Computer Upgrade

A few weeks ago, we attended PAX East. It’s a gaming convention, and we always walk away wanting to play ALL the games. Chris decided that in order to play some of the newest games, he needed a much better computer. So off to Amazon he went, and ordered the parts to build himself a whole new rig.

While he was updating his, I decided that I, too, wanted an upgrade, so I scavenged a video card from his old computer which had 2 gigs of RAM vs the 1 gig in my GPU. He ordered a new bigger monitor, so I also got his monitor which was slightly bigger than my current one, and now I had a card that would support a dual monitor setup. I also realized that my desk was super narrow, and had very little surface space, so I went ahead and bought a new one.

And of course, there was “drama”. The new GPU took two power inputs. My previous card only required one. And I only had one power cord of the right kind. I was so disappointed, but also determined to make it work. I thought perhaps I could somehow use one of the cables from Chris’ new power supply to convert one of my cables from the 4-pin across kind (MOLEX) to the 2×3 pin kind (PCI-e). That wasn’t going to work at all, but in the process I found another power cord of the kind I needed hiding within the rest of the cables, so in the end, it all worked out.

The next issue came when I powered it up and tried to use it. My mouse wouldn’t work. It was all jerky. And the lights on my keyboard were slower than normal. What was going on? After a few reboots, the keyboard was back to normal, but the mouse was not. Again, disappointment and upset-ness. And then I realized that my new desk was white, and optical mice don’t like glass or white tables. I got out a mouse pad and the problem instantly vanished. Crisis averted.

The last bit of drama is truly the firstiest of first world problems. I had named my PC ninja, because with the solid state drive and the types of fans and power supply I had built it with it ran super quietly. Alas, the new GPU is rather noisy, and my rig no longer really lives up to it’s name.

I can definitely see an improvement in load times when I access the galaxy map in Elite Dangerous, so it’s definitely worth the upgrade!

20170317_212150

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Fitbit Blaze

So earlier this year, I went to California for some work training. While there, I gave a demo, and won a prize for best demo. The prize was a brand new GoPro camera. While it was certainly a very nifty prize, I really have no use for one. So I set about finding a place where I could exchange it. Turns out it was worth $300! The local Target carried it, but since it was so expensive, I could only exchange it for $300 worth of merchandise from the electronics department. So I set about figuring out what to get. Long story short, I settled on getting a Fitbit Blaze, along with a few other items to make up the difference.

Since then, having all this extra data about my day-to-day has been eye opening. For one, I realized that I sit on my ass WAY too much. It’s a lot harder to get in a bunch of steps without actually going for a walk or run when you work in a really small office. I’ve found myself basically pacing while waiting for my coffee or the microwave. Despite what recent headlines say about Fitbits being inaccurate, I’ve found it to be fairly spot on. I took what the device said I’d burned calorie-wise for a week (based on my heart rate) and subtracted out the food I’d logged for that week (weighed on my kitchen scale) and divided it by 3500 (the number of calories in one pound). This gave me a weight loss for the week of 0.8 lbs. When I got on the scale, it registered a loss of 0.6 lbs. That’s definitely accurate enough for my goals!

And speaking of goals, after being stalled somewhat for awhile, both getting serious about logging my food accurately by weighing it as well as having the Fitbit data to see how much I’m actually burning has really helped my efforts. I broke through my plateau and am at the lowest weight I’ve been in a really long time. Data is important!

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The little details

It really is the little things that can make a trip wonderful, or a complete burden. I recently took a trip out to Irvine, CA and thankfully, the trip was wonderful. Being¬†in southern California in the spring instead of New England where it was snowing also probably had a huge impact in how I saw the trip. ūüėõ

I stayed at the Doubletree Irvine Spectrum, and the staff there were all wonderful. The chocolates on my bed though really made me feel like a VIP!

mmm… chocolate

 

Unfortunately I’d forgotten my swimsuit; the outdoor pool was heated, and with the perfect weather, I couldn’t resist rolling up my jeans and dipping my toes in the water.

felt like a tiny slice of paradise

Having status with Hilton means I get to choose my own room, and I made sure to get one on an upper floor. I got a lovely view of the surrounding hills. The white tents are for a horse show that is like Cirque du Soleil but with horses. I really wish I’d had time to catch that show while I was there!

Spring in Southern CA

Then it was work work work till Friday afternoon. I had the red-eye flight out, and tried to figure out how to kill some time. That’s when I remembered that since I have the United credit card, I get two free Club passes a year. I had them with me, they’re due to expire at the end of the month, and I had no other travel plans, so I decided to make good use of them.

The lounge at the John Wayne Airport was tiny, but clean, had power, and also had some snacks, drinks and coffee.

Cozy United Lounge at SNA

I managed to get some shut-eye on the flight, and the next morning arrived at Newark, where I had another wait until my flight home, so I got to use my other Club pass. The lounge at EWR is significantly larger, since it’s a United hub. There was yogurt and fresh berries available for breakfast which was delicious and most importantly, a coffee machine that made espresso!

A much bigger lounge!

From here, I was able to watch the sun rise over Manhattan, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, I can never get the camera on my phone to capture the scene as well as my own eyes (especially with glare from the lights on the windows) but I tried!

sunrise over Manhattan!

So all in all, these little touches made it a lovely trip!

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Lollipop

Here’s my little tablet saga. Many moons ago, I got myself an Asus Transformer 101 with the keyboard/extra battery. It was an awesome tablet. But after many years, it was starting to be really sluggish. Then, over a year ago, I got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited for my birthday. All the comics I could possibly want to read! But the pages took forever to load, and the app kept crashing. The tablet wasn’t cut out for it. So, since the boyfriend was getting himself a new tablet, he gave me his Kindle Fire tablet. We side-loaded the comics app, and it worked beautifully. I was able to put Pinterest and Facebook on it, and all was well in the land. Well, for a bit, anyway.

I like Android. Google pretty much runs my life. I like using Chrome and Gmail. I couldn’t get Chrome on the Fire tablet. Amazon doesn’t let you download apps from the competition in its app store and because of the way Google runs its apps, I couldn’t just side-load it either. So I figured I would root the tablet and put Marshmallow on there, and all would be well. Turns out it was a huge pain in the ass to even attempt, and I couldn’t get it to work.

So back to my old tablet. Maybe I could put Marshmallow on that tablet and it would run better! Not sure why I was under the impression that putting more advanced software on top of old hardware would be better rather than worse, but I was determined to see what would happen.

The first snag I ran into is that there aren’t any ROMs for that tablet for Marshmallow. The best I could do was Lollipop. So I would be upgrading from Ice Cream Sandwich, skipping Jellybean and Kit-Kat, and going straight to Lollipop. (Hungry yet?) This process was actually pretty straight forward, but it kinda took me forever. First, I needed to root the device. I used the PERI tool, and just followed the instructions, and it went pretty smoothly. It does take time though. The hardest part was booting into the recovery app. You had to hold down the volume down button while you powered it down, and when it asks if you want to boot into recovery (kinda like safe mode) you have to hit the volume up within a VERY fast 5 seconds, or it just boots normally. Sometimes I’d have to reboot 2-3 times to get it to boot into recovery properly.

So then, my device was all nice and rooted! Yay! Next step was getting Lollipop on it. For that, I used the KatKiss ROM, and followed the instructions. Took me a bit to realize that while for the PERI tool you had to download stuff to your computer and then connect your tablet to the computer and run the .bat file from your computer to change stuff on the tablet… you don’t need to do that for the rest of it. Just download all the files straight to your tablet, and then you can install from recovery. Just navigate to your downloads folder! I did, however have to update my PERI tool as noted in the instructions for the ROM to a newer version.

The initial boot of my tablet after all was said and done took AGES. But I have a functioning tablet with a more up-to-date OS on it! Success! Next up, we’ll see if I can get it to run all the apps I want (I let my comics subscription lapse, so aside from that one, if I can get all my Google and social media time wasters to work, I’ll be thrilled!) Stay tuned for the continuing saga!

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Why Data is so Important

I’ve been working on losing some weight this year. Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve been working on losing weight for a long time now.

It started over at SparkPeople.com which is an awesome (and FREE!) weight-loss website. Lots of great information, community and trackers. I set up my profile, followed their program of exercise and counting calories, and over 4 months I lost 11 pounds. I was very close to my goal weight and quite happy with myself. But it was now winter, and February was looming. I tend to get SAD in winter, so I told myself I would take February off. My reasoning was that I would probably skip a lot of workouts and do a lot of emotional eating, and it would be best if instead of beating myself up for each of these, I just give myself a month, and then I could get back at it.

Weight Graph

January 2015-present

Except I didn’t, of course. When I weighed myself 3 months later, I’d gained back 9 pounds. For the next two months, I tracked my weight, but then I stopped. ¬†Almost a year later, right back at the weight I started, I began tracking again. This time, I think I was trying a different eating regimen, perhaps Zone, and I had started doing CrossFit, I believe. I lost about 7-8 pounds over 4 months this time.

Fast forward 7 months, and I was once again right back to where I started. The thing is, throughout all these fluctuations, (with the exception of that first “break”) I was always exercising and, I thought, eating well. But I wasn’t tracking what I was eating in any way, convinced that if I just ate the right foods, I wouldn’t have to keep track, that it would all just magically work out.

Over the next year or so, I tracked my weight somewhat sporadically. It creeped up ever so slightly, maybe 2-3 pounds from where I first started. It was now 2010. A lot happened in that year. I was CrossFitting maybe 5 times a week and training for a marathon. I figured I didn’t have to keep track of anything; with all that exercise, I could eat what I wanted and still lose weight, right? Well, I don’t know because I’d stopped tracking.

Weight Graph

2011-Present

2011 came around, and I was till CrossFitting, but not nearly as much. Not running anymore either. (I ran my marathon, and decided to take a one month break – sound familiar? – and never started up again) I started using a spreadsheet to track my weight so I could also track my body measurements and calculate things like “hip-waist ratio”s. For 5 months I tracked my measurements (but not my food) and things stayed pretty much at status quo. At this point, I had moved from Zone to¬†doing “Slow Carb” eating.

Tracking went sporadically, with no huge difference in numbers, and at one point in early 2012 I switched over to Paleo eating. Again, I wasn’t actually tracking my food, but I was doing my best to eat healthy, “real” foods. (Which at the time was pretty easy since work had salads for lunch, and I lived at home and mom has always cooked “real” food for dinner; I just had to forego the rice that was served) This continued until March of 2013, when I was about 2 pounds above where I’d started.

Then, all tracking stopped for over a year. When I finally stepped on a scale¬†again, it wasn’t pretty. From February of 2013 to May of 2014 I had gained 25 pounds.

Weight Graph

2006-Present

And while I was not happy, I somehow thought this was okay. I let myself be deluded. I thought since I lift weights, I had muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so OF COURSE I was heavier than I would like to be. It was all fine. But it wasn’t. “They” say that you can healthily lose 1-2 pounds per week when trying to lose weight. But “They” also say that you can gain 0.5-1 pounds per month of muscle when trying to make “gainz”. I am strong. But I am nowhere near THAT strong that I put on 25 pounds of muscle. I would compare myself to other CrossFitters who were super super strong and completely ripped and had super low body fat and be all “they weigh almost as much as me! And I’m taller! My weight is fine!” It wasn’t. It was all fat, and it had to go.

So at the beginning of this year, I decided to really work on getting my weight back down to a healthy number. My BMI* before had put me in the “overweight” category, and I was NOT happy about that. So, what should I do? I’d been basically eating “Paleo-ish” with a cheat day for a long while, and I’d gained weight, so that wasn’t working. I went back to the data. At the lowest weight I had ever been what eating regimen was I on? I had just been counting calories. Nothing fancy. So, I started doing that again (while keeping my cheat day!).

I’ve lost almost 9 pounds since the beginning of the year! My BMI is back down in the normal range! I have tweaked my eating a bit; I still count calories, but I also try to keep track of my macros and make sure that they are also in range. I’d still like to lose quite a bit, and it’s been *very* slow going, but now I know what I need to do. Don’t stop tracking, ever. Yes, counting my calories is tedious as hell. Yes, eating the same foods over and over and over again gets boring (this is where the cheat day really helps!). But to me, it’s worth it. The tedium of keeping track of every little thing FAR outweighs the shame and heartbreak of looking in the mirror and lot liking what I see.

If I hadn’t kept track of my numbers, I wouldn’t know all this. I wouldn’t know what really works for me. Because while this is what worked for me, it might not work for you! Data is important!

*A note rant on BMI: Remember when I said for awhile I deluded myself thinking that all my extra weight was muscle? Don’t do that! If your BMI puts you in a range that you are not happy with, be perfectly honest with yourself about it. Far too many people don’t like being called “overweight” or even “obese” and they trot out the studies about the 6% of the population that BMI doesn’t work for. Guess what? If you calculated your BMI, you’re probably not in that 6%. The people who actually do have so much muscle that it throws off their BMI couldn’t give two shits about what their BMI is. If your BMI makes you uncomfortable, and you feel that you’d be “anorexic” at a healthy weight, I challenge you to try to get down to that weight, and see if you truly become “too skinny”. If, in the process, you feel you start to get too thin for your tastes, then you can always stop! But I’ve lost 9 pounds, put myself back in the healthy range, and I can assure you, no one is ever tell me to “eat a sandwich”, and I still have trouble¬†finding riding breeches big enough for me!

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Double the Upgrades, Double the Stress

So quite a bit has happened!  Upgraded two areas of my life recently: my job, and my living situation!

First, the living situation. The boyfriend got an amazing job offer in Connecticut, so we moved to the East Coast! Not only that, but we made that purchase of all purchases and bought a house. ¬†He had owned a house once previously, but this was a first for me. Not sure how much I really like being a homeowner; all that responsibility. Much easier when you rent and someone else has to take care of all the problems. Like when we tried to use our oven for the first time; we couldn’t get it to turn on. The stovetop worked, but not the oven. Turns out the controller board had gone bad, and that model had been discontinued, so we couldn’t get a replacement part. Which led to another upgrade: new stove!

Our lovely new home!

That said, the house is very nice, and bonus upgrade: came with a hot tub! (Which we really don’t use as much as we should)

Kick-ass deck, nice-sized yard, and hot tub!

Next upgrade: new job! After moving out here, I contacted a few companies, and it wasn’t long before I got a couple offers and I ended up accepting one that pays 33% more than I was making before! HUGE upgrade! It’s a smaller company, but the people there are really awesome. And interestingly, I’m working on the sales side of the house doing software demos, which is completely new territory for me, but I’m really enjoying it so far! The only downside is the commute; I drive nearly 60 miles every day. Luckily, for the most part it is against the flow of traffic, so I don’t spend *too* much time in road rage mode. Still, that might necessitate upgrading my car to something far more fuel efficient sooner than I would have liked.

I do love my car, but a nearly 10-year old SUV is not the most fuel efficient of rides.

So while the upgrades have been awesome, it has led to quite a bit of stress. As stated previously, owning a home beings being all responsible and having to adult. That’s no fun. With all the bad weather we’ve been having, it sucks to have to get up extra early to shovel the driveway so that you can get to work. Especially when you spent two hours shoveling it the night before.

Also, a new job with new responsibilities is also stressful. I’m starting to get comfortable with doing the demos, but there is still a lot I have to learn, and while the company is giving me all the support I need, they need me to be doing this pronto, so I’m getting thrown into the deep end. (Which is how I learned to swim, so I figure I’ll manage!)

just a wee bit stressed

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Smart, Kind, Strong

I can have this instead of kids, right?

I don’t have kids. Don’t want any either. But I’m Godmother to one of my best friend’s 4 children, back-up Godmother to another one of her kids, I have lots of cousins (24 on my dad’s side of the family alone) who have kids – about 4 of whom whose lives I’m invested in – and my boyfriend is uncle to three girls. ¬†That makes me “auntie” to about 9 kids.

HB and SB are the eldest. Two boys, in their teens. Both very smart. I’m always trying to foster the “smart” in them. They tend to always get educational gifts. Books. Lego. The older one is getting into sports, which I think is awesome, and I try to encourage that too, where I can. I’m also trying to think of ways that I can teach them to be an ally to women, which is much harder now that I’ve moved. I do wish their mom wasn’t *quite* so over-protective (Sorry, RB) of them. They’re really good boys and responsible, so I wish she’d give them a bit more freedom to make mistakes *now* when it’s easier to learn and recover from them, rather than having them start making those mistakes in college.

CN, SN, and AN are the boyfriend’s nieces. They’re adopted and have had a rough start in life. It’s very hard for me to not want to just spoil them rotten. I really want to pound into their heads that beauty doesn’t matter. It’s fleeting. What *IS* important is being smart, being kind, being strong. Those things last. The tricky one is the strong part. I want them to be strong mentally, emotionally as well as physically. And I want them to use their powers of strength for good and not evil. I want this for all little girls everywhere, actually!

TZ and JZ are my best friend’s two youngest. They’re the hardest for me to… know what to do with, for lack of a better term. ¬†They may have mental issues (the two eldest do), but they’re young enough that nothing’s been diagnosed yet. ¬†It’s tough because I want to help, but again, I’m far away, and even if I wasn’t, I don’t know what I *could* do to help.

LF and JZ(2) (seriously? two different JZs?) are the daughters of two of my cousins and the youngest ones. LF is wicked smart. I “worry” about her the least. She’s spoiled, but not too much so (mostly by her grandparents, as well as my own mom!), well cared for, but not coddled. For her, I just really hope that her mom keeps working on languages with her. She could easily grow up learning English, Portuguese and Spanish. She’s a thinker, that one, and I would really like to foster a spirit of critical thinking, experimentation and exploration in her! I really also hope that JZ(2) grows up speaking Portuguese and English. Her parents are geeks. As a geek myself, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing that she will grow up with a proper geeky pop-culture background. But I really hope that she doesn’t just consume all the geekiness that is out there. I want her to contribute. To *MAKE* something. I don’t want her to just dream of being a ninja. I want her to go out there and take kung-fu lessons and parkour and fencing! And if she wants to be a princess, then I hope she takes ballet and singing lessons and waltzing classes and learns how to sew!

MAKE SOMETHING!

The hardest part in all of this is how far away I am from everyone. Half are in Ohio, half are in Florida. I haven’t even gotten to meet JZ(2) yet. ¬†I want them all to grow up kind, with compassion for others, even those who are different from them as well as compassion for animals! ¬†I want them to grow up smart. Not just book smarts where they memorize facts and figures. I want them to have a critical mind to be able to think for themselves and analyze a situation. And I want them to be strong. I want them to be strong mentally, having strong willpower. I want them to be strong emotionally, being able to have empathy for others, and be able to recover quickly from the inevitable heartbreaks in life. I want them to be strong physically as well! The human body is an amazing machine! How far can their legs take them on their bikes? How fast can they run? How many grocery bags can they carry in from the car at one time without breaking the eggs? Can they make it all the way across the monkey bars? How anti-fragile are they? How many days can they go without getting sick?

And party on, dudes!

 

Be smart. Be kind. Be strong.

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