Wednesday, October 27

This Dance Ain't For Everybody, Only The Sexy People

One of the things you notice about living in this modern age is that while information seems to be everywhere -- not everybody actually uses it. In fact, it could be easily argued that the true power manipulators in our lives these days are the ones who work to shape and color information with their own points of view before disseminating it to the public through various media outlets -- leaving us with just as much opinion as there is fact when we try to learn about things we're not familiar with.

History teaches us that power mongers in the past controlled populations by depriving them of information, even in some cases withholding the ability to get information on their own. Peasants and slaves weren't taught to read, sacred texts were written in Latin dialects only certain people could understand -- information was guarded and hidden.
Our world is different.
Information is everywhere. You literally have to work to avoid it. But in a lot of ways it's as if someone took a bag filled with diamonds, mixed them in with a bunch of cubic zirconias, and then poured them out on a table in front of us. Untold riches are right there in front of us -- but without the ability to tell the difference between the precious and the fake, scores of people are left in the same place as those in the past who couldn't read.
Even worse are those people who have access to information and
possess the knowledge to understand it, but simply refuse to do so.
Growing up the son of a career nurse, I was always astounded by the number of doctors and nurses I encountered who were smokers. Surgeons. Pediatricians. Dentists. People who would literally tell you how deadly it was would then show up at dinner parties or hospital functions and light up. Even at a young age it baffled me, and probably did it's own part in fueling my longstanding distrust of people who tell you how to live your lives with what you should and shouldn't do.

But I think the place where most of us live these days is a weird middleground where we have a basis of knowledge and values that we learned from our upbringing and time in school, mixed with the knowledge that we've acquired along the way to survive in our daily lives and situations.

For example, for a while now I've been struggling with my weight. I'm not in the kind of shape I'd like to be in, and I could really stand to lose some pounds. I happen to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what I need to do to fix it -- the answer is always the same: Burn more calories than you take in.
The math is easy. But getting it into practice is where things get tricky.
One of the things that's always been sort of a pain in doing this math is the whole "How Many Calories am I taking in?" part of the equation. First of all, it's hard to get straight numbers -- especially if you live a hectic lifestyle and frequently eat on the run. Even when I have an idea of what I'm eating and what's in it -- it's hard to get a specific reading of how sauces, spices, or even how you cook something might come into play.
The other thing about it is that even when you do have the knowledge available -- how do you track it?
Calorie counting websites have been around for a while. The electronic outgrowth of the old "food diary" ideas. In theory it's an awesome idea -- just put in the foods you eat, let the website do the math, and then adjust your intake based off the data it puts back out at you. The problem has always been that depending on what kinds of food you eat -- sometimes you're left "creating" entries in the database. Sometimes this is easy -- foods you cook have all info written on the label.
But then you hit a restaurant, or a drive-thru, or a truck stop vending machine..
Plus (and this is really the worst part) is that once you get in the habit of writing all this down, it's sometimes a hard mirror to look at. And if your issue going into the process is the basic lack of self-discipline not to eat crappy food (or counter it with the appropriate amount of exercise) -- that your food diary becomes sort of a boogeyman. The food diary doesn't know that you had a hard day, or that you were on the road all night and just needed some sugar to keep awake for those last 100 miles -- it just sits there judging you like Tony Dungy.
So you cheat it. You don't enter certain things, or you fudge the
serving sizes. Or worse, you just sort of give up on it all together.
The other thing that makes it a hassle is portability. Lives are busy, so it's not always convenient to pull up a website after every meal -- leading you to this place where at the end of a day (or worse, the next day) you're trying to remember what you ate, fill in the blanks so to speak.
It's still really about self-discipline (as always) -- but having quicker access would certainly help.
Which is why I found myself intrigued when a my boy Satorical suggested a new site called Loseit.com. Essentially a calorie database tracker, it also offers active forums full of people offering encouragement, recipe suggestions, and constructive ideas of how to get back on track when things go south.

The best part, James said was that it's all integrated with an iPhone app. When he eats or exercises -- he just updates the app and then gets on with his day. Simple, easy, and clean.

Of course (as I'm sure you all read in yesterday's post) I'm a Droid guy -- but most things that are on iPhone these days have a corresponding Android equivalent, so it was just a matter of finding it and installing it on my phone.

A quick check of the Android market turned up a Loseit app, which I quickly downloaded and installed. The icon on the app itself looked a little different from the website's -- but that's not really that unusual with droid apps, so I didn't think much of it.
But then when I activated the thing -- what I found was a lot different than
what I imagine the LoseIt.com would like to have attached to their name:

[Listening to:  Killing Joke - "Change" ]


Tuesday, October 26

Vyvyan

Ok before I get to this, let me just say that even though I've had my issues with it and gone through 4 replacements since starting out with them, that in general I like the Droid. It's a pretty solid phone, does a ton of cool stuff, and essentially lets me run my life out of one box. There are features here and there that could work better and it's not as slick as an iPhone -- but it works for me to the point where I've all but handed all of my communication, calendaring, and quick social networking duties over to it.

In fact when you get right down to it -- the real problem with the droid is it presents itself as a "do everything" sort of gizmo, which frequently leads you to think it actually can. So you load it up with apps, each that are supposed to integrate with each other and share data and get along like good little skynet systems -- only to find that (surprise, surprise) there are limits to what the processor can handle at one time.

At the same time, despite being a pretty cool gizmo -- it happens to be tied to a cell phone company that while still preferable to AT&T (never, ever again with those fucks) still tends to be an utter pain in the ass to deal with whenever you actually need help with something that doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

Case in point. The Droid says that it can be used as a wifi hotspot or a tethered modem. In other words, you can plug this into your laptop and share it's network access. There's even a button in the settings that turns this feature on and off.

The other day -- tired of the games the new IT regime at my job is continuing to play blocking music sites that were previously available like Pandora and Last.fm, I decided to go around them by bringing the lapper in with me and just run it through the phone. I had the cables, it says it could do the trick -- seemed like a nice little plan.
Except that I couldn't get it to work.
I'm no tech genius, but I also know that I'm capable of making most things work that are designed to set up a certain way. I had it plugged in right, it just wouldn't ..go. I tried a few variations, but couldn’t find the trick -- so I finally threw my hands up and called customer service for an assist.

And not for nothing -- But I always like it when you call people on the phone and can clearly tell that they're reading answers to you. That instills tons of confidence.

Anyways, I explain my situation, and the gal on the line says that my phone cant do that. To which I reply that I actually think it can. She insists no, I tell her that I'm looking at the switch that makes it do that -- and we argue a little more about it until she finally sort of relents and moves on to her next point -- which is that if I want to tether my computer it costs like $20-$30 more a month for data sharing. When I tell her my plan offers unlimited data sharing, she informs me that this is "different" data sharing.

Then just as I'm about to inform her of all the ways her last statement doesn't make any sense whatsoever when she breaks into my line of speech and says "I found it! -- It says here is that only the Droid 2 can tether data."
Oh boy, Here we go.
I don't want to buy a new phone, I tell her (sensing a sales pitch racing in) -- but she insists that my warranty agreement enables me one as a free replacement.
This also makes no sense, but I sort of let her run with it because hey -- free phone, right?
So that's in the mail apparently, but it doesn’t solve my real issue -- which is making my current phone do something it's already claiming to be able to do. We go round and round on this for a while with no result, essentially with me telling her that I would wait until I saw the new phone to decide on the different data plan.

After the call ended, I sat there in front of my computer and phone -- music-less, sort of frustrated, and decided to give it another go. I tried some tech blogs, googled some different things, and came up with an app that said it could do what I wanted -- so what the hell.

Install, transfer, plug in.. Bingo.

High speed free of charge Internet right from my phone directly onto my laptop. Tunes ahoy. Blocked sites available. No extra data plan, no nothing. Just plug and play -- Droid does, and away we go.
The new phone arrives tomorrow. No idea what I'm gonna do with that thing now.
Anyways -- for all around lack of helpfulness and then giving away a product that I don't need for free just to shut me up, I'm awarding this Vyvyan to my cell phone provider, Verizon Wireless.
ps -- That thing you said my phone couldn't do? It's doing it now.

[Listening to:  Caro Emerald - "Back It Up" ]


Monday, October 25

I Like My Women Crazy

..Anyone who knows me will tell you that. But there is a limit:
I don't care how fine you are -- there's no way you'll ever get me to wear a Snuggie.

[Listening to:  Polkadot Cadaver - "Long Strange Trip to Paradise" ]


Wednesday, October 20

Sharif Don't Like It


[Listening to:  Polkadot Cadaver - "Purgatory Dance Party" ]


Tuesday, October 19

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"Girl you gonna think I invented socks."

[Listening to:  Lovage - "To Catch a Theif" ]


Monday, October 18

Sometimes I Fall I Slip

A small child in a room full of toys. One of those garage playsets with two levels, the bottom a dashed-line road painted alongside painted green grass, treetops looking down, and smiling painted animals looking up. The top level the garage where the matchbox and the hot wheels wait for the fingers to push them along.

The best part about this toy was that if you turned the little crank on top of the parking garage the little road on the bottom level would move like a little conveyor belt. Around and around the supports of the top level the road would go, coming around the corner, going through the tunnel, and if you wanted -- onto a curving ramp with little hooks that would hold the toy cars in place as it pulled them to the second level.
I don't know why, but I loved this toy.
It wasn't even mine -- but it was at a daycare center I spent many an afternoon at after school while my brother and I waited for my parents to get off work and pick us up. This was in the days before we were old enough to latch-key, back when we went daycare to daycare trying to find a place that my parents could afford that wasn't so low budget that they didn't feel weird about leaving us there for hours at a time.

What I would do -- I don't even know why I'm telling you this, or why the memory came shooting back to me this morning bright as a sunbeam through a raincloud -- what I would do is steal this toy away, and get under a table in the playroom. The table had a cloth over it, so the light underneath was low. Not dark like night, but enough that the shadows would stretch depending on where you watched them from.

I'd take Matchbox cars I'd hidden in my bookbag and held onto all day at school, and I'd put them on the lower road, randomly spaced. They'd sit there still, staggered in a traffic jam still life. Backlit like characters in some noir film. And then I'd lay on the ground, eye level with the pretend road, and I would turn the crank on top.
And the cars would just go round and round, and their shadows would
grow, stretch, and fade as the toys rounded the corner and disappeared.
They would come back again in a few turns, but as I remember it the point wasn't about seeing them come back as much as it was about feeling them move. About seeing it with your eyes, but somehow feeling it deep inside -- that Doppler shift where the motion was evident, the reality seemed to lean, and the things that were once stuck in place were able to find their momentum and move forward -- on with their busy lives with places to go and things to take care of.

I would watch this for what seemed endless loops of time. Sometimes I would invent stories to go along with it. A cop chasing a bad guy, something I'd seen on TV.
But more often than not it was me in that car.
Not a little kid anymore, not held back by a road that never seemed to move without hands from above -- but riding fast and free through the night, the shadows of my car stretching and fading along the walls of some far off freeway tunnel.

To be in one place forever dreaming of being in another is natural. But to stay in one place imagining it happening while you have the power to just get up and make it happen is a transition I think some of us don't always have the easiest time with.
I have the power to make the shadows move. I can drive a thousand miles without ever touching the road.
But when the lights go up and the wheel stops turning. When you realize you've
imagined a million journeys but never actually moved from where you started..

[Listening to:  Kings of Leon - "Radioactive" ]


Sunday, October 17

She Said She Loved the Smell of Old Books

And really.. who could argue with that?

[Listening to:  Namie Amuro - "Handle Me" ]


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