I finally got a chance to see 'Serenity' yesterday afternoon. Not bad at all! An entertaining movie. The captain had some great lines on the movie. I was also pleasantly surprised by the bad guy. He struck me as a rare 'smart' bad guy. He didn't seem like the typical brainless, take over the world, kind of bad guy. I never did watch the original 'Firefly' TV show that this movie was based on, so it was my first real experience with these characters. All of the characters were interesting and seemed to have their own definate personalities. This is rare in movies these days. Most movies just seem to go for the 'whiz-bang' special effects and have boring characters. While this movie did have first rate special effects, the characters took center stage (as it SHOULD BE!) One thing I didn't quite get was why there was so much Asian writing everywhere in the movie (on the ship, on the computer screens, etc.). Maybe Dave can explain this...
Today my weight hit 196! This is my new record low. I'm not going to get too excited about this though, because I know I've lost some muscle over the last year or so, so really, that means I'm a few pounds above where I need to be. When I hit 190, then I'll be satisfied that I hit a new low. I think I could easily go to 180. Yesterday was my third interval run in 3 days. Having someone to compete with on the treadmill is a big incentive. My legs are really sore after all that running though. I'm going to try to do another session tonight. Let's see how my legs survive 4 nights in a row...
So a couple weeks back, I promised that I would put myself back on my workout and diet program and no more cheating. Time for a little status report:
Things are going very well! My eating has been rock solid over the last couple of weeks. No more cheating. It's amazing how fast my body responded to this too. Within a week of starting, my weight dropped from 210 to 205. This morning, my weight hit 198! (I broke 200!!!!) My previous record low at the height of my efforts was 197 and I'm only one pound off of that today. I'm hoping to match or beat that 197 tomorrow morning. I've informed my family that I will only be eating out one night a week from now on. My brother isn't happy about that! I think he's mad that I'd rather go to the gym then go out to dinner. He asked me today if I was still on that 'no eating out thing'. I said yes. It isn't a 'thing'. It's not a fad. It's a necessity.
As for going to the gym, my goal was to go every day, Monday through Friday, and work out and do cardio. Hasn't quite worked out that well, but I'm close. I haven't worked out much lately. I've been concentrating on doing lots of cardio lately in order to get the gut down. So far, I've been averaging 3-4 visits a week. Almost where I want to be here. I've also started meeting up with my former workout partner for evening cardios. We've gone twice this week already and he says he'll be there tomorrow. (which I doubt. He never works out on Fridays). I need that competition to keep me working hard!
By the way, if you are interested, here is what I'm doing on the cardio. I'm doing a 30 minute interval program on the treadmill. I program the treadmill to a custom interval of 1 minute at 3.0MPH and 1 1/2 minutes at 6.3MPH. This constant alternating between walking and running will wear you out fast! It may not sound like much only doing the fast speed for 1 1/2 minutes at a time, but do this for 30 minutes and it will wear you out!
I hear a lot of stories in the media about people who make some kind of mistake that brings harm to themselves, whether physically, or financially. These people inevitably try to blame their own mistakes on someone else. There's the infamous story of the old lady who spilled coffee on herself, but then sued McDonalds because the coffee she bought there burned her. Of course the coffee burned her! It was hot! It's supposed to be hot! McDonalds gave her exactly what she paid for - a hot cup of coffee. This old lady clearly made the mistake of knocking over the cup coffee. It was her mistake, not McDonalds, but rather than take responsibility for her actions, she blamed someone else.
This is a common problem amoung people who are overweight as well. Many people who are overweight get so frustrated with their efforts to get in shape that they start blaming others for their own failures. "I have bad genetics. I'll always be fat." (Blaming your parents) "I'm too old to get in shape now." (Blaming your age) "I can't exercise because I am handicapped" (Blaming your handicap) "The diet I'm on now works fine." (Blaming your current diet). Let's refute all of these excuses.
"I have bad genetics." Nope. You have the same genetics as everyone else on Earth. All human beings have the same genetic tendencies when it comes to losing or gaining fat. You are no different from the next guy/girl.
"I am too old to get in shape now." Nope. Are you dead? No? Then you are not too old to get in shape. It might take you a bit longer and you would no doubt have to adjust your efforts based upon your medical needs, but it is certainly not impossible.
"I can't excercise because I am handicapped." Nope. This just means you have to adjust your exercise program to compensate for whatever your handicap may be.
"The diet I'm on now works fine." If you are still fat, after all these months/years of being on your current diet, obviously your current diet is NOT working. Try something else. Don't be so stubborn as to think that what has failed you consistently in the past will suddenly, miraculously, start working after all those years of failure. If it doesn't work, put it aside and try something new. The science of nutrition changes every day. What you learned 10,20, or 30 years ago may have long since been proven wrong.
One of the most important things you can do to get in shape, is to admit to yourself that you got yourself into this predicament. Noone else did. Since you are the only one who is responsible for your situation, you are the only one who can fix it. Accept this fact. Yes, it is your fault. Live with it and accept it. You don't need to beat your self up about it and you don't need to admit it to anyone but yourself. Noone else shoved that food down your mouth. You did. You have only yourself to blame and only YOU can fix it. You must make the decision to devote yourself completely to pulling yourself out of the situation you are in. You must then spend as much time as is necessary researching the problem. What am I eating that is wrong? What can I do to improve this? This constant fine tuning of your efforts must be a daily event. How did I do today? What did I do wrong? What did I do right? What can I do tomorrow to correct what went wrong today?
I talk about my efforts to get in shape with my family and friends a lot, probably to the point of being annoying. I think perhaps some of them think I am bragging about it. I am not. It is just that I'm so excited and fascinated by how well it's been going and how much better my health is, that I want to tell people about it. I want others to experience the improvements in health that I have experienced. As I've progressed on this adventure in health, I've come to the 'stunning' revelation that anyone can do what I have done. Inevitably, when I tell people about these things, the answer I always get is, "I wish I had that kind of willpower." Guess what? You do have that kind of willpower.
What many people don't understand about this, is that willpower plays a very small role in things. Yes, you do need some willpower to get started, but once you get yourself in the habit, willpower becomes irrelevant. Once this new way of life becomes the 'norm' for you, you don't need willpower. You are just doing what you've 'always' done. You only need enough willpower to get yourself through the first month or so. Once you reach that point, things become habit and you no longer have to have the willpower to force yourself to do these things. You will find that not doing these things takes more willpower than doing them, after a while. Plus, after the first month or so, if you are doing things right, you will be seeing so much good results that you won't want to stop. You will want to keep going to see what else will happen. How much will my weight do down today? How much will my waistline shrink this month? How many more minutes can I do on the treadmill this month? How much more incline on the treadmill can I do this month? Wow, I don't get winded going up stairs anymore! Wow, I'm starting to see muscles! I can't believe I can fit in these jeans again!
So how do you 'find' that willpower you need to get started? Simple. Imagine your doctor just told you that if you don't lose 50 pounds immediately you will die. Ever notice how if the doctor tells you to do something or you will die, suddenly you 'find' the willpower to do it? Well, take advantage of this fact and pretend the doctor just told you this . If you think you can't do this, just think that your health is your life. If you continue down this path of being overweight and feeling miserable, your life will end sooner. Obesity is the number 1 most preventable cause of death in the United States. It has been related to such things as heart disease, diabetes, etc. So in a very real sense, if you don't lose that fat, it WILL kill you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some years down the line. Don't you think you'd like to 'earn' another 10-20 years to be with your family? Isn't that worth the 'hassle' of getting in shape? I think so. I'd rather be that 60 year old guy in the gym who looks better than the 30 year olds and hits on all the young girls, than the 60 year old guy in an old age home, walking with a walker, stooped over and taking a dozen pills a day for my heart condition. When I retire, I intend to spend my days traveling the world. That means lots of walking. I want to be in good enough shape so that I can visit the Grand Canyon and be in good enough shape to hike it. I wanna be able to take a walking tour of Italy and see the sights, without having to stop every five minutes and rest because I'm out of breath. I intend to never have to go through heart bypass surgery. These are all very real, very doable goals. You just have to 'find' the willpower to achieve them.
There have been a lot of stories in the news recently talking about how Hollywood is surprised by how low turnout has been at the movies this year. They can't seem to understand why. Here are a few reasons why this 'mysterious' lack of turnout is happening:
1. Money: Earlier this evening, I went to the movie theater to go see 'Serenity'. Now, normally when I go to the movie, I tell them I am a student so I can get the student rate. At the theater I normally goes to, this means I can get in to an evening movie for $7.00. The normal adult price is $8.75. I will not pay $8.75 or more for a movie. Movies are way too expensive to see in the theaters these days. The cost of movies and the cost of food at the concession stands are way too high. Think about this very common scenario. You decide to take your significant other out on a date to the movies. Ok, so that's 2 movie tickets, 2 sodas and a bucket of popcorn to share. 2 tickets = $17.50 ($8.75 x 2), 2 sodas = $6.00. A bucket of popcorn is $5.00. That is a total of $28.50 for just the two of you. Add a couple of kids into the mix and that cost easy doubles to something like $60! Now how about this alternate scenario: Rent a movie from the video store ($4.00). Go to the supermarket and buy a box of microwave popcorn ($2.00) and a couple of sodas from the deli ($2.00). Your $28.50 date has just dropped to $8.00. Compound that with the fact that you can buy the movie on DVD for $15.00 (less than the cost of two adult movie tickets) and it's pretty clear that movie theaters are overcharging themselves right out of business. A lot of people can't afford to blow $30 (or $60 if you have kids) on a night out at the movies. It's cheaper to just rent/buy the DVD and stay home. Why do you think movie sales are dropping and DVD sales are through the roof? What does Hollywood need to do to fix this problem? Simple. Make it cheaper to see a movie in the theater than it is to rent one. If all movies were $4.00/ticket and the food prices were dropped considerably ($1.00 for a soda, $1.00 for popcorn), I think Hollywood would find a flood of people watching movies - even the crappy ones (see below).
2. Quality: Or lack thereof. Most movies that come out in the theaters these days, downright suck. I've been going to movies all my life. I swear over the last 5-10 years, the quality of movies produced has declined to the point that a bad movie is more common than a good movie. Special effects do not make a good movie. All 3 of the Star Wars prequels were practically an orgy of special effects, but the acting and story were both so bad, that I couldn't enjoy them, despite the 'wiz-bang' special effects. Honestly, those movies grossly overdid the special effects. I'd gladly trade 99% of the special effects in the movie for a really good story. Why is the quality of movies so bad these days? I think it's because there is such a huge quantity of them. All these SuperMega Movieplexes with 24 screens everywhere means there are many, many times more screens available for movies. They have to make something to fill this glut of screens so they produce anything, no matter how bad. Most of the movies made these days would never have been made 20 years ago when the average movie theater had 8 screens or less. I think if they got rid of a LOT of these monster movie theaters, it would force an increase in the quality of movies produced.
It has been my observation that people hate change. You get comfortable doing things one way and when you are faced with the prospect of doing something differently, you are usually very resistent. The new way is unfamiliar and scary. The old way is familiar and 'safe'. This is true of everyone, myself included. It's human nature. There are times, however, when change is necessary and important. I'm finding as time passes, that change, while hard at first, usually has a great benefit at the end.
Take learning something new for example. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I'm trying to learn to play the guitar. This is not an easy undertaking for me. I've never played a musical instrument before. My life has always centered around the 'logical' things (namely computers). Trying to switch gears to something very creative is difficult. When I was first starting, and to a certain degree even now, I often feel very overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to learn on the guitar. You have to learn the proper placement of your fingers so that you can cleanly play the note without interfering with the other strings, you have to learn how to read music, you have to memorize the locations of each of the notes on the neck of the guitar (dozens of them), you have to learn such things as chords (playing multiple notes at the same time), techniques like alternate picking, what the different dials on the amp do, etc. It's a lot to learn. At first I was in a kind of mini-panic thinking "My God, there is so much I need to know! How am I ever going to learn this stuff?" The only way I've survived this effort and managed to continue it is to just force myself to tackle it in small 'bites'.
First I learn a couple of notes on 1 string. I spend a couple of weeks doing that over and over and over again. Eventually, without me even realizing it, it all sinks into my head and becomes something I do almost without thinking. I then tackle the second string and do the same thing. Then the third string and fourth, and fifth and sixth strings. Once I've gotten that far, I can honestly say that I think I've mastered at least single notes on all strings. It's taken me several months, and I've only progressed as far as the first 2 strings. I think I've got those down pretty well, and I'm working on the third string. I'm making progress there but I haven't mastered it yet. There is still that uncomfortable pause when I switch to that string. I go from 'running on automatic' on the first 2 strings, to really having to think where I place my fingers on that third string. I'm getting better, but I'm not there yet. My parents have asked on several occaisions to hear me play something on the guitar. I don't feel I'm ready for that yet. I still find myself rather embarrassed to make any attempt to play in public, since my skills are still so lacking. I envy the people I hear playing in the guitar store, with such apparent ease. I know that with time, that will come, but it won't happen overnight. I must be patient.
It is human nature to want the 'quick fix'. You want to be able to instantly learn something without having to put the time into working towards it. This is true of guitars, this is true of computers, and this is true of getting in shape. You won't master it overnight, but with patience you will master it. The secret is to not panic and to break it down into 'bite-size' chunks that you can 'digest' quickly. Don't try to swallow everything at once or you will 'choke'. Remain calm and remain patience. Progress will come, given time. Above all though, you must practice what you are learning! Reading a book isn't going to teach you something. It might get you started down the path, but the information won't really 'sink in' unless you do it! If you are learning guitar, you must play the guitar. If you are learning computers, you must USE the computer. Try out everything the book tells you. Don't just read the book. Don't be afraid of change! Enjoy it! I find it fun to learn new things. There is a world of interesting things out there to learn.
Working in the computer field is a challenge. You are constantly chasing a moving target. In most jobs, once you learn the basics of your job, you can pretty much do the same thing every day until you retire. Not with computers. The field of computers changes so fast that you have to constantly try to keep up with the latest developments. If you don't keep up, then the job you are doing today could very easily dissapear and you will find yourself without a job. I often tell anyone who is considering the computer field for a career "If you are afraid to learn new things, don't get into computers. You are going to be learning something new every day." People who prefer the same old routine at work every day for the rest of their lives are bound to be dissapointed. You have to constantly be able to adapt to the changing landscape. There will always be something you don't know how to do, but will have to do anyway. You have to figure out how to do this. This often requires a lot of logic. You have to look at a problem and reason out, step by step, what the problem is and how to fix it. This is not an easy skill to pick up. It requires practice. I don't think you need to be any more 'intelligent' than the next guy to do this, you just need to practice at it. It's a skill, just like any other. The more you practice, the better you become at it. I've been doing this stuff professionally for 12 years now. It comes fairly easy to me now. This is just because I've had a lot of practice at it and I know what mistakes to avoid. It doesn't make me any smarter than the next guy, just more experienced.
When I first graduated college, and for the first few years after that, I constantly worked in a state of panic. There was so much I needed to know to do my job, but I didn't know it! My God, if I don't learn this stuff, I could lose my job! These days, my point of view has mellowed to the point where I don't worry about it. I know enough to do my job. If I need to know something else, I can learn it. That's why I'm not afraid of tackling new, unfamiliar things - such as the guitar. I know that as time passes, I will get better. You just have to get past that point at the beginning where you feel overwhelmed by all the stuff you have to learn. I'm beginning to think I'm entering this stage again at work.
Lately, it's become clear to me that my skills in SQL are sadly lacking what they should be. Every job that I've had for the last 6-7 years has required the use of SQL - some of it very complicated SQL. Considering how long I've been doing this stuff, my knowledge in the area is very basic. I have come to the conclusion that I need to greatly improve my abilities in this area. I think I need to spend a lot of my spare time over the next few weeks/months brushing up on my SQL skills. I'm trying to decide the best way to approach this.
Back when I was first learning .NET I got it into my head that I would need to earn a Microsoft certification in the subject, in order to prove on future jobs that I could do the work. The first certification you can earn in .NET requires the passing of three certification tests. I passed the first two. I never got around to taking the third test and getting that certification. The reason I never finished that last test was that around the time I was studying for it, I found a new job that did not require .NET. I was back to doing what I know and what I love - C++. I figured, why bother with the certification if it is not something I'm going to use in my job anyway.
I had always had a low opinion of certification tests in the past. Why the heck should I have to take a test to prove I know how to do something? Just give me the work and I'll do it. I can figure it out! When my circumstances at the time forced me to reconsider this outlook, I began to realize just how useful these certification tests are. While studying for these tests, you are forced to learn a lot about the subject. If you are going to be tested on the subject (at a cost of >$100 per test), you are going to make damn sure that you don't waste that $100 you spent on the test. I could very well have just started doing the work and muddled along, and things would get done. The problem is, I would not have been doing them well. In other words, I may have done the job, but I would be doing it poorly. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. I was doing it the wrong way. By taking the tests, you learn the right way to do things, thereby becoming a 'master' at things. I think the test it self is largely unimportant. It's the effort of studying for it that is important. In retrospect, I'm glad I took those two tests. They made me a MUCH better .NET programmer than I would have been had I continued to muddle through. I've been at my new job now for 9 months. In those 9 months I've largely ignored .NET. I've often considered going back and taking that last test and getting that certification so at least I can say that I finished what I started.
So how does my need to learn SQL and my past experiences with the .NET certification tests relate? Here is how. I've been seriously considering pursuing an MSDBA certification (DBA is short for Database Administrator). DBAs are generally known as experts at databases. By pursuing this certification I can solve my problem with my lack of good SQL knowledge. There is some overlap when it comes to the certification tests for MSDBA and the MCSD (the .NET certification). This means that if I take the tests in the right order, I could conceivably acheive the MCSD certification, then the MCDBA certification. This would not only 'finish' my knowledge of .NET, it would solve my SQL knowledge problem, and give me a potential new career path to boot - DBA! I've already got the books I need for this. I'm just not looking forward to the months of studying and the hundreds of dollars worth of tests.
I need to give this some serious thought.
I'm really getting into this guitar thing. I went down to MAE Music today to take a look around. I got a chance to sit down and play (or at least my pathetic excuse for playing) a PRS Santana SE guitar. Oh my God, that thing sounds good! It makes my cheapo little Fender Strat sound like garbage! The sound was very clean. It seemed like it was easier to play and more 'forgiving' (i.e. it didn't twang as much). I want one NOW! All they had was the black one, but I prefer the Vintage Cherry model. I had gone there to check out the PRS SE Custom that Dave recommended as my next guitar. They didn't have one of those, so I tried the Santana SE instead. Damn that thing sounds good! Suddenly I don't like my little Squier anymore! I didn't get one because I know that I still have a lot to learn on the Squier, but suddenly, I'm *really* itching for that Santana!
Ok, so I'm looking through my server logs and I notice that over 11,000 hits to my web site have all come from 3 different IP addresses at the domain 'alestra.net.mx'. From the domain name this appears to be some kind of ISP out of Mexico. I suspect that these 3 IP addresses are the source of most of the referer spam I receive. I had already banned one of these IPs as a result of my earlier experiences with the rape/incest porn referer spam I was receiving. I just banned two more IPs from this ISP. I find it hard to believe that 1 person in mexico would be that interested in what I have to say that he would visit my site 7700 times in 8 days!
The owners of the domain 'alestra.net.mx' appear to be providing services to some serious spammers.
Fair warning to all referer spammers: If you send me spam, I will ban your domain from my comments and referer lists. If you continue to spam me, I will ban your IP address from accessing my site at all! I won't tolerate this crap on my site.