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26 Jan 2016, 11:42

Quitting Junk Food

doughnuts

I recently wrote about my New Year’s resolution of not quitting things, and it has taken me a while to figure out what to start. I could get into this circular logic loop and try to explain why I haven’t picked something yet, but that seems like a waste of pixels. Whatever, here goes.

For the next 30 days, I’m going to be eating healthier. I’m going to try this for one month, evaluate, and iterate. From today until Feb 26, each day, I am going to do the following:

  • Track my eating on MyFitnessPal (MFP)
  • Try to hit the following general numbers:
    • Calories - 1800
    • Carbs - 180
    • Fat - 60
    • Protein - 135
    • Cholesterol - 300
    • Sugar - 70
  • For any day where I’m within 10% of every number, I will count that day as a success
  • I will use a habit tracking app to track successful days
  • Success of this goal will be 23 successful days of the 30

If you’d like to connect on MFP, my username there is emil10001.

Now for some questions to help me set exepctations. Doing something like this actually becomes harder when you write publicly about it, because you get feedback that your brain interprets the same way as it does if you’d actually accomplished the thing.

Why don’t I do this already, what are the barriers? Logging food in MFP every day is time consuming and cumbersome. I’m going ot try to cut down on how much effort it takes to do this, by creating recipes and standard meals that I can reuse and quickly enter. I also occasionally enjoy baking and eating sweets. I’m not saying that I’m going to cut this out completely, but I’ll at least be more consious of its impact, by logging those foods and cutting back as needed.

Alcohol is another one that could do with another round of cuts. I typically drink Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which is by far my favorite beer, but also around 300 calories per bottle. While I have significantly cut down my alcohol intake since the summer, I could afford to cut it further, even without cutting it out completely. Again, every time I drink it, I’m going to log it, and cut back as needed.

Why do I feel the need to do this now? What is the goal? What’s my motivation? This is something that I’ve been doing something off and on for years. It’s not new. My goals are basically two-fold, first to lose some excess weight, and second to feel better overall and be healthier. I feel like this is one of those little things that can really have a big impact on my daily mood, and how I feel about myself.

I have noticed in the past, that eating well tends to improve my mood, and how I feel about myself. Successfully doing this helps to motivate me to do other things that I want to do. I think that it is one of the most basic, simple things that I can do that will have a large impact.

It is going to be difficult to cut down on the junk, especially cutting down enough to get within 10% of my daily goals. But, I think that if I can allow myself to fail a little, and keep going, then I think that I will be able to complete this goal.

08 Jan 2016, 10:15

Quitting

Ever since New Year’s day, I’ve been thinking about what this year’s resolution should be. I have reflected a bit on the last year, and overall, I’m very happy with my 2015. My biggest accomplishment, was entering fatherhood, and not feeling like I have been faking it. Second to that, was that I finally am starting to feel like I have some effective tools to combat depression. (But, that’s a whole other topic.) The two of those things together really made 2015 a great year for me.

However, for 2016, I’d like to approach the year with a little more focus, and clarity, with a small goal for something that I’d like to make a habit of. I figure that if I can do something small as a habit for a whole year, it can snowball something small into something much larger.

Last night, I was watching one of Casey Neistat’s latest vlogs, called “Losers and Closers”. It got me thinking a lot about quitting, or rather, about not quitting. Neistat takes the view that quitting is never OK, and you should always try to finish everything. Here’s the video:

I don’t think that I’m going to be that strict with myself, however, what it got me thinking about was a lot of little projects that I’ve started that could have been more interesting than they were, if I’d bothered to finish them. Or, if I had stuck with some really good habits that I had tried to keep, that the results would have been really great.

The problem that I have with projects is that I’ve constantly got new ideas, and after I’m about half-way into building one thing, lots of times, I drop it and move on to another thing. For example, a couple of years ago I started building this website about things that I built on a weekly basis. I put a couple of weeks into it, but never finished it, and haven’t updated the project list in forever. Last summer, I built an Android app that I can use for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but never cleaned it up for release. More recently, I started writing about building public APIs on the phone with Android, and while I haven’t given up on that yet, I also haven’t added to that collection in over a month. This isn’t true of everything that I start,

As far as habits, it’s probably the same story as everyone else. Here’s another Casey Neistat’s videos that talks about that:

2016 Resolution

Getting to the point, for 2016, I’m not going to quit either projects or habits. What this means for habits is that I’m going to have to be very careful about what I try to start, because I’ll be committing to doing it for a whole year. For projects, it means that I can’t drop off whatever I’m currently working on for something new and exciting. Or, that I’ll have to interleave projects to keep up progress on everything. While I do have a couple of projects ongoing right now, as soon as I finish them, my plan is to try to only do one at a time.

I am also going to do something very different this year to try to work towards this goal, which is to publicly post at the start of a project, that I’m starting something. I hate talking about things until they’re done, but I think that this is going to be important.

Finally, I know that I’m going to fail at this from time to time. That’s OK. I am not looking for perfection, I am looking for improvement.

15 Oct 2015, 10:31

I like the news

It turns out that I like the news. I’m ditching my ‘no news’ experiment, and re-subscribing to the New York Times.

My central complaint from before, about how the news media influences us, and may lead to us believing things that aren’t true. Thinking about this more, while there may be some truth to this, I think that cutting out the daily news may be a case of ‘perfect is the enemy of good’. Trying to get to some state of perfect information is probably not possible, and trying to get there may actually make me less informed in the process.

We still certainly need to be vigilant, and critical. There’s currently some concern that Time Warner is using its position to bolster Hillary Clinton’s position through its cable news property CNN. (As Time Warner was a major donor to Clinton.) However, not following the news, you may have heard sentiment from others that Clinton won the debate, based on coverage that they had seen on CNN, but without the criticism of CNN’s position with respect to Clinton. On the flip side, most of the criticism of this has been around CNN declaring Clinton the winner of the debate, coming from those who claim that Sanders won, however I agree with Vox’s assesment of Clinton as the easy winner here. It’s really hard to make the case that Sanders actually did better in the debate. I like Sanders, but he floundered in spots where Clinton shined, and basically stuck to the same difficult to comprehend talking points that involve lots of fractions and percentages. Actually, you can probably get a fairly accurate picture of what Sanders stands for by watching James Adomian’s impersonation of Sanders on Harmontown (below).

More to the point though, is that I enjoy my daily routine of reading the news. There are things that I do miss on a daily basis of not reading, and there are lots of connections that I wouldn’t be able to put together without reading and paying attention. I also think that I probably read more than the average American, both of the daily news and non-fiction books that cover large, important topics. My previous post mentioned Americans not knowing much about global poverty, but I’ve actually read several books that discuss this directly (including how things are generally improving).

I realized that, at least for me, Aaron Schwartz’s assertion that you get more insights from reading books and long-form works than the daily news is not true (see previous post). While yes, in a single story from the daily news, I may not have a huge epiphany, but in aggregate, I think that it may be on par. I collect information from the daily news, and build up a picture of the world from little bits of information.

07 Oct 2015, 07:00

No News is Good News

Today, I cancelled my subscription to the New York Times. I like the Times, but the reason that I cancelled, aside from a couple of minor issues, was that I’m less sure that consuming the news on a daily basis is a good idea.

I’ll start out with a big caveat to this post, I haven’t figured this out for myself yet. I still have a subscription to the Washington Post, because it’s in a free trial. This post is as much my trying to work out what I want to do as it is an attempt to highlight a concern with how we consume the news.

A few years ago, I read this blog post by Aaron Schwartz, and it resonated with me. I don’t agree with everything that he writes there, however, I do think that he’s got a couple good points. I’ll try to summarize my key takeaways from his post:

  • Consuming lots of disparate information first thing in the morning does not help one trying to be productive in intellectually taxing work.
  • Long form articles with good analysis, or books that can dive in depth on a subject can be much more impactful than trying to piece together a story from the daily news.
  • Committing to a long form work forces you to focus on what you are interested in and find useful, as opposed to trivial noise.
  • Much of what’s reported in the daily news is not terribly useful information to most of us.

Here’s a choice quote from that post:

The news’s obsession with having a little bit of information on a wide variety of subjects means that it actually gets most of those subjects wrong. … Its obsession with the criminal and the deviant makes us less trusting people. Its obsession with the hurry of the day-to-day makes us less reflective thinkers. Its obsession with surfaces makes us shallow.

Over the past few weeks, there has been quite a lot of coverage of the 2016 presidential race. There were two interesting bits of information that I came across. Vox published an article comparing Donald Trump’s polling numbers against his media coverage. His polling seems to increase following heavy media coverage. Then, they show that Fiorina’s numbers rise as the media focuses less on Trump. Could be coincidence, maybe not. If I’m being honest, when the talk shifts from focusing on Trump to Fiorina, I start questioning Trump’s position, and start wondering if he’s begun to fizzle out yet.

Then, there was a story on NPR about how much Sanders is fundraising compared to Clinton, and how Clinton has raised a substantial amount from individual donors. Clinton handily beat Sanders in the previous quarter, if there were any questions. This is interesting in light of all of the negative press that she’s received, reports of her low poll numbers, and constant talk of the email scandal that appears to be making a lot out of a little. My view had certainly been steered towards Clinton becoming a weaker and weaker candidate in an eventual general election, and wondering who was going to come out on top in the primaries.

The above two stories are examples of how the media can shift public perception, or at least mine.

Then, over the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that got me thinking about this issue again. Kristof wrote about how 95% of Americans surveyed on global poverty levels were completely wrong about how those levels have changed. (Over the last 20 years, the level of extreme poverty has halved, respondents thought it had either doubled or stayed roughly the same.) Kristof writes:

We cover planes that crash, not planes that take off. Indeed, maybe the most important thing happening in the world today is something that we almost never cover: a stunning decline in poverty, illiteracy and disease.

He then goes on to discuss the issues that accompany the public’s misperception of the real trends. That since the public believes that no progress has been made (or that it’s gotten worse), despite all the effort already spent, that they see little reason to allocate more resources in trying to improve them. Whereas the reality is that things are getting better rapidly, and what we have been doing has been paying off.

My key takeaway from his piece was that even for people who try to stay informed, even consuming sources as well written and produced as the Times, that most people do not end up with a worldview that is reflected in reality. Not even close. This made me think about why I read the news, and what I want to get out of it.

I decided that the reason that I read the news is to inform my worldview, to try to better understand the world that I live in. Yes, it can be a sort of intellectual entertainment, however, for it to be worthwhile, it must serve a purpose. Is consuming daily news serving that purpose?

On the other hand, there’s no way that I would have even been able to put this post together if I hadn’t been keeping up with the news as much as I have. Or, is this a waste of time too? Have I gotten it all wrong myself?

My goal is to try to have as accurate and complete a view of the world as possible. Obviously, it’s impossible to have complete and accurate knowledge of the world, but I’d like to do my best to move in that direction anyways. With that in mind, I need to be honest, and try to cut down on things that are apparently moving me away from that goal, as much as I like them.

For now, I think that I’ll try cutting down on my daily news, and instead, spend that time reading non-fiction works that may help to improve my understanding of the world. The Facebook community, A Year of Books is a good place to start, I’m about half-way through last month’s title, Why Nations Fail.

One of my focuses is to understand as best I can people in emerging markets, especially those groups of people who are being lifted out of poverty. Poor Economics was a great read along those lines. The New Digital Age was another good one that I read shortly after it came out, and touched on emerging markets a bit. I still need to go back and finish Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

As the election cycles approaches, I will probably read books by the candidates, as well as seeking out long-form pieces on some of the issues. When I do consume the news, it will likely be in the form of podcasts like Planet Money, or Vox which has done a great job of contextualizing the news, and explaining it, as opposed to just giving the snapshot.

This isn’t something that I’m excited to give up, and I probably won’t ditch it completely. I wrote most of this last night, and this morning, I had the urge to pull up the Times app on my phone in bed, and then listen to NPR when I got into the kitchen. I liked having the news as part of my routine, but I think that it’s a worthwhile experiment to try to look for alternatives.

I will report back with an update at some point, and discuss how it’s going.

Update

I’m ditching this experiment, it turns out, I like the news.

29 Jan 2014, 00:02

Going back to CDs

Going back to CDs

After more than a decade of getting my music almost exclusively via digital distribution channels (yes, legal ones), I’ve decided to go back to CDs. I started a project of ripping all of my CDs into several formats, mp3s for the car, Apple Lossless for listening on my Macs, and FLAC for my phone. I have a DAC, and decent headphones, and I’ve started to be able to hear the difference in quality between streaming music, and lossless stuff that I have locally.

It has been a very interesting experience so far, going back and listening to albums that I haven’t listened to in years, and hearing new bits and pieces that I hadn’t noticed before. Re-listening to some of my all-time favorite albums, like “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”, has been really fantastic. I heard a vocal track on Cake’s “The Distance” that I had never really heard before, and that was one of my favorite songs at one point.

Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a lot of my favorite albums over the years, to and from college, moving across the country a couple of times, and generally not using them. I’m going through slowly and ripping what I have, and collecting things that I’ve never owned, new stuff, and back-filling things that I lost. Doing it this way also encourages me to really listen to what I’ve got playing, and I’m finding that just doing that, I’m enjoying music more than I have in a long time.

10 Oct 2013, 03:30

Soylent: Weekly Recap 10/6

Soylent: Weekly Recap 106

http://blog.soylent.me/post/63348494473/weekly-recap-10-6

Looking forward to getting my week’s worth of Soylent in a couple months. Really curious as to whether that will be sufficient for me to switch over most of my meals.

soylentme:

image

First off, apologies for those who have been checking their emails for Backerkit invites — turns out we needed a few customizations made by the Backerkit team before we could get started. We’ll start rolling out invites on Monday. Now, on to what we worked on this week:

We received a bench…

30 Sep 2013, 16:43

Giveaway - Raspberry Pi

Giveaway - Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi logo

I’m giving away my Raspberry Pi. I haven’t used the thing in months, and I’m trying to get rid of all of the things that I have that fall into that category. I would sell it, but it’s simply not worth enough to justify the effort. So, instead, I thought that I might try something a little different. Post a comment on Reddit, telling me why I should give you this RPi. The highest scoring entry will win the device. I’ll even pay for shipping.

The device will come with a power supply, and a blank 8GB SD card.

Raspberry Pi device

EDIT: I’ll run this for 24 hours, so it’ll end tomorrow, October 1, 2013 at 10am PT.

UPDATE:

Redditor Jawshee_pdx has won, with 160 upvotes for the following entry:

Jawshee_pdx: My youngest daughter is showing a greater and greater interest in computers and technology. I’d like to get her a raspberry pi to hopefully foster strong STEM learning.

I’ve shipped out the device, and hopefully Jawshee_pdx will confirm at some point that they received it.

UPDATE 2:

Jawshee_pdx confirmed that he received the RPi. Hope he and his daughter enjoy it!