My Newest Obsession

I used to spend a large portion of my free time unwinding in front of the TV but I’ve found that I’m spending less and less time each week doing that. Instead I’ve poured a lot more of my time into reading books. I’ve always enjoyed reading and to me it’s a very intimate experience sitting down with a book and blocking out everything around you.

181_cartoon_kindle

I’ve owned a Kindle since 2009 and it’s reading digital books is my preferred method of enjoying a book. I’ve since purchased an iPad Mini and an iPhone so I’m able to read the book on any of those three devices and it syncs between all three of them. If I have a few spare minutes while waiting to pick up the kids I can open up the Kindle app on my phone and squeeze in a chapter or two. The bulk of my reading is now done on my iPad.

The one downside to the Kindle was always the cost of the books. They are relatively cheap in comparison to physical books (most Kindle books retail for $9.99) but as documented before, I am a bit of a cheapskate. I couldn’t justify spending $50+ per month on books. I don’t know why I have that hang up because I’ll easily pay that amount to go to the movies or go out for cocktails. I don’t want to discuss much money I spend on the cable TV bill each month.

What’s spurred this latest book kick on has been the ability to get library books on my Kindle. The books are loaned out for two weeks at a time and you can’t beat the price (free!).

I purchased a library membership for $25 where we vacation and that fee has more than paid for itself. That library seems to always have the books I’m interested in reading available for download. I also belong to my county library but the availability of books isn’t as good as from our vacation destination. My county library has the same selection of books but there’s a lot more people taking advantage of the loan system so I often have to go onto a waiting list to grab what I want. I’m not a waiting list kind of guy.

Over the past five weeks I’ve read five novels. I’m currently in the midst of the 6th one and I have to admit, I really do look forward to unwinding a bit each night to get a little further along in each story. Thus far I’ve only read fiction. I’m contemplating whether I should venture into non-fiction but at this point I’m happy enjoying the suspense of a good novel.

I recently bought a 2nd Kindle to read on the beach. We were getting ready to go on vacation and our Kindle was missing in action. Although we have iPads, nothing beats a Kindle when it comes to reading outside. I don’t know how they do it by there is never any glare and the words are crystal clear. I bought the cheapest version that Amazon offers, a $69 ad supported Kindle. It does the job perfectly. As soon as the new Kindle arrived we found the old one. Go figure.

$69 Kindle

Because we had a spare Kindle sitting around my youngest child (BT) wanted to start reading on the device. His latest obsession is the Percy Jackson series, which is an advance reading level for his age. We’ve grabbed his books through the library as well. As a parent, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a child turn off the TV and get wrapped up in a book.

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Being an Introvert

It’s funny how different people unwind in different ways. Extroverts generally need to be around others to unwind. Introverts need time alone. Mrs. Mac is in category #1, I fall into category #2.

Both of us struggle with this concept because our definitions of decompressing are completely opposite. When Mrs. Mac finishes something stressful, her first impulse is to get a gaggle of friends together and go somewhere. When I need to unwind, I’m content to sit in my easy chair and read or diddle around on the computer. I’m not sure if being polar opposites is good or bad for a married couple?

introvert

Today happens to be a great day for me. I took the day off as the beginning of our upcoming family vacation. Mrs. Mac took the kids to see the Taylor Swift concert while I stayed home by myself. Some would think that I got the wrong end of the stick but I disagree.

Once we went through the prep of getting the tailgate set up for Mrs. Mac and the kids, I found myself alone at two in the afternoon. I decided to take a nice 90 minute walk while listening to a couple of podcasts on my iPhone and then filling in with some music once the podcasts were finished.

I came back and made some dinner for myself and then hopped onto the computer to do a little internet surfing and then some blogging. Once I post this, I have the balance of my evening set up as a date with my Kindle and a few Heineken’s (My current read is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol). Some might find that to be a boring night but I’m enjoying myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy being around people. I’m a relatively social person although sometimes I struggle with engaging people in small talk. I’m not one of those people that needs to just hear myself talk. I’m content to sit in silence. I just find myself getting tired when spending too much time with others. It’s work to focus and concentrate on the conversations that take place.

How about you?

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Should I Post?

I’m not sure what my plans are with journaling and blogging moving forward. This confusion has to do with where to post my information. I know my plan to journal my life is to blog daily. That’s the easy part of the decision.

The confusion is figuring out where I want to post my material. I have three different blogs with a ton of material on each of them. One is a family blog that is posted for the whole world to see. I put it in place so family and friends would be able to follow the major happenings in our family, especially since I suck at keeping in touch with those close to me. The family blog is something to chronicle our family life and I picture my children referring to it when they are older. It’s like a baby book (which we never bothered to do for any of them) on steroids. I have no problem with that one remaining in the public domain (although Mrs. Mac occasionally has issues with it).

That leaves me with the two other blogs and I’m not sure how to incorporate them with my current devotion to journaling. One is in the public domain (The Internet Journalist) and one is private. The private one is password protected and no one has read from the private blog aside from myself.

The Internet Journalist has a bit of a following to it (although I haven’t updated it since May of 2011). I’ve had 101,118 page views to the blog, including 19,872 people who visited my Hillsborough post on one day (September 12, 2012, the day that British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized to the families of the Hillsborough survivors for the cover-up by the British government).

Although The Internet Journalist is in the public domain, I’ve done a decent job of keeping things private. I’ve tried to take the approach of writing it under a pseudonym (Mac, The Internet Journalist) and I’ve made it a point not to include family names, family pictures, or anything too specific that would identify me to the outside world. That kind of material is saved for the family blog. Obviously someone that knows me well would be able to decipher exactly who the author of the blog was within minutes.

I like the concept of blogging in the public arena. It’s great to have followers to a blog and I enjoy the interaction that comes with readers commenting. There is a kick you get when you write something and you know that people come back repeatedly to check for updates. I don’t mind exposing some of my thoughts and feelings but I don’t want to be accused of airing all of my dirty laundry in public. Mrs. Mac is not a fan of the online world and she can’t understand the need of people to share stuff with complete strangers. I happen to be one of those people she doesn’t understand. I don’t know why but I find it easier to share things with strangers but difficult to share with those closest to me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but then again, I never claimed to make much sense.

Perhaps the solution is to post everything publicly. The few items I want to keep private I could simply post as private (which means a password is required) onto the public blog. I’ll have to think this issue through over then next couple of days. For now this post will go to the private blog while I piece things together. (If you’re reading this on the Internet Journalist, then I guess you know which way the decision actually went!)

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Weight Loss Success

I wanted to share the success story of my weight loss. Today (July 17, 2013) is the 100 day mark of my journey.

On April 8, 2013 I made the decision that I wanted to drop 30 pounds. On that date I weighed in at 205 pounds and I had an appointment with my doctor in 30 days. I knew he was going to yell at me about my weight and I was pretty certain that my blood pressure reading was going to be too high.

I made the decision to follow the Weight Watchers Points Plus Plan. I went with this option because fruits and vegetables are point free, meaning that they don’t count against your daily allotment of points to eat. I figured I would eat the hell out of fruits and veggies to make sure that I didn’t go hungry at any point. I think the Weight Watchers plan makes the most sense out of all the plans out there. It doesn’t prevent you from eating a particular type of food (carbs, fats, etc). It doesn’t require you to purchase special food or change the foods that you regularly eat. The program focuses on helping you make smarter choices on what you put into your body.

In keeping with my cheapskate nature, I didn’t want to pay for the Weight Watchers program. I figured I could found some sort of iPhone app that would track what I ate. I did a quick search online and I found an App in the Apple Store called iTrack Bites for $2.99. It’s also available for Android.

itrackbites

In a move to avoid copyright and trademark infringement, the app tracks “bites” in place of “points”. You keep track of everything that you eat and assign it a “bites” (points) value. It provides a basic lookup tool to help you assign points to different foods but Google did a great job of filling in where it may have lacked. I also made the decision to exercise in companion with the reduction in food.

The weight came off quickly:

  • 8.7 lbs in the first 7 days
  • 18.3 lbs in the first 30 days (just in time for the visit with Dr. Miller)
  • 29.1 lbs in the first 60 days
  • 34.1 lbs in the first 90 days

I weighed in this morning at 169.1 lbs, which is over 35 lbs down from where I started.

The weight loss has slowed down over the past 45 days and I’m ok with that. I’ve gotten below my target goal and although I’d like to get down to 165 lbs (the weight I was at in 1999 when I started at my current job) it’s not a huge priority. I do need to step being fanatical with the process. Mrs. Mac has mentioned that I’m getting a little freaky with my obsession. I’ve gotten to the point where I will continue to track what I’m eating but that’s to make sure I don’t start going in the other direction. I should enjoy some of the old favorites I’ve given up (chicken wings, donuts, and red meat) but I know enough now not to overindulge on those items.

The key now is to maintain and continue my exercise habit. I just did the math and I’ve logged 230.88 miles in the past 100 days according to my MapMyRun account.

The one regret is that I haven’t shared exactly how I did this with anyone. I felt embarrassed to tell people I was following Weight Watchers or that I’ve been tracking my intake. I know Mrs. Mac will be pissed off at me when I finally let it slip. I don’t know why I struggle with these type of situations.

It really is stupid.

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guess Who’s Back?

I’ve pondered the concept of keeping a journal for ages. I’ve had runs of writing and then stopping because it takes too much effort. I love the concept of keeping a journal but when all is said and done I guess I lack the discipline to follow through.

I’m revisiting the concept of a journal based on a free app that I downloaded, Day One. I thought the app would help me keep up to date because its on my iPhone and it would be convenient to use. Once I embraced the idea it began to dawn on me that I had a WordPress blog (which you’re reading) that accomplishes the same task. It’s just as easy to use the WordPress app on my iPhone/iPad as the Day One app. The other advantage to using the blog is that I can update from my computer or via email. I don’t have that option with Day One. I would need to buy a $9.99 app to use it on my Mac and I would have no access from a PC.

The key to making this new run of journaling stick is to make it less of an effort to produce. The entries will be smaller (less than 300 words) but hopefully with a lot more frequency. I hope to incorporate more photos with expanded captions to help with the process. My goal is to chronicle my thoughts and goals as well as my daily actions.

I also want to couple the journaling on this blog with my family blog, which chronicles our family activity. I need to post to that blog with more frequency because that blog is a gift that I can leave to the kids to give them a history of their childhood.

The two blogs serve separate functions. One is my public persona to share with others while this one is focused on my private thoughts. Lets see how this process goes.

I’ve been listening to Ed Dale’s Walking With Larry Podcast and he’s spent a lot of time discussing the importance of keeping a streak going, no matter what the process you are trying to establish. Lets see if I can follow his example with my personal blogging.

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solitude Revisited

The next step in my series of small changes in habits I’m going to make is to turn the radio off when I’m in the car with the family. I’m also going to make it a habit to turn the radio off when I’m in the car alone. It goes back to finding a little solitude for myself as I mentioned in a previous post.

Turning the radio off with the kids in the car is something I’ve started over the past few days and it’s amazing what a difference it makes. The quiet becomes noticeable quickly and there is a period of awkward silence. After a few moments the quiet becomes your ally and in its own way it encourages conversation. I guess it has to do with the fact that people are accustomed to background noise.

We’ve had some nice conversations in the car over the past few days and that’s a good thing. It’s tough to get my teenage kids to open up and talk. They’re at that awful stage where anywhere is cooler than being with Mom and Dad and to engage them is something that gets more and more difficult every day. Since they’re still at that stage when they need the Mom & Pop taxi service to get them where they need to be I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity.

The other change is learning to accept the quiet when I’m on my own. I don’t listen to the radio per se, I listen to podcasts from my phone, but I’ve always had noise to keep me occupied while I drive. I’ve found that by just leaving the noise off for the first 10 minutes of my ride that I find focus and clarity to think some things through. This has to be a good thing overall because my wife and I spend a lot of our time running around and not always planning.

Like I said, small little habits repeated daily eventually amount to some big change.

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Good Bye Dear Friend

I am a huge fan of Twitter as documented in this post. It has been my go to source for news and easily the app that is used most on my cell phone. I am a bit of a news junkie and I love getting the news as it happens delivered to me in 140 characters or less.

I love the inside view that Twitter provides, you get to see a little bit of the story behind the story. I have columnists I love to follow and it’s cool getting a look at some of the behind the scenes conversations that Twitter provides. There’s something perversely fun about watching journalists from two different periodicals giving each other a tough time about something they wrote–usually in jest. It’s also fun taking a peek into the lives of celebrities who also post what they are up to.

Over the past few days I’ve been looking for ways to free up some of my time to do more productive things. I am looking to change the status quo and make some significant changes in my life. Part of that evaluation was taking a look at the amount of time I spent on my cell phone and ways that I could cut it back.

In analyzing that time, it occurred to me that I spent well over an hour per day following my Twitter stream. I love getting tidbits of news as they occur but I it was tough to come to the realization that I was going through a lot of excess noise to get the information I really wanted. In almost every case, the news I’m looking for on Twitter can also be found with an RSS feed that goes into my Google Reader account (where I also spend at least 30 minutes per day).

In evaluating the two platforms of news delivery, I think switching all of my feeds over to my Google Reader account is my most time efficient. Instead of reading through a time line to sift out the news I’m looking for, I can go to the Reader account and breeze through the headlines once or twice per day. I think this move will free up some extra time for me.

The next difficult decision ahead is trimming back my Facebook feed and deleting some friends. This Twitter decision has been a tough one for me and I’m not ready to go completely radical with my social media. Let’s see how this one works out first.

Posted in Mac's Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment