Sunday, January 17, 2010

Social Media - Y U B H8n?

You Tube, Twitter, many new online applications have been developed to help turn a scattered world into a cohesive population. But how are we to expect our peers to take full advantage of these when there is still such a rebellion against email in favor of snail mail and cell phones for land-lines?

We've all heard it.

"I got along just fine before cell phones were invented." or,

"If someone wants to reach me they can wait until I get home."

Well, that's fine if life as status quo is your preference. If you think your biggest risk is not being reachable in case of an emergency and you're okay with that, then you can disregard the rest of this blog. What these people don't get, the things they're missing out on are all of the millions of ways that the entire world is being offered to us, literally in the palm of our hand. There are many people who are put-off by the intensity of this information stream. I recently read an article by Peter John Lindberg in Travel and Leisure magazine, called "How Social Media is Changing Travel." It was very entertaining, I suggest you give it a look. In that article, Lindberg talks about the way technology is altering our vacations, saying (among other things) that it's robbing us of our serendipitous mistakes and spontaneity. I can see what he's trying to say, but think about all of the things that we're gaining. I, for one, missed my carefree and spontaneous years. I didn't travel at all during that time. Now, I'm a single mother of two young boys and I can't afford to be careless with my life or even with my time.

Take a look, for example, at the road trip I took with my boys (then 4 & 5) last summer. I would have been OUT OF MY MIND to attempt such a thing alone without the confidence of a constant connection. What if I had broken down on a deserted road? What if there were an emergency back home? What if Jack had an allergic reaction in the Painted Desert? That experience, the one that caused my boys to take interest in geography and helped us bond as a renegade group of explorers, would never have happened without my extra layer of protection in the form of an LG Versa.

Imagine if I had not had that phone. What would we have done when the van was overrun by ants and we needed to find a garden store that carried child-safe pesticide? Drive around LA for hours looking for a Home Depot while the ants climbed our legs? I don't think so! We looked it up on the phone and had Verizon's GPS take us right there. Problem fixed. Vacation saved.

What about my trip to China, in October '08? I was able to blog my experiences so that I didn't have to call multiple people (at $1.99/minute) to relay the same story over and over. I was also able to take advantage of Skype to see my children who I was over 5,000 miles away from for longer than I had ever been away from them before. Would I have gone on that trip if I didn't think I could be contacted in an instant if there was a problem with my babies? No way.

I use Dropbox to synchronize folders between home, work and school. I use Picasa to share photos of the boys with their grandparents. Google Calendar helps me keep several itineraries straight so I can share appointments with my mother and boyfriend. I watch TV on Hulu to save the $29.99 for cable and get my movies instantly online with Netflix. I keep up with friends via Facebook, sharing and learning things that I would have otherwise been unable to share due to lack of time. I tweet on Twitter (Twitter is a noun, not a verb) and...I blog.

Long story made a little shorter? The only reason I've been able to succeed on this chaotic, exciting path to improvement all by myself is because I'm never alone. Now, I challenge you to choose one application/technology that you've been avoiding and embrace it for a week. Then, let me know what you did and how it treated you!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feeling Wiley

It's been over a week now. I dutifully kept a food journal and discovered some shocking things. For some reason, I had assumed that my diet didn't contain enough protein. Whenever I have been faced with rather equal food options, I generally choose the one with more protein. I drink protein water, eat things fortified with soy protein...all to discover after three days of journaling that I'm ODing on PROTEIN!

The average adult requires somewhere around 50 grams of protein. I was getting close to one hundred! Along with many of those sources come saturated fat...of which my intake was also about double what is recommended. Seeing that pattern early on, I decided to do something that I claimed I wasn't going to start right away. I changed my diet. I started opting for the foods with less saturated fat. I skipped the Track Town pizza and did the salad bar instead. I reduced my intake of everything that I considered junk. What do you suppose happened? If you knew me my first time through, you can probably guess.

I call it "The Acme Effect." I'm pretty sure the term has appeared in my blogs before, but let me elaborate anyway. Ya know how Wiley Coyote can be walking happily along off the edge of a cliff, but then as soon as he looks down...GAME OVER! He falls and makes a dusty thud on the ground below. Failure. I've experienced that phenomenon in many things over the years, but none as noticeably as in my weight. The harder I try to reign myself in, the more I gain. It's very discouraging. In fact, during the first week of my weight loss attempt, I GAINED 5 pounds. Yes, I probably put on a bit of muscle with my workouts, etc., but WTF??

A strange twist to this tale. I stayed at my sister's house Thursday night and weighed myself on her scale...which had me in at three pounds less than I was when I started journaling. Could it be that my scale has an issue? Is her scale nine pounds low? More to come when I get back to my house and I can investigate further!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rude Awakening - The 4 year old and the earthquake

My four year old likes to watch the news. He spent more time watching coverage of the last election than I did. Unfortunately, the news is laden with things that he's not quite ready for, so I try to curtail his exposure to CNN.

Last night, however, I forgot to switch the tv from NBC to OPB before I went to bed, so this morning when Jack woke up to watch cartoons, he got a brain full of something a little to intense for a preschooler. Snuggled soundly in my bed, I heard Jackson run in to the room he shares with his brother and scream at a still-sleeping James, "Bro, guess what?? Bad news! Bad News! There was a Haiti Quake and people are trapped!!!"

My eyes popped open. Instantly, I knew what had happened. My baby was being bombarded by the same images that I had seen last night. Things far too frightening for his sensitive heart. I went and got him, brought him back out into the living room and switched the tv to cartoons, then, I asked him to talk to me about the Haiti Quake.

"What did you see?" I asked.
'There was a Haiti Quake and people are trapped." He responded.
"What does that mean?"
"It means there was an earthquake in Haiti and people are trapped in the quake."

It was true. He seemed to have a pretty firm grasp of what he had seen, so the best I could do was damage control. I told him that we had sent some troops over to help and that he didn't have to worry about it, because it would be okay. I chose my words carefully and yes, I know that it won't be okay for everyone in Haiti, but it will be okay for Jackson and that's all he needs to know right now.

Later, on our way to school, Jack brought up the quake again. I asked him, this time, what he understood was going to happen now. This is what he said:

"GI Joe is going to go to Haiti and throw the earthquake to the North Pole. Then, Santa Claus is going to take the quake to Hawaii where the Hawaiians are going to toss it into the ocean."

It was then that I realized it was time to drop it. Nothing I could say could *possibly* be better than that!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Full Body Scan

Okay, so I'm not the only one who's petrified about being digitally stripped like this in front of airport security personnel. It's bad enough that I get poked fun at about one in every five times I fly. I've had a security man look at my ID, look at me (both with bright magenta hair) and say, "I'm not sure if this is you have any other distinguishing marks?" I've had another make his wand beep artificially over my breasts and then laugh when he saw my expression, saying "I'm just playin'." Some people just don't handle themselves well and people like that don't have any place looking beneath my clothes.

I'll agree that I'm not exactly an exhibitionist. I've been called prude and borderline frigid, but you don't have to be prudent to feel violated having your hidden shapes projected on a screen to people that you don't have any relationship with.

That said, I'm actually comfortable with the new rules for the new generation of scanners setting to be deployed in the airports. First of all, they've done away with the photo-real pictures and are instead creating characterized images for display. To the right is a sample of the new style.

Along the same lines, they have disabled the ability for the machines to capture, save or send these images. That means that there's a constant and real-time visual, but as soon as you're gone, so is the picture. I'm okay with that. It's a lot better than having to go through a tactile search by security looking for hidden weapons. We already have to take off our shoes because of a resourceful bomber, I'm not willing to take off my panties before I'm allowed to get on a plane.

Look. If having this multi-million dollar equipment in every airport will deter people from bringing their tweezers and nail-clippers on the airplanes, then by all means, fire them up! I'd hate to be the target of an extremist plucker.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Step at a Time

2009 was a crazy year. I submerged myself in so many projects and came out the other side feeling more satisfied and enriched than at any other time in my life. I started my Master's program, reignited my interest in painting and fell in love.

One failing that I had, however, was breaking my downward weight trend twice this year...once over Spring Break and again between Thanksgiving and New Year's. For the first time since I took my life back, my weight has started rising again. This would merely be a minor inconvenience except for two things. The first is that I'm horribly afraid of gaining back what I lost over the last four years and the second is that I still have about 35 pounds to go.

That said, I feel like I can safely claim that this isn't just a normal, run of the mill weight-loss resolution. This is simply getting back on track in 2010. Now that I've got all of the explanation out of the way, I'm going to tell you how I plan to do it.

What follows isn't exactly a secret. It's not a magic cure-all, because I don't believe that anything works for everyone. What I can tell you, is that it worked for me (to lose more pounds than I care to tell you right now.) My method? I call it "One Step at a Time."

Cold Turkey doesn't work for me...the meat is fine, it's the method that causes me trouble. Whenever I look ahead at all of the things I'm supposed to give-up, I crack. I have to take everything very easy and get used to it. That may sound odd, considering that when it comes to my actual life, I tend to dive-in head first. In this case, when trying to take off some extra poundage, slow and steady wins the race.

First? Pay attention to the time. I find that my body processes food a lot better when I eat progressively less throughout the day. That means a large breakfast, medium lunch, small dinner.

Second? Knock out the caffeine. Caffeine can stress out an already overtaxed body and cause cortisol build-up which is famous for encouraging the production of fat.

Third? The thing that is simultaneously most important and most annoying is keeping a food journal. Whether or not I keep track of the calories, fat, protein and fiber in everything I eat (which I should) it's very important to know just how much I'm eating so that it doesn't add up on me without even realizing it. I also know that I'm a lot less likely to grab a handful of chocolate chips (omnomnom) if I know I'll have to go to my food journal to write them down.

There are several other things that I'll get around to adding to my regimen once I've re-adapted to the three things above. Exercise, vegetables, reduced dairy, and more water are all things that my body reacts very well to. I'll give more detail on these as I incorporate them.

A final thought on the issue: I know myself well enough to know that I can't deprive myself of anything. The more I tell myself that I can't have it, the more I want it. That means that no food will be off limits. Burgers (as always) will be ordered without cheese or mayo. If I want a Blizzard, I'll order one and throw away as much as I need to and I won't feel guilty. I'll continue to have Ben & Jerry's...I'll just eat a little less of it. That's going to be the secret to my success. One step at a time.