Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Resolution Limerick

In the last year I thought I'd get lean,
But my belly's as big as it's been.
Could the right resolution
Be the perfect solution
To get healthy in 2013?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2013 Resolution

My resolution for the coming year is to get rid of some of my belly, and here's how I'm going to do it: One crunch at a time.

Or rather, six crunches at a time.

Angels Have Abs Too
He may be doing it wrong. (Photo credit: CarbonNYC)
So be it resolved that, every day in 2013, I will do at least six crunches.Why six? Because, if I follow through as planned, that means I will have done more than 2,000 crunches by the end of the year. That should show my belly a thing or two!

Six doesn't seem like a lot, and it isn't. Even on days when I feel completely unmotivated to do anything, I can do six crunches. But then, on days when I'm feeling good and hopefully and energetic, I can (and certainly will) exceed that number. And I'll be keeping track day by day of how many I do.

I plan to make some other food and exercise changes as well, but I'm setting those down as resolutions. So hopefully, by this time next year, I'll be posting about how much weight I've lost and complaining that none of my pants fit.

Six crunches a day is really an easy resolution. The hard part isn't the exercise, but sticking to it every single day. Care to join me?
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Standing Desk, A Brief Update

I'm still going strong with the standing desk. The scale says I haven't lost any weight, but lately my jeans keep wanting to slide down. I might need to buy a new belt.

Even with the gel sole inserts, standing on that hard, flat floor all day was starting to get to me. (Any padding that used to be under the carpet has long since been stomped into flatness.) So, a couple weeks ago, I brought in a child's sleeping pad* — it's just a rectangle of blue sponginess — and set it on the floor where I stand to give me some extra cushion. It has helped about as much as the passage of time has. I've gotten used to standing all day, though I can sure feel the difference when I finally sit down.

It reminds me of those horrible days at McDonald's when I was a teenager.

But at any rate, the standing desk has become a regular part of my day now.

* We bought the sleeping pads to take camping because I couldn't afford bonafide camping cots. Sleeping on them was slightly better than sleeping on the cold ground. Slighty.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Standing Desk Experiment, Entry 2

A week-and-a-half ago, I rearranged my cubicle so that I could stand while I work in an attempt to be more fit and less sedentary. You can read about what sparked the change here.

After only a few days of being on my feet through most of the day, I realized one problem: I was ill-equipped in the shoe department for this experiment. My ankles, knees, and hips were threatening to call the experiment off.

So over the weekend I bought myself some nice gel inserts and "installed" them in these colorful plaid numbers, which were still in decent shape save for the hole I had worn through the bottom. (Not good for wearing in the rain.)

They will stay at the office, and I will be doing a Mr. Rogers routine every morning — walk in, change my shoes, sing a little song, and talk to my tiny, make-believe friends.

As for the standing desk itself, my first configuration put a cabinet right in front of my face, and I had to leave out a small bulletin board. I realized I could put the cabinet under the desk, leaving room for my big head and the bulletin board. It took a little loud work and a screwdriver, but I moved things to more useful positions, as you can see:

There are two things to learn from creating this second configuration: First, if you're considering a standing desk for yourself, don't run out and do it in a flurry of excitement; make better use of your time by planning it out first. Second, if you're dealing with furniture that is designed to be modular — like the type of cubicleware I was moving about — take a good look at it first. After needlessly turning screws in and out in knuckle-scraping spots, plenty of loud noise, and quite a few curses, I noticed that the cabinet (like everything else) was designed to be easily disassembled and reassembled.

Had I noticed that earlier, I would have saved quite a chunk of time, energy, and sweat.

I seem to be adjusting to the standing desk fairly well. My legs and feet aren't as sore as they were after those first few days, and I generally don't get as tired at work as I used to, back in those sit-down days.

I'm considering getting a stool and nixing the chair, but what I really want is a set of wireless headphones, or at least headphones with a six-foot cord (those purple ones in the pic have only a three-foot cord).

It's awful hard to dance around the cube when I'm so closely tethered to the CPU.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Standing Desk Experiment

I avoid my doctor.

I don't dislike him — he's pleasant, easy to talk to, and shows no egregoius character flaws that might make spending time with him disagreeable. It's just that he's my doctor, and doctors on the whole aren't in the business of telling people how great everything is.

In my case specifically, I don't like visiting him because I already know what he's going to say, and I don't want to have to pay him to say it.

Plus, I don't want to hear it.

But the reappearance of my anxiety problems this fall necessitated a return to the offices of Dr. C. A visit Halloween got me back on an antidepressant (at twice the dosage I had been on a few years ago). Then, last Wednesday, I had a full physical, replete with blood tests, awkward questions, and even more awkward touching.

Considering the intensity and strangeness of my most recent episodes, I honestly expected (and alternately hoped and feared) that the tests would reveal some new, underlying problem — an ulcer, a pituitary malfunction, celiac disease, cancer — something (preferably treatable) that would explain how bad I was feeling. And you know what Dr. C told me?

Exactly what I knew he would, what I didn't want to pay him to say, and what I didn't want to hear: not enough good fat (HDLs), too much bad fat (LDLs), triglycerides through the roof. I need to lose weight and get more exercise.

And nothing else. No medical abnormalities that hadn't been there five years ago, no viruses, no infections, nothing in my blood that shouldn't be there. I was essentially back where I started, still suffering the repercussions of my sedentary life.

But it just happened that a few other bits of information had sunk into my brain in the days prior to my physical. First, there was the December 1 episode of The Office, in which Dwight replaced his usual work desk with a standing desk, silently regretting the absence of a chair just a few hours into his workday but too proud (or too pig-headed) to admit any sort of defeat in front of Jim.

I had heard of the idea of a standing desk before. It made sense, and it sounded like a good idea. At least in theory. And that little seed of a thought rattled around in my head for a while.

Then earlier this week — it might have even been the morning of my physical — someone tweet a link to this infographic about the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods.

You remember sitting, right? The one thing besides breathing that I am always doing while I work, whether I'm editing, writing, drawing, or playing the clarinet.

I've been around long enough not to blindly trust the numbers fed to me in infographics like this. For all the great information on the Internet, there's a lot of horrible, inflated, politically spun misinformation out there, too. But I'm sure there's some truth behind just the idea that sitting all day every day is unhealthy.

Which brings me to the Standing Desk Experiment. I left Dr. C's office the way I usually do, with a renewed focus on living a healthy life. (It usually lasts for a couple weeks before disappearing.)

So the next morning, hopped up on excitement, caffeine, and Zoloft, I set about rearranging the modular pieces of my workspace to create my own standing desk.

I knew from past excruciating experience in retail that I would neither appreciate nor enjoy standing for the entire work day, so I was sure to arrange the space so that I could still work sitting down when I need to. As you can see, I've raised the monitor so I can look down to it while standing and up to it while sitting. The monitor stays there, but the keyboard and mouse can move back and forth.

So far, I've only used this configuration for two days, and I've already started tweaking it. But in that time, I have made three observations that you might find interesting if you're considering your own stand-up workspace:
  1. Standing at a desk + Spotify = More dancing at work.
  2. Those annoying "are you gellin'" commercials suddenly won't seem so annoying.
  3. It's damned hard to fall asleep at your desk when you're standing up.
Anyway, watch this space as I chronicle the saga of the Standing Desk Experiment. I hope that I'll be sharing a thousand little joys and not too many disappointments.

Monday, June 06, 2011

For the Imperial Art Gallery

My contribution to an already bloated meme:

Darth Vader 
Click to see it full-sized on Flickr.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Family and Music, Music and Family

Today was my grandmother's funeral, the last of my grandparents.

Funerals are sad things. Even when the deceased lived a long life -- as my grandmother did, almost making it to her 95th birthday -- the recognition that you'll no longer walk into a room to see her, or hear about something she's done, or even feel guilty that you missed sending her a birthday card sneaks up on you throughout the day. You can go from being perfectly fine to verging on tears in the blink of an eye without any warning.

Funerals are also stressful things. Trying to find some calm from looking at an empty body in a casket that just never seems to look quite right -- mouth too tightly shut, eyes too tightly closed -- is near impossible for me. Then there's the stress of trying to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to do there. And of being introduced to people I've never met, whose names I'll immediately forget. And of trying not to cry, or trying to cry.

Funerals are also great things. They bring together family from far and wide -- family you haven't seen in a long time (whether by fate or by choice), family you've never met, and family you think you're supposed to remember but can't quite place. Cousins you knew as infants who now have children of their own. The day is full of talk about how beautiful or adorable or well-behaved such-and-such a child is, and my how they've grown up so fast.

I recognize that I am, for the most part, a loner. I try not to rely too heavily on my friends and my family. But today, my grandmother's funeral reminded me, as all funerals should, what a family is and what it means. It isn't just a group of people who by chance are linked together by common ancestors. A family, especially in a time like this, is a support group. It's a shared past. It's a collective memory that comes together to remind itself of its past joys and sorrows.

A funeral gives a family a time to come together and replenish itself, and to remind us that, even as we go our wildly separate ways, there are things we share, common touch points in our past that shaped who we are, though they shaped us in vastly different ways.

And I was reminded of that today. And I'm thankful.

So here's a little song that I dedicate to my family. It's accompanied by adorable pictures of my own two boys, but it goes out to my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all their kids, my entire extended family. If you or someone you love has ever had the surname Hollandbeck, this is for you (and I apologize for the sound quality):

Monday, January 17, 2011

Death to Robocalls

When I moved into this apartment about a year and a half ago, I received some last bits of mail sent to the previous tenant, DT. I expected this, and it wasn't a big problem. Eventually, I stopped getting mail for her, except the occasional "DT or current tenant" junk mail.

What I didn't expect was to start receiving collections calls for her. They started trickling in about a month or two after I moved in. It was weird, to be sure, but it made a bit of sense. The people DT owed money to googled her name and got my address, which used to be her address. Then they googled that address to find a phone number, and they got the current phone number for that address -- my phone number.

DT must owe a lot of money to someone, because the calls were coming four or five times a week. It got so bad that I changed my outgoing voicemail to something along the lines of this: "This is the voice mail of Andy Hollandbeck. If you would like to leave Andy Hollandbeck a message, please do so. This is not the phone number of DT. If you are looking for DT, she does not live here. I do not know who she is or where she now lives. Please remove this number from your database. This is the phone number of Andy Hollandbeck, not DT."

They eventually got the message; the collection calls from live people stopped. But now I have a different problem, one I don't know how to fix. The problem is robocalls -- those automated collections calls with one voice saying most of the message, and a second voice chiming in whenever the person's name needs to be used. They come every two or three days now, and robots don't listen to voicemail.

They usually come during the day while I'm at work, so I don't get them. Instead, they pile up in my voicemail, and I end up spending four or five minutes dialing in, starting each message, and deleting it. But today, MLK Day, I'm home, and I'm expecting a call from apartment maintenance (my furnace is out, but my space heater is doing an outstanding job), so I'm answering the phone.

So I pick up a robocall:

"Hello. this is an automated message for DK. If you are DK, please press 1. If you are not DK, please press 2..."

I press 2, and this is what I hear:

"This call is for DK. If you are DK, please press 1. If you are not DK, please disconnect now..."

Apparently, they weren't wasting enough of my time already. I am so glad they gave me the option to press 2 to hear about hanging up instead of just telling me to hang up. What I would like is a way to talk to a real damn person to get my phone number off their list. Grrrr!

I'm sure that, with a little research into the problem, I could find some resource that would let these robotic morons know that they can stop calling me, that I'm not DT. But I am loathe to give them more of my time than they've already taken.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not David Banner, eh? HULK SMASH ROBOCALLS!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Problems at Work

What happens when the server is down at work all day long? It gets a little weird. The inhabitants of my cube start goofing off.

Not me, of course! I'm talking about these guys:

This is Office Voldemort, aka The Dork Lord. Few people know that Office Voldemort is master of two different dark arts: the magical dark arts and mime. Here he does his famous "walking into the wind" performance.

And here is Office Zombie, happy to be at work. He's a decent editor, but most authors don't like him because he drools all over their manuscripts.

Not known for playing nice, here's Office Voldemort using the Imperius curse to force Office Zombie to do his bidding . . .

. . . which apparently involves reenacting scenes from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This is . . . well, this is just my clip-on fan. Ain't it purdy?

Office Voldemort spent part of the afternoon videoconferencing with his snake oil supplier, a Czechoslovakian mountain troll named Blurgle.

The day ended badly. Here, Office Voldemort casts the Dark Mark after hitting poor Bart Simpson with Avada Kedavra."Eat my muggle shorts!" was perhaps not the best response to Office Voldemort's questions.

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year's Resolutions 2011

Usually, the only new year's resolution I make is to not break my new year's resolution. This year, though, a number of things are coming together, and a number of things need to change. So I'm going to take a stab at this resolution thing. We'll see how it goes.

Resolution 1: Finish My Novel

I signed on for NaNoWriMo this year but only got about 20,000 words in. I need to put in the time to get this story on paper, er, on screen. Ideally, I'll finish it by the end of February so I can print it out, wrap it up, and give it to my mom (with a pack of red pens) for her birthday. (Don't tell my mother.)

Resolution 2: Lose at Least Five Pounds a Month

This is the biggie, and I still don't know how I'm going to do this. Five pounds a month seems like such a small amount that it's doable, but I'm really going to have to get my act together. And fast.
I'm at a totally unacceptable 226 right now. (Don't worry: I won't inflict a "before" picture on you.) If I can lose just five pounds a month until December, I'll be at a much nicer (but still not optimal) 170 pounds.

I won't kid myself into thinking that I could possibly lose weight during December. It'll be hard enough not to put it all back on at one Thanksgiving dinner.

Resolution 3: Me + Ukulele + YouTube

I want to learn an awesome piece on the ukulele (preferably an instrumental -- I don't have the best singing voice), record myself playing it, and upload it to YouTube. Why? Just to prove to myself that I can.

But what song? Malaguena might be a good choice, but I'm taking suggestions.

Resolution 4: Draw More

I doodle all the time, but I haven't done a serious art project since the picture I drew for my parents a few Christmases ago. I want to create more drawings that I can call "finished." I love the idea of actually putting together a regular comic of sorts, but I don't want to aim that high here in the first week of January.

Resolution 5: Remember to Come Back Here and Remind Myself about These Resolutions

Don't want to forget I made 'em!