Cliche Fitness in the New Year

Our honeymoon is over and so is the holiday visit to the East Coast. In between the two I got some form of the flu that was one of the worst illnesses I have had. It lasted about a week.

With all of this comes a few extra pounds and also some restlessness – the need to move, to feel the cold air, to breathe hard, to be sore. Basically, I need to get back in touch with my body after all of this.

I have stayed pretty fit and healthy ever since I took off about 50 pounds a few years ago. But I never did get all the way to my end goal. So that’s what I’m going to do here, cliche or no.

I don’t have a detailed plan as of yet. But the idea is to exercise as much as I can without injuring myself. I want to run. A lot. And my buddy Peter-man gave me a bicycle trainer. So I can use that when I don’t feel like going out into the weather, or if I have limited time. I can do calisthenics in the garage and also hit up 24-hour fitness. So, I just want to make sure I exercise a lot every day, and within a couple of weeks I may put together a more structured plan based on what I know works.

As far as diet, I want to eat healthy stuff like I usually do, allowing myself the occasional treat. I’ll probably have to set up a set of rules for this so I don’t have a slippery slope problem.

I want a big component of all of this to be data and blogging. I want to track my runs, including their times and their routes. I want to track my weight daily. And I want to take pictures of my progress.

Exciting times! I know I can do it, and I could use all of your encouragement!

Thoughts From Today’s News

I find myself getting more and more jaded about what goes on in our society. So I felt the need to share my feelings about recent goings on.

Juan Williams was fired from NPR for a bigoted remark about Muslims he made on the O’Reilly Factor. And, in the society we live in, we have people writing in to NPR – not just Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, but actual listeners – to voice their displeasure at his firing.

If the remark had been made about African Americans instead of Muslims, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. All but the fringe would just say, “Yeah, OK, of course that makes sense. Dude’s gotta be fired. Why are we even talking about this?”

Usually I don’t like NPR; their reporting is often called “liberal” but unfortunately that is far from the truth. They parrot all of the establishment assumptions about things like the moral integrity of our political elites. But at least in this case they’ve done well.

Elsewhere…

I am really glad to see Meg Whitman down 8 points in the polls, according to KPFA morning news. It really gives a little bit of hope for our society. She has spent $141 million of her own money on this governor’s race, and it’s not going to buy her the election. Jerry Brown, by contrast, has spent about a tenth of that and is winning. Sure, he’s not perfect – he is likely far from it – but he is also far from being as bad as Meg Whitman.

Also, I heard today that there is a Tea Party movement in Europe. God help us…

And, I watched a few news reports about the French protests. I personally think the protests are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Interestingly enough, the things that I have heard about the protests have included people saying “Of course, everyone knows that the pension age must be raised. However, the unions have to save face.”

Really? They _must_ be raised? There is no other possible place in the budget that can be cut, or taxes can’t be raised?

This reminds me of what is going on right now in San Francisco. The MUNI workers (bus drivers, etc) are being scapegoated by local politicians for MUNI’s woes, saying that their salaries should be lowered and benefits cut. I’m not the biggest fan of MUNI workers, but we’re looking in the wrong place for the source of the problem. Almost no one is bringing up the possibility of greatly cutting the salaries of managers and politicians. For instance, MUNI head Nat Ford makes over $300,000/year. How is this not a problem?

That is all.

Got My Gaming PC!

Computer games used to be just a waste of time for me. Sure, they were fun, but they did me more harm than good.

When I heard that Civilization V was coming out in September 2010, I knew I had to play it. But these days, the only computers I have are a Macbook and an Eee PC. Both of these computers are woefully underpowered for the task. Something surely had to be done…

I have loved the entire Civilization series. It is truly engrossing and it is really fun to build an empire from the ground up. Besides that, I feel like I am missing out on experiencing the art form of our times: video games.

So, I set out to get a gaming computer. For a while I thought I would get a gaming laptop. But, with my budget being limited (about $600), I knew that I could get so much more in a desktop. I had a few requirements: lots of RAM, small physical size, Windows 7 (I didn’t want to use a nine-year-old OS, and I wanted Direct X 10), decent video card, low power usage, and quiet.

Here’s what I ended up with:

  • Shuttle barebones: case, motherboard, 250W PSU
  • AMD Athlon 2 64-bit 2.9Ghz dual-core processor
  • 4GB PC8000 RAM
  • Radeon 5700 1GB video card
  • Wireless NIC
  • Windows 7 Home Premium

For my hard drive I used an old 120GB IDE drive that I had sitting around. I also used an old DVD-ROM that I had sitting around.

If I had another $250 to spend on it, I’d get an SSD as my hard drive and up the RAM to 8GB.

Since Civilization V won’t be out for another couple of months, and because it won’t be the only game I’ll ever want to play, I went onto the Interwebs to see what else I should get. I perused the past few years of top games on ign.com and decided to get Company of Heroes (an RTS from 2006), The Witcher (an RPG), and Empire: Total War (an RTS/TBS hybrid).

So far, Company of Heroes has arrived. I played it for about an hour or less last night. It seems like a pretty solid game. I like how the soldiers take cover.

I realized this morning that I actually really like the fact that it is a desktop computer and not a laptop. We don’t have a desk at home. Well, rather, we are using my desk as our dining table. My big 24″ monitor lives, covered, on a side table in the living room. We uncover it when we want to hook it up to a laptop for a movie or some such. Because we don’t have a desk, I need to borrow the dining table when I want to game. This means moving everything over there and plugging it all in, and unplugging it and putting it away when I am done. This will result in more “intentional” gaming sessions and less gaming because it is just so easy to start. This means less time wasting and procrastinating through gaming, which is a good thing!

Although, when Civilization V comes out, I am pretty sure I am going to have to set aside a weekend to play the hell out of it. Also, I think I should try to organize a small LAN party. I can throw an Ethernet cord down to the garage. With folding tables, I think I can get maybe an eight-person LAN party going. Ah, just like old times…

mysqldumpslow on FreeBSD

Because it took me 15 minutes to figure it out, and because Google was no help… to get the mysqldumpslow command installed on FreeBSD, use the databases/mysql51-scripts port.

G20 Coverage Comparison

Just a quick and dirty update… you can use Google to look up the relevant clips if you’d like 🙂

The other day, I heard a brief piece on NPR describing the G20 protests in Toronto. The correspondent described the protests as having turned violent due to the smashing of some corporate shop windows (Starbucks, Urban Outfitters) and setting fire to a police car. One can argue whether property destruction should or should not be categorized as violence. I say it shouldn’t, but that’s not the point here…

To say that the protests turned violent due to these acts and then not mention the arrest of 600 peaceful protesters and beating of many by police is an example of remarkably dishonest coverage by NPR, not that I expect anything better from them.

Contrast that with the recent Democracy Now update which spent more than twenty seconds on the story. Democracy Now covered the overwhelming violence used by police as well as the property destruction. Democracy Now always puts almost all mainstream news to shame. Imagine that – actually looking at the facts on the ground rather than passing everything through a pro-authority, pro-capitalism, pro-US-government filter. It’s amazing what results from using that technique.

To conservatives that think that all progressives look to NPR and Obama as their heroes and leaders, please know that many of us don’t.

Call of the Wild and Stanza

I just finished reading Call of the Wild by Jack London. I had been wanting to read something by Jack London for a while because, of course, he is regarded as a great writer, but also because he was a radical leftist.

Call of the Wild was a somewhat enjoyable read. I’ve definitely read better, though. The story seems a bit out there.

I read Call of the Wild on my iPhone using the Stanza app. I got the book for free from Project Gutenberg because this book is in the public domain, along with a great deal of other books. The app was a breeze to use: just tap left or right to flip pages. And when you start up the app it remembers which book you were on and which page on that book.

I am going to at least start reading American Power and the New Mandarins by Noam Chomsky next. It was his first political book.

Processed Food as Poison

Every couple of years I seem to read a book that is really influential to my thinking and my life. A couple of examples from the past six years or so are Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky and Expect Resistance. I read another book recently that also falls into this category for me: In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. It is a really excellent book that has completely revolutionized the way that I think about food. Yes, I ate pretty healthily before reading In Defense of Food. I ate a close-to-vegetarian diet, got regular exercise, maintained a healthy weight, and regularly ate fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.

However, I am now able to think of food with a much more basic framework that makes a lot of sense. Pollen has three basic rules, which he has put right on the cover: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Of course, Pollen gives lots of background and evidence, and goes into much more depth on these rules. But he has done an excellent job of summing up the whole book into these simple rules that will make it so easy for anyone to remember.

The key was really for Pollen to redefine what you think of as food. For all of the things that you think of as food, stop thinking of all of that processed, refined crap as actually being food. Corn is food. High fructose corn syrup is not food. The idea is to get to the basics. Think of a healthy, local, grass-fed cow as being food. Don’t think of a McDonald’s hamburger as food.

One rule that I have thought of myself that isn’t in the book is to think of this processed crap as actually being poison. After we got back from San Diego one week ago, which is where I read the book in a day and a half (it was that good… and I had that much time on my hands 🙂 ), I haven’t drank any soda. I had been in the habit of having two or three Diet Cokes (with its artificial sweeteners and other strange things that I didn’t really know what they were) a week and one or two ginger ales (with its high fructose corn syrup) a week. That went immediately down to zero when I got back. It didn’t take any effort, and I didn’t look at it as a sacrifice. I simply realized that that crap isn’t food, and in fact it is poison.

Yes, I am going to commit a writing faux pas, but I think it is helpful in this case. Poison, defined:

a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism b (1) : something destructive or harmful

This pre-packaged, processed, artificially flavored, artificially colored, artificially fertilized, unnatural crap is exactly that: poison. It kills through obesity, diabetes, cancer, and countless other ailments, not to mention the problems of industrial agriculture like global warming, poisoning of our land and water supplies, and workers’ rights.

Here’s to a healthier life through real food.

My New Super-Secret Blog

I realized some time ago that there are a lot of things that I needed to write down, and that I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t doing it mostly because they were things that I didn’t necessarily want my whole Twitter feed reading.

So, I started a new blog and Twitter feed that will probably get a lot more posts than this one. But, of course, I’m not telling y’all what they are, because that would defeat the whole purpose.

And, seeing as how I am a geek, I wanted to provide anonymity for myself on a technical level as well. To this end, I am using the Tor Project to anonymize my IP address. I am using a completely different browser just for using Tor. I didn’t want to share my regular browser (Firefox at the time, Chrome now) for my regular browsing and my anonymous browsing because there was the risk of not using Tor when I meant to, the risk of my anonymous browser visits getting logged in my browser history unintentionally, the annoyance of possibly having cookies get mixed up, and also the annoyance of having Tor possibly slowing down things that I didn’t need or want to use Tor for. It was much easier to just relegate Tor to its own browser.

Unfortunately, a couple of browsers on OS X use system-wide proxy settings. I didn’t want to use Tor for my whole system, just one browser! I settled on Opera as my Tor browser because it allows you to set the proxy settings that only affect it and not the whole OS. Also, Opera for OS X is a pretty nice browser, even if Opera Mini for the iPhone has awful privacy implications (please, please don’t use Opera Mini).

Anyway, I don’t know if my new blog means that I’ll be blogging here less. Probably not, seeing as how I only post on here about once every month or so. But the ten or so posts that I have made on the new blog have been really helpful for me so far. It is really good to get thoughts and feelings down in writing sometimes to help myself really understand them.

I did tell one lucky person about the blog – Mags. I wanted to make sure there was nothing hidden, and be completely open with her. On the flip side, she said that she decided not to read it unless I showed it to her, as to respect my need for a private outlet. One thing I thought of, though, is that I’ll need to show her how to use Tor if she is to view my blog from her computer, because my paranoid side knows that combing the visitor logs would reveal her IP address… which is also my IP address. And my anonymity would be potentially blown 🙂

I had been thinking for years of starting an anonymous blog. I am not sure what took me so long to do it. One thought of mine has been – if I want the blog to be anonymous, why go through all the trouble to put it on the web at all? An encrypted text file would do just fine. And I am not really sure how to answer this question completely. But I guess my vanity demands the potential for some readers, which I have had zero of so far 🙂 Also, with the potential for other people reading what I am writing, I am motivated to make my writing more coherent more thoughtful and complete, which helps to further the purpose of the blog to begin with.

OK, it is time to make another post on my super-secret paranoid anonymous blog!

Who Wants to Go Camping?

Mags and I want to go camping, and I had a fresh desire to do so just this morning. I really want to see the stars clearly, snuggle up in my sleeping bag, sit by the fire, go hiking, you know, all that good stuff. Anyone want to join?

Ruby on Rails and databases

I’ve decided to start messing around with Ruby on Rails a little bit recently. I am reading Learning Rails from O’Reilly Press. I like this quote (page 178):

Because Rails works hard at staying independent of any given database implementation, migrations also offer you a convenient technique for creating your application using one database for development or testing and yet another for deployment.

Fun stuff so far. I haven’t written anything besides Perl for a long time, and even when I have written Perl it has been small systems administration scripts.