Blankbaby Zen

Tomorrow I run, today I ask you for money

Tomorrow I'll be getting up early to run a 5K (instead of getting up early because a baby is crying though I am willing to bet that will be happening too!).

In case you missed it, I'm running to raise money for colorectal cancer research in memory of my mother. And I must admit that I've been floored by the generosity of people. At the moment I'm the largest individual fundraiser for the event... and I'd like to secure that spot (because it is all about me, really).

I've raised my goal time and time again... and I've done so again! If you can give any amount it would be appreciated and it does go to a very good cause.

There's still time to donate!


$26.97

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You ever wonder what $26.97 worth of change looks like?

Wonder no more!

And here’s the breakdown by coin:

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I have no idea how I managed to get so many dimes, but thanks to Coinstar I’ve converted these useless metal disks into delicious Amazon credit.


Firsts

Yesterday was full of fatherly firsts for me. I have left off the names of the babies involved to protect the innocent (and their eventual teenaged egos); here is the anonymized list:

 

  • I grabbed, with my hand, a giant booger that was flickering in and out from a tiny nostril with each baby breath.
  • I changed the diaper of a baby who I thought was finished pooping. Reader, that baby wasn't finished pooping. But now the changing matt has been cleaned.
  • I caught a not insignificant amount of spitup with my hand to avoid having to change a baby yet again. If a new father ever turns to me seeking parenting wisdom I will tell them, "no matter how gross something is just remember it is very easy to wash your hands."

I hope he doesn't swallow a glowstick

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A little while ago we began to find a single piece of glitter on Declan's head at some point during the day. It could happen during the morning feeding session, or whilst changing his diaper, but each time it would be the same: one tiny piece of glitter would be shining on his head just screaming for attention.

We'd remove it, which is harder than you'd think, and the next day there would appear another lonely piece of glitter.

Yesterday I noticed a piece of glitter on Sammy's eyebrow. It is spreading!

I have a pretty solid theory as to how this is happening: Declan is going clubbing while we sleep. I understand it - he's young and wants to check out what Philadelphia's nightlife has to offer. Though there's one thing I can't figure out: how does he reach the elevator call button?

As an aside, if you haven't read this article about how glitter is made (it is a big secret!) then you need to correct that.


How goes parental leave?

Nap time!

I’ve been on Parental Leave for the last few weeks. The above picture pretty much sums up how it is going.

Oh, and safe sleep people don’t worry - Marisa was there and making sure that nothing happened to the baby while I slept.

Speaking of sleep, here’s another view into how having two babies at home is going:

Sleep. Or lack of it.

Thanks to Marisa for letting me sleep in last Friday (it was so nice!).


2019 Undy Run - Donate Now!

TL;DR - I'm raising money for colorectal cancer again, so give some money!

Fatherhood isn't how I'll define myself, but since I've been home for the last few weeks adjusting to life with Sammy and Declan they have been very much top of mind, as you can see via Instagram, Twitter, and right here on this blog.

I keep thinking about how much my mom would have loved these little guys.

She was great about not asking me if Marisa and I were ever going to have children. In fact, I think she only asked me once and I said something like, "I know Marisa wants them!" She never brought it up again, but I knew she wanted to be a grandmom.

And she would have made a great one. I can see her giving Declan and Sammy all kinds of treats because they need to get some meat on their bones. And then leaving when either of them started fussing. I can also picture her making it very clear to them that life would be much easier if they would just do as she told them.

Sadly, cancer stole this experience from Sammy and Declan.

Running to remember

People shelter under a giant colon at last year's very rainy Undy Run.

Mom is on my mind because of a yearly tradition I've established: running the Colorectal Cancer Alliance's Undy Run benefiting colorectal cancer research. And you know what that means: I'm begging people for money!

I'd very much appreciate a donation to help me fundraise. Any amount you can spare would be fantastic.

There were lots of things I wanted to do and say to my mom but the end was sudden, expected, and surprising all at once.

If you have anything you want to know about your parents, ask them now. And give them a hug. I'll be sure to hug Marisa, Sammy, and Declan at the end of the 5k for my mom.


7 miles on the treadmill

The other day I tweeted about the 7 mile run I did outdoors:

All of this long distance (for me) running is the result of a Runkeeper 10k training program I signed myself up for.

I’ve been running 4 times a week for the last couple of years and I found myself in a figurative rut. I’d just go out and run 3.1 miles (that’s a 5k for my metric friends) and be done. My timing was improving but it got a bit boring. And I was certain that I couldn’t run longer distances.

Enter the Runkeeper training program. I figured if I could do a 5k I could just do two of them back to back. And today I ran 7 miles again, though this time on the treadmill:

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Running on a treadmill for an hour is pretty boring (hurrah for an iPad and WiFi in the gym) but it is much easier to control your pace.

Now, I’m not going to fib here. Since Declan and Sammy have come home it is tougher to find time to run. Major thanks to Marisa and her mom who is in town helping us for a bit. They have graciously agreed to let me sneak away 4 times a week to get my runs in and I appreciate it.

I do still hate running but I’ve come a long way from my days in highschool when I couldn’t run a 15 minute mile.


Heavenly Hedgehog

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As I sit here at 1am with a very awake Sammy I noticed the hedgehogs on his onsie. 

Every time I think about hedgehogs my thoughts turn, as you would expect, to ice cream. 

Ok, that might need a little explanation. I went to college on the South Side of Bethelehm, Pa. The town was divided into two main sections: South - more industrial and rough and tumble area (though I spent my time on Lehigh's decidedly not rough not tumble campus) and the North side - also known as Historic Bethlehem. 

Historic Bethlehem featured, and still does, lovely homes and quaint shops. One of those shops (which closed several years ago) was an ice cream shop called "The Heavenly Hedgehog." That's just an objectively good name for an ice cream shop. 

Also, hedgehogs like to float around like this:

 

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CELEBRATE ME... with an odd assortment of gifts

Celebrateme

Just the other day I was at dinner with some friends and I was trying to recall how long I'd worked at Penn. I couldn't remember (since I can hardly remember anything) so I did what anyone would: I looked at my LinkedIn profile.

Turns out I could have waited a few hours because I received an email telling I was celebrating 15 years at the University. Hurrah! And, more importantly, I get a gift in recognition of my service.

Not only do I get a gift, but I can pick one out from... well, a very strange assortment of things.

Now, I'm not complaining because I appreciate the token of appreciation and I am very happy that I can pick something rather than getting a picture frame or something. I'm just struggling to find a theme with options that include:

Grill

A grill.


Gamegrip

A grippy thing to put your phone in... for gaming?


Umbrella

An umbrella, which in and of itself isn't odd but it isn't a Penn branded umbrella which I find odd.

Bowl

A glass(?) bowl. This one looks pretty nice, actually, but I don't think I'm in need of a bowl.

Telescope

A telescope! This is the one that I am most tempted to get, however, I don't really have any place to keep it and I'm pretty sure I would never actually use it.

Gallondispenser

And my favorite time: the 1.5 gallon beverage dispenser. I should get it and fill it with champagne to CELEBRATE ME!


Take time off!

Somehow, against all the world's better judgement, I have found myself as a manager at work. Now, I don't claim to be a great manager (nor am I one of those people who calls themselves a "leader" and offers up management advice to anyone who will listen) but there is one thing that I pride myself on: encouraging folks to take time off.

Two things made me think of this today:

1. This story on NPR that finds a very slight correlation between people who take time off and people who advance at work. This makes sense to me, since people really do need time off from work to recharge.


2. This post from Matt Haughey, which I shall quote in its entirety:

I just realized I went almost a year without taking vacation and it was the stupidest thing I’ve done in my career.

Thanks to a couple trips this month it turns out I’m only working half of August and I’m feeling way less burnt out than I’ve felt in months. No more “stocking up for a rainy day” as you slowly get ground down by everything.

Take regular time off, people.

I know not everyone has the opportunity to take time off, which makes it even more important that the people who can take time off do, in fact, use their time.

And just for fun, here's a picture of Marisa and I enjoy some time off in Ireland (though I feel like I could use another vacation!):

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Enjoying Ireland with less of me

I'm wearing an XL t-shirt! 😱

When last we were in Ireland I was a different person. Well, not really, but I was a heavier dude. Like, over 100 pounds heavier.

Above you’ll see the thinner me wearing an XL T-shirt I bought at the Giant’s Causeway. If Marisa hadn’t been with me I would have bought an XXL because in my mind I’m still that big… but the shirt fits so nicely! As do the 4 XL sweaters I’ve bought for myself while here (just in time for the Philadelphia summer, though with the way the weather has been behaving perhaps they will come in handy during a July snowstorm).

A few other things have changed on this trip as compared to last:

  • I bought a scale while here so I can continue weighing myself on Fridays (the scale has stones as the primary measure with kg much smaller. I can’t recommend the scale, but it was cheap).
  • I packed my running shoes and have actually gone on a few runs. I even went to the gym after going for a 5 mile hike.
  • I decided to walk 20,000 steps a day whilst here, to counteract my less stringent adherence to my daily Weight Watchers points allotment. And it seems to be working.
  • Flying for 6 hours in coach wasn’t that uncomfortable. Something that was never true when I was 100 pounds heavier.

So many jeans

I was examining the crotch of my jeans and I got to wondering: how many pairs of jeans should a person own?

I probably have too many (which is ironic since there was a time in my life were I refused to wear jeans and now they are pretty much the only kind of pants that I wear).


It is good to be the Danish Queen

Bjørn Nørgaard Sarkofag

It would seem that the Prince Consort of Denmark isn't happy. For 50 years he wanted to be the King Consort, but the Danes said, "hard pass."

And so, the Prince Consort has decided he won't be buried with the Queen.

All of that is mildly interesting, but the most badass thing was only casually mentioned: the Queen is going to be buried in a crystal sarcophagus resting on three elephant head pillars in Roskilde Cathedral (the traditional resting place of Danish royalty).

That's a pretty strong Queen move.

You can see more pictures on the artist's website.

When I die I've always assumed I would be cremated but that was before I knew about the crystal sarcophagus option.


I have questions about "cybersport," Tommy Bahama

Cybersport
  1. What is "cybersport?"
  2. Why is it, and I can only assume here, slight chilly where ever the cybersport is happening, thereby requiring a light sweatshirt?
  3. Does the "comfortable, natural range of motion afforded" by the "articulated sleeves" mean this was designed specifically to allow for typing whilst wearing?
  4. Are most other sweatshirts not appropriate typing attire?
  5. Blue (well, "buccaneer blue") and gray (or "iced slate") are the only color choices for the big and tall variety but the regular sizes get an additional choice: rhumba (which I think is red). Do you believe your big and tall customers are all cybersport obsessed Civil War enthusiasts?
In conclusion, here's a Cyberman in a Cybersport Half-Zip sweatshirt: Cybermansport

50 pounds

I knew there was a problem when I had to limit myself to wearing 7 out of 71 of my Hawaiian shirts.

Ok, don't get hung up on the fact that I have 71 Hawaiian shirts. That's not what this post is about.

I'm blessed, or cursed, with a very good self image. The upside? When I look in the mirror I think to myself, “My, what a handsome young man!” That's great! Everyone should like the way they look, if you ask me.

The down side? The fact that I had gained back lots of the weight I had lost without noticing.

Sure, my pants were snug. But there's an easy solution to that: new pants! And during the winter I wear sweaters which are very forgiving to an expanding belly.

Of course, I knew something was up when several of my Hawaiian shirts didn't fit. Even some of the “fat” shirts I have on reserve (for you skinny people out there those are the shirts I know are a little big, so I can always be certain they'll fit even if other shirts seem to have… shrunk) didn't fit. No bueno.

I've been down this road before, and I've even lost over 100 pounds! When I finally hopped on the scale I found out that I had gained back 70 of those pounds (over the course of several years, but still!). I did find some solace in the fact that I hadn't gained it all back; cold comfort.

Clearly, I needed to do something. But what? Previously I cut carbs out of my diet completely and had seen some great results. The problem with this is that I would stop eating carbs for several weeks and then black out only to awaken surrounded by the crumby remains of several cakes, empty husks of bread, and chip bags drifting down our hallway like tumbleweeds.

What I'm saying is the carb free lifestyle isn't sustainable for me.

But then I cracked the weight lose secret, and I'm going to share it with you right now. Are you sitting down, people, because this is big! Roswell aliens big. Jimmy Hoffa's corpse big!

The best way to shed the extra pounds? Eating sensibly and moving more!

WHAT?!

Now, I know that doesn't work for everyone, and that truly sucks. Hell, it doesn't work for me!

I've known forever that I should eat sensible portions and exercise. But if I could do that I wouldn't NEED to do that, if you catch my drift.

At the tender age of 40 I've come to the conclusion that I have no idea how to eat like a normal person. When left to my own devices I make the worst food choices, though to my credit I also make those choices a lot resulting in consuming a staggering amount of calories.

That leaves me with a problem: I know the solution to my weight problem but I'm seemingly incapable of doing it. What is a fat guy to do?

I found the answer, as one does to so many of life's problems, in Oprah; praised be her name.

One night Marisa and I were watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Oprah was a guest. She was on to talk about being Oprah, of course, but also to chat up her new cookbook. Now, you can't just write a cookbook these days (says the guy who is married to a cookbook author), you need a hook. Even Oprah, praised be her name, needs a hook! And this cookbook featured recipes, as cookbooks so often do, but each of the recipes included their Weight Watchers Smart Point values.

Turns out, as the kids say, that Oprah recently-ish bought part of that venerable weight loss institution Weight Watchers. And her cookbook was like a Trojan Horse to seduce unsuspecting guys named Scott into signing up for Weight Watchers.

Reader, I bought the book. I signed up for Weight Watchers. I weighed my food. I tracked my points. I went to the gym. I've lost 50 pounds in 5 months.

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Let me repeat that: I've lost 50 pounds in 5 months!

Which means that I've managed to track my food every day for the last 5 months (I would say religiously but I'm an atheist). Warning, I'm about to sound like a Weight Watchers commercial but they haven't paid me a cent (Oprah? Feel free to send me some money. Or one of your favorite things.): it hasn't felt like I've been on a diet. But I've totally been on a diet.

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What does it feel like? It sort of feels like I'm learning how to eat like a responsible adult. This isn't fun, I'll grant you, but it hasn't been horrible either.

Now, if you're not familiar with Weight Watchers let me give you the basics. You're assigned a number of Smart Points each day based on your height, weight, and what your goal is (losing weight/maintaining). Various foodstuffs are assigned point values based on a formula that takes into account calories, protein, and the like. You are allowed to eat as much food as you have points for, but once you're out of points you stop eating.

Still hunger? Good news! Vegetables and fruits are 0 points. Eat all you want!

You can sign up for a membership that includes in person meetings, but I don't like people so I opted for the online only membership. This gives you access to the Weight Watchers app which features a barcode scanner. Here's how that works: Pick up a bag of Oreos, scan it to find out how many points are in a serving, figure that isn't too bad since a serving of Oreos is clearly “the whole package,” double check the serving size, question everything anyone has ever told you, put the Oreos package down, and eat a banana.

The app is great because not only does it include a huge database of scannable food, but you can also use a point calculator to find out how many points things that aren't listed have (I've calculated how many points my favorite Sweetgreen salad is [16] and how many points my formally favorite Wawa hoagie has [so, so many points, you guys.]). Plus you can input recipes and it spits out how many points are in each serving (based on the number of servings the recipe makes). This has made Marisa happy since my previous diets of no carbs, dairy, or legumes would make cooking for me more challenging than it usually is.

A Brief Review of the Weight Watchers iOS app

Overall, the app does what it says on the tin. It allows you to easily look up and track your points, enter your weight, and it'll even sync with a FitBit or Apple Health to give you Fit Points (you get points for activities that you can use to supplement your daily points. I have yet to use any! But I accrue them like a mofo).

There are, however, a few areas for improvement:

  • Without a network connection the app is pretty useless. It would be nice if there was even a limited database of foods on device (perhaps it could remember your frequently used foods?). Not a huge deal, but if you want to see a bunch of angry dieters just search for Weight Watchers outage on Twitter.
  • Keep me logged in for Christ's sake! I don't know why, but this app seems to have trouble remembering me, and I'm starting to take it personally. Maybe if I lose more weight then the app will love me. IS THAT IT, WEIGHT WATCHERS APP?!
  • While I love scanning food, for some reason you can't scan things to add them to a recipe that you're creating. This is dumb and should be fixed.

Thus ends the mini review of the Weight Watchers iOS app

That's the eating part, which lots of people tell me is the most important part, but what about the exercising (autocorrect, knowing me it would seem, kept changing exercising to “excess icing.” Thanks, iPad, you're a jerk.)?

For awhile I was running like a madman, but I've decided that I like my joints so I should probably do something else in the gym. I cast my mind back several years to when I lost these 100 pounds the first time around and recalled that most magical of exercise equipment: the elliptical. Have you ever wanted to kind of run while hovering a few inches off the ground and simultaneously staying in one place? The elliptical is for you!

I do an hour on the elliptical in two week cycles. The first week I go Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The second week's sequence is Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Having a schedule is super important because I know I have to go to the gym. And I can watch a nice BBC show as I workout (tonight I'll be watching the last episode of Series 3 of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, but I'll write another post about all the shows I've watched at the gym covered in sweat and grunting).

All of this work is paying off, but the sad irony is that while I've lost 50 pounds and I feel good about it I still need to get rid of at least about 50 more. If I stop and think about that it makes me want to eat a chocolate chip muffin (31 points) in a dark room, so I don't think about it.

However, when I have those chocolate chip muffin thoughts I remember the deal I made with myself: I'm going to use Weight Watchers for a year and see how I feel/how I did. My weight along the way should be trending downward, but the goal is still 7 months away.

This leads to an obvious question: what's my goal? Well, it would be nice to lose 100 pounds total so why not make that my goal?

All 71 of my Hawaiian shirts fit now.


Hodor? Hodor!

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This morning I woke up early to go for a 20 minute run (on the treadmill). Afterwards I tweeted that I didn't even know who I was anymore along with a post workout picture.

Some folks on Twitter suggested that I might, in fact, be Hodor from the Game of Thrones on TV (Or the Song of Ice and Fire in the books).

I suppose there are worse characters from GoT one could look like.

Oh, and that's me in the picture above... on the left.


Old Man McNulty

OldmanmcnultyRecently I've had two experiences that make me question my boyish good looks:

  1. My mom was in a physical rehab place for a few weeks in October, and so I would visit her fairly often. They served dinner there at about 5:30, which is when I would arrive if I visited right after work.

    Now, keep in mind that most of the patients there (i.e. all of them) were over 60 years old.

    This particular evening visit I was seated with my mom, and a few of her friends, in the dining room. It was me, my mom, a lady, and an older gentleman patient. The gentleman got tired of waiting and sort of walked off. One of the worker who was handing out the food came over to the table with a tray for the man. She looked at me and said, "Henry?" (the patient's name, though not really. Respect HIPAA, people).

    I assured her I wasn't the elderly gentleman in a wheelchair she had mistaken me for.

  2. I was headed to catch a Long Island Railroad train in Penn Station the other day. The track for the train I was getting was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs was a woman, in her 50's, with 4 suitcases. As I was approaching two guys ahead of me offered to help her with one piece each. That left her with two pieces, so I offered to help her with one. She agreed and I grabbed a bag and carried it down.

    She met up with a group of her friends at the bottom of the stairs and started chatting with them. I boarded the train, and started to read my book.

    The woman, with her friends, boarded the same train car as me and sat down several rows ahead of me. The woman I helped started to talk about how amazed she was that strangers had helped her out. "Those two guys just came up and offered to help me with my bags! And then that old guy took the last one!

    It took me a second to realize I was the old guy in that story.




on TUAW (or WTF, AOL?)

I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.

I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.


I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.


This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).

More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers,  developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.


I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).


Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).


You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).