy books with creepy people. Gone Girl was my favorite – murder mystery about a wife who disappears and her husband is the prime suspect. But not a mystery in the Law & Order vein. Think more Hitchcock meets Stephen King (although I’ve never read any King books).

The Dinner – heralded as the European Gone Girl. Two upper class families go to a fancy dinner to discuss their juvenile delinquent sons.

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Started reading before knowing this is JK Rowling. Murder mystery about a PI who investigates a celebrity death that was ruled a suicide.

Friday Night Lights – This book took me a really long time to get through. But I was surprised how much I liked it. A different view of the world.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Hard to describe, but I really liked this book. It’s about a family – Microsoft exec dad, crazy mom Bernadette, and daughter just trying to be normal. When Bernadette disappears the daughter collects emails and other correspondence trying to piece together exactly what happened.

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