Wasting Time

Thing to work on: no more "down time" at work.

I need to focus more when I am working... I need to stop changing gears, stop servicing requests that are not emergencies as if they are, and I have to stop doing non-work stuff during context changes.

This is so that I can get more done in less time. Every time I check email, try to find a good recipe for ribs, or stop to get a drink I am trading time after work... I don't hate my job, I just have lots of non-job-related stuff I want to do and so I need to be more effective so work takes less time.

I am the 5 trillionth person to feel this way. Please send my free toaster as soon as it is available.


Free time

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of time to do new, interesting, educational, fun, creative, beneficent, philanthropic, and/or personally gratifying things created by the following conditions:

  • Not being immortal (as far as I know)
  • Not being filthy, stinkin' rich (yet)
  • Having to eat, sleep, and obey other biological imperatives (the fact that I can use my own body parts to do this stuff is somewhat uplifting)
  • Lack of direction from extra-terrestrial overlords (once a decade is NOT enough)
  • The almost glacial pace of the space program (see above; I'd come to you if I could)
  • Lack of telepathy (at least when other people are around)
  • 24 hour day (so archaic)




Yes, I haven't posted for a while. Been busy. Here is a quick update:

  • Mulroney does have "something to hide". We'll have to see how this shakes out.
  • My dog's leg is injured... It'll be a week before he can really be active again. No walkies, fetching, etc. Arg. This'll be a long week for both of us. He is taking his anti-inflammatory meds without complaining. Good boy.
  • Been mostly working at home, which is nice.
  • I am horribly lonely because my SO is away on business.
  • I have finally discovered the secret to excellent pizza dough: 20% semolina flour in the dough.
  • I am not losing weight.
  • I am generally feeling healthy but have been having bad pain in my back the last couple weeks but that is abating and I am able to sleep several hours in a row again. Sweet.

That's it. Yawn.


Surf Side Inn

Spent last night at the Surfside Inn in Queensland (right across from Queensland beach). We got a good deal by subscribing to their last minute deals newsletter. We got a room, a three course meal, continental breakfast (which didn't make it down to but looked good), a bottle of champagne (Tott's brut, not so good but included and cold), and a room with a large corner tub and queen bed.

The room was really nice as was the tub. The bed left a little to be desired but wasn't any worse than the bed I had before my current one. The meal was phenomenal... very tasty. Considering the value of the meal, sparkling wine, and so on, we pretty much stayed for free. I'd consider going back for the food.

Our meals:

  • Apps - I had a bowl of mussels steamed in beer and garlic, she had a ceaser salad. Both were very tasty and generous. The mussel broth was wonderful when sopped up with the crusty rolls that accompanied our dinner.
  • Mains - I had a pasta (fettucini with a roasted vegetable cream sauce and some chicken tossed in). The pasta wasn't anything special but it was well made, cooked properly, and seasoned perfectly. Best of all it arrived at the perfect temperature (I have frequently had cold pastas served to me). She had a striploin with a nice red wine reduction sauce, roasted potatoes, and veggies. The steak was cooked perfectly as ordered and the sauce was really well done. Nice reduction, I think finished with a bit of butter (maybe? I didn't eat more than a sliver to taste). I am not a big steak fan unless we are talking rib eye but it was tasty.
  • Dessert - I had a really tasty bread pudding presented nicely with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and she had cranberry crumble with more delicious ice cream. Both were as good enough to make us ooh and ahh a couple times. :)
  • We had a glass of house red as well.
  • Everything but the wine was included in our package. The menu we chose from is the same offered in the dining room.

I wouldn't spend too many nights in a row here because we found the bed a little uncomfortable but in general it was an excellent stay and the area is really picturesque.

We slept in and missed the continental breakfast but ate a full breakfast at The Trellis Cafe, just down the road. I loved it all (they use this amazing whole grain bread for the toast and french toast) except my scrambled were made with water (I think) instead of cream. I was a breakfast cook in hotels for a while at different times and having made a million scrambled eggs, I think they are best on their own, finished with a dab of butter, a little salt, and white pepper. When you use water I find it makes the eggs light and fluffy but also bland tasting. To each his own, though. I know many people like them this way and it is a little healthier, I suppose.


Back to normal

OK, I was sick and now I am not. :) Well, I still have Crohn's but, hey, doesn't everyone these days?

What's new:

  • Had another spectacularly good meal at Hamachi House last night (in Dartmouth). I had the Calamari, because you would need to be insane not to, and followed it up with "Tofu Steak" (basically pieces of flat-grilled tofu served on a mound of delicious spinach and dressed with a delicious sesame vinagrette; this is accompanied by their standard veggies and a choice of starch: I chose the fresh cut fries and was very happy with them).
  • One of our dogs has been on a diet because he was getting a little hefty (too many calories as opposed to not enough exercise). He's slimming down now and is more active than ever if that is even possible.
  • CD: I felt REALLY good for a while after my cold cleared up but the last couple days have been rough. More exhaustion than pain although I am getting pain now in my back, etc. I was sort of enjoying being sick with the cold because for some reason all my aches and pains abated for a while. :) Go figure.
  • Health food: I started taking Greens+ detox. It seems to treat me right and I think the extra nutrients are beneficial. I am sure a study showing this product damages various internal organs is right around the corner but that's life.

Oh, also, I was in no way involved in a Hummer that accidentally rammed into a house in my city nor was I involved in the 18-car police chase in that same city days later. No, I am a peaceable, law-abiding citizen. I have been involved in the sense that I am forced to ask myself what kind of city I am living in. It certainly doesn't feel like the one I grew up in although Dartmouth has always been a little rough around the edges (which I like).

I guess the level of violent crime seems to be going up but it could simply be a function of growing population. And the increasingly bad driving could be a symptom of people being busier and more preoccupied with their own lives instead of trying to watch out for the people around them.

Do I have any hope that our city will wise up and start behaving more responsibly? Good question! Not sure I know the answer yet.



Nothing much to report. I've been laid low by a cold I caught on a camping expedition to the Cabot Trail... I fell asleep by the fire and the fire went out (I was sitting up in a chair looking at the night sky). Rookie mistake. Anyway, that's life. Been pretty sick for a week, missed a day of work, etc. Feeling 75% better now so I should be OK by next week.



Why The Scale Lies

Great article on weighing yourself and what to think about when you do so: Why The Scale Lies

My personal technique (lately with the help of Physics Diet is to weigh myself every morning right after I get out of bed. I then record it and maintain a 10% moving average (well, that site does it for me, I used to use Excel or something). This smooths out the highs and lows and shows you if you are losing weight or gaining and at what rate. Doing this every day keeps things in perspective. Far from obsessing over my weight each day, I simply record it and use it as a guide for how I am doing over the very, very long time it will take me to lose the weight I want to lose (I am going from about 250+ to 185 if I can... I am doing it slowly by changing my eating habits and attitudes toward food and activity).


Walk away your troubles

I have Crohn's Disease (a very mild case) and I just wanted to post here in case people are googling for info... this is just an anecdotal report and I am definitely not using a scientific method here but I am here to tell you that mild exercise has definitely helped me manage my condition.

I have a lot of pain from inflammation and I have noticed if I come home from work (where I sit at desk most of the day) and then just sit around for the evening, I get progressively stiffer and more uncomfortable as the night wears on... sleeping then isn't very good and I often wake up for an hour or so and just sit up waiting for the aches and pains to pass before going back to bed (I have a very comfortable bed, but it seems like lying down causes me to slowly be in more and more pain till I can't stand to be in bed anymore and need to either get up and sleep sitting up on the couch or just stay up and try to walk around a bit).

Lately, though, I have been able to stay in bed all night most nights (I still wake up all the time but am able to change my sleeping position/elevation after using the washroom and having some water and go back to sleep). I have been trying to either do a combination of a healthy meal, a walk, and chores (inside or out) every night... I find the exercise really helps keep me from getting to stiff and sore before bed so when I go to bed (at say 10PM till 5:45AM) I am more comfortable and more worn out so I sleep more deeply.

One cavet: there are always days when I come home exhausted and really in pain. On those days I don't force myself to work or move. I just hunker down and try to get to bed as early as possible as I feel exhausted and am able to sleep from sheer exhauastion... In the morning I normally feel better (not 100% better but see improvement over 2 days).

Anyway, eat healthy, drink lots of water, get enough sleep and feel better everyone.



Dog walking

Up until late Spring this year I walked my dog pretty much daily to exercise him and I. Over the Summer, my own health issues and various things that had to get done interfered with this and I stopped doing it (I feel bad about this). The result is I am in worse shape day to day and the dog isn't getting out enough (we always made sure to exercise him in the yard, take him swimming, etc. to replace the walks but it isn't the same).

I have recently resumed the walks (was out at 5AM this morning) and am feeling better and the dog is less rambunctious now, too. Since he gets better on the leash as he ages (he is a 90+ lbs. Lab crossed with AmStaff so quite a handful) I went out and got a 5m long leash (15ft).

The new leash is a ton of fun and give Lukie some freedom without being difficult to retract if I need to control or restrain him (I have tried those retractable leashes but I find the large, plastic handle annoying and the black line is easily tangled and so on... the long leash is much better).

Anyway, it is good to be walking him regularly and we are both able to enjoy the walks more thanks to the new leash.







I am in Montreal. We are going to do some eating. This vacation is much needed. We aren't finding the driving that bad (my lovely s.o. has been here before so she is driving while I obsessively navigate).



Smelly sandals

I own Teva sandals and love them but even though the sole is supposed to be anti-bacterial they still smell bad. Awful, in fact. Yes, I can clear a room. God help you if you have to share a car with me in the summer.

That is until now.

Yesterday I Googled the problem and learned that you can spray your sandals down with spray deodorant. I got some Old Spice spray deodorant on sale and have used it for the past 24 hours. So far, so good...

I have tried Lysol in the past but found my feet got dry and cracked from it so this is a nice compromise (I am assuming the deodorant is a little easier on me but maybe not as it is just the first day).

My technique is to spray the sandals down when I take them off and then spray my feet right before sliding them into the sandals the next time I wear them. I have noticed a big difference so far.


Missing Blog!

I just had a little scare there. I set up Google Apps for this domain this morning while waiting for my rice to cook. When I came into work I loaded up my blog and found a 404 page that looked very much like Blogger.

Anyway, after some searching and logging in through the main blogger.com page I learned all the content was still there (I back it up into Thunderbird by pulling down the RSS feed anyway) and then found a newsgroup post that helped me fix this problem.

All I had to do was go into the Custom Domain config area (Settings->Publishing) and switch my domain from www.repulsemonkey.com to blog.repulsemonkey.com and then back to www (just made a change, saved it, made another change to put it back the way it was). Whatever happened kickstarted everything and I am no seeing the blog again.


Cable TV? Gone.

Once again, I have no cable. This is good. We decided to get rid of it since neither of us was watching it much and lately I have found myself watching it late at night when I should be sleeping.

Anyway, I returned the digital cable box tonight and am now downloading things like crazy (just kidding). I am looking forward to reading more, sleeping more, and spending more time in teh yard.

How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)

Cool gearlist from the author of 4-hour Workweek: How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)

This is particularly cool and a great idea for people who travel, shop, then suddenly realize they need another bag: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BNGHJO?ie=UTF8&tag=offsitoftimfe-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000BNGHJO


Hamachi House - Portland St., Dartmouth, NS

Food was excellent, service top-notch, bill was pricey but fair.

I started with Calamari, breaded with Panko breadcrumbs and deep fried to perfection. The sauce provided was delicious. We then had a wide assortment of sushi, all spectacularly good and very fresh.

Great place for special occasions but too pricey for every day. It is very refreshing to be able to eat at a place of that quality in Dartmouth.


Things I have learned (part 1,203,321)

This is the first post in a series of what could be many on things I have learned during my short time on Earth. These are presented in no particular order of important, chronology, or relevance and I make no pretensions to their profundity.

  • Dogs love to sleep and many are photogenic.
  • Montreal Style bacon from Pete's Frootique is the best form of meat ever.
  • Energy drinks really do work but there's no substitute for a good night's sleep.
  • Sometimes people really don't "see the humour".
  • GTD is really effective only when you actually do things (DT).
  • Index cards are the perfect size for grocery lists, todo items, and general notes. You can fit many of them in a small "snack-size" ziploc along with a Uni-Ball Vision pen. This is better than a PDA for me as long as I process these notes into electronic form (calendar entries, TODO items, emails sent off, reference material filed, etc) on a regular basis.

Stone Walkway

I am slowly building a stone walkway with some old concrete to reuse the concrete and improve our yard a bit. For details on how I am doing it and why I am doing it, read on.

The materials for our walkway come from some concrete steps that were on the back of our house. These steps were demolished so a wooden deck could be built in their place... The steps were hollow and there was lots of gravel under them. I saved the larger concrete slabs and all the gravel. The remainder of the steps will be left in place under the deck, out of the way.

By the way, if you need to remove a set of concrete steps you can probably do it with a long-handled sledge hammer. Be persistent, use long swings of the hammer, and let the weight of the hammer do the work. Just drop it down on the block. It might take a few hits in the same spot but eventually a crack will form and the steps will fracture.

Here is the technique I am using to build the stone walkway:

  • Find a nice stone slab and identify the next place to put it (about one easy stride along the eroded pathway)
  • Orient the slab and cut around it with a shovel
  • Flip the slab over so it is out of the way and dig straight down according to your outline
  • The slabs are about 4 inches thick so I dig down around 7 or 8 inches
  • Find some larger rocks in the dirt they hauled up while digging the post holes and place them in the hole in the bottom
  • Pour about 2 inches of gravel in there and level it off
  • Roll the stone into the hole and see if it is sitting ok, if not use gravel to level things up
  • Roll the stone in until it is sitting flat and not rocking then jump up and down on it or hammer it in with a bucket of gravel or earth
  • When it is flat (sort of, you want to bias it so water runs off it and away from the house) pack in as much dirt as you can around the stone and really hammer it in (I used the end handle end of my sledgehammer as my father showed me to do). :)
  • Finally, move around on the rock and make sure it doesn't wobble. If it does wobble a lot you didn't do a good enough job with the gravel... if it wobbles a little, just pack more dirt in.
  • There is lots of left-over soil from this... We are using it to build up the gardens and what isn't needed I dump at the base of a tree in the back corner of our lot.
Why would someone build a walkway like this:
  • Reduces wear and tear - people and dogs will tend to (or have a chance to) use the stones and not the grass to walk on... so the grass tends to grow up between the stones. Right now I have dirt or mud when it is wet.
  • Drainage - this heavily used area used to be packed dirt... now it has little areas with good drainage into gravel sinks every couple feet... it will keep that area drier and allow it to drain which also reduces wear and tear.
  • Looks nice - a stone walkway looks better than mud or dirt.
  • Reuse - what else am I going to do with all that concrete from the steps?!?


North Country (2005)

North Country (2005)

Hard to watch at times, this movie deals with very serious themes. I think it would be too much for smaller children but could be OK for teenagers to see.

Basically, it is the story of a landmark lawsuit that won rights for women in the workplace (in this case a tough-as-nails steel mine). This is just a glimpse into the lives of these women but almost overwhelmed me with the cruelty and abuse they put up with. If you need a good laugh, watch something else, but take the time to watch this too... and keep the kleenex handy.


Knocked Up (2006)

Knocked Up (2006): hilarious comedy with lots of non-suitable-for-kids content. All I can say is this may hit a little close to home for many people but is more enjoyable because of it. I would recommend this to anyone who finds pregnancy, relationships, or juvenile male humor funny. Yes, there is something for everyone. I laughed a lot and cried a little.


Stats crazy

I hooked the blog up with Google Analytics and Adsense. I expect to make $3 in the next 10 years. The analytics results will no doubt be depressing as well. :) To the two people that read this blog: keep up the good work.


Hidalgo - not bad Rage of the Master - good for sleeping, some good fighting Casanova - entertaining (Lena Olin is good in this)


Loud computer fan

My home workstation was so loud it was crazy. It had been getting gradually louder. I searched for solutions using Google and based on what I read thought maybe a wire was lying on the fan. I took the case off and sure enough there was something on the fan. It was an elastic some cables had been tied with that had "rotted". One free end was dangling onto the very top of the fan... Pretty loud! I blew the dust out, removed the elastic, and secured the cables another way. Seems fine now.


Update post

I haven't posted for a while. I have been focusing on work and home. Anything in between (blogging, reading RSS, researching stuff) has been put on hold. Special exceptions are being made for family and friends of course.

I wanted to get back to blogging, though, as it is a good way to practice writing daily, get things off my chest, and record of snapshot of my personality for review later (ever read a journal from "10 years ago"?).

Anyway, here it is in a nutshell:

- I went from using Google Calendar to using a paper agenda back to Google Calendar (tried it, liked it, needed more features)

- my Chron's tracker shows a good to bad days ratio of .48 so I am feeling just a shade under the weather all the time but in general have had some very good days and am having more all the time. Also, the severity of bad days is dropping so that I can do normal stuff (back pain is less, flexibility better, fatigue is more manageable). I am really enjoying my job lately so that is probably part of it... plus I am trying not to get worked up... :)

- the stone walkway I am making with blocks of concrete from our old back steps has three stones in it now... Might be four today. It is really working to turn that little path to the back of the house (which the dog and I use a few times a day) from a mud patch that was getting churned up worse all the time to a dry area (need to get some grass growing around the stones). The gravel under the stones is really helping to drain the area as well.

- we might be buying a small pick up

- I made some beer with a friend and it turned out really well

That's it!



Launchy 1.25

Launchy is a great way to leave the Start Menu behind forever. It indexes programs and many other things and then lets launch them by using a very simple commandline-style interfaced pulled up at any time by pressing Alt-Enter. Very cool and extremely useful. http://www.launchy.net


House projects

Just wanted to make some notes on the house projects we have underway:
  • Deck - the post-holes are filled with cement and ready to support a deck
  • Stairs (needed to remove these to build the deck) - the old, hollow cement stairs were jackhammered into rubble the same day the guys did the posts... yesterday was spent sledge-hammering them into smaller rubble and piling the bigger stuff out of the way and piling the small stuff inside the remains of the stairs (they are taken down enough to build over). There was a significant quantity of gravel under the stairs that I now have in a bin for use in the stone walkway project.
  • Stone Walkway- I am using the larger stairs-rubble as stepping stones for a path I am building to repair a worn-away area (from myself and the dog going through there all the time---I take of the garbage through there and the dog loves doing laps of the house, etc). I am doing a couple stones a day until this is done. No rush. For more about the walkway and how/why I am building it: click here.
  • Garden - my significant other did some serious gardening... we have lots of nice flowers and shrubbery and also some herbs in pots waiting for a nice deck to grow on.
  • Christmas lights - yes, it took me until May 12 to take down the Christmas lights.
Anyway, next week: deck building.



No time to post lately. Feeling better health-wise. Sunny out. Got post-holes filled for the deck and tore off the back steps. Two weekends from now, we'll have a deck. Going to buy all the hardware this weekend for it.


Crohn's Disease - track it

I was recently diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. It ain't pretty but it isn't like hearing you have a terminal illness. Basically I need to modify my lifestyle so I am doing things just about everyone should do anyway:
  • eat healthy foods (sometimes certain foods, even healthy ones, can cause "flare ups" which lead to GI unpleasantness, back pain, gut pain, and so forth)
  • reduce stress (I can't get mad anymore; when I do I can feel a very distinct set of physical changes take place in my body... same goes for frustration, anxiety, and so on... good thing I like meditating)
  • pay more attention to signs of fatigue and sleep more (getting lots of rest helps my body repair itself and reduces stress)
So as you can see, this is stuff most people do anyway. Sure, I've had to make fast food a once per quarter treat instead of once every couple days, and I can no longer drink coffee (1/3 of a cup and I'm heading for the border, so to speak) but overall things haven't been so bad. The hardest thing is the mental aspect. I don't care how cheerful you are, at some point the knowledge that you may or may not be in pain for the majority of time you are around from here on out (unless it goes into remission, which happens) can get to you. In some people the symptoms of Crohn's lead to depression, etc. Well, nothing cheers me up like numbers so I have decided to track how well I feel in a spreadsheet at various times during the day. I rate my self between 0 and 1 and average all entries for a day. This is then used to determine if I had a good day (>0.5) or a bad day. I then calculate the ratio of good to bad days. It helps keep things in perspective. The data entry aspect also gives me a chance to log my symptoms, food I have eaten, medication/supplements I am taking, etc. All very good stuff to keep track of when trying to find out what works for me (apparently with Crohn's everyone is different). Anyway, that's how I am coping right now.


Thunderbird 2.0

Yes, it is finally out: Thunderbird 2.0 This release implements tagging, something I use extensively. I use six tags (they were called labels before) :
  1. unprocessed mail: need to read/tag it; in the previous TB, this was just an unlabelled message.
  2. Action Required: I need to do something with it.
  3. Archive - Useful: I might want this info later but I don't need it in front of me.
  4. Archive - processed: I don't delete email but I can ignore this stuff if searching for an old email, usually.
  5. Upcoming meetings/agendas: I send myself email with a subject prefixed with "2007-04-17 @ 22:00" or whatever (I use that date format to order by date... it means one less app to run as I don't need to use a calendar)
  6. Waiting: I file anything here that I am waiting to hear back on or needs to be done in a couple weeks, etc.
I would like to add "using this" or something so I can flag a couple emails as relevant to the task at hand and always be able to see them. Very happy to have this feature.


Princess Josephine - ???? - 2007

Our cat, Princess Josephine, was so old that nobody can really remember when we got her. I have the earliest memory of her that has a date attached to it; it puts her age at 21+ years. She almost made it through another Winter but last night her time came. The vet told us she had cancer and obstructions in her bowel and was too weak and frail to treat. She offered to do whatever we wanted but what she told us added up to her being in pain and there being no way to really change that; all we could do was drag it out. We said our goodbyes to her and stayed with her through the procedure and now she is resting peacefully nearby. We affectionately called her "Jo". When she was younger she was strong, fast, and feisty. She had a notch in her ear as a badge of courage from one of the many times she defended her yard from other cats. She was a good mouser, too. She spent time on the Noel shore at my uncle's cottage and had four different addresses in Dartmouth. She was at the vet only once, when we first got her and only really got sick once, when she was 17, but I nursed her through it. 21 cat years is 100 human years; she had a good, long life.




Wal-Mart spying?

Former Wal-Mart Worker Blows Whistle on Company Surveillance Operation, Spying of Critics "A former worker at Wal-Mart is claiming the retail giant is running a sophisticated surveillance operation that targets employees, journalists, stockholders and critics. The worker, Bruce Gabbard, says the retail giant spied on employees, journalists, stockholders and critics of the company. We speak with the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the story." Courtesy of Democracy Now: http://www.democracynow.org




Sometimes things work out

We took the dog to the park tonight on the way to the grocery store... we didn't have his kong or ball to throw but we figured we could at least run him. It was cold out, windy, and a little damp but we wanted to get him out but were a little disappointed we didn't have anything to play fetch with. See the park is really a big baseball field and we like to run the dog as far across the field as we can. We have a small yard and when we walk him he doesn't get a chance to go wide open (he loves to run). Well, we got to the field and started walking around when I saw what looked like an orange ball off in the distance. I went over with the dog and discovered a perfectly fine ball which we then played fetch with till the dog was exhausted. We repayed the favour the park had done for us by leaving the ball, hopefully to be found by another lucky dog. The moral: sometimes, even when things aren't perfect, you just have to go for it; you never know when things will work out.

Sleep -- nice

So the last three nights I have hit the sack at 10PM and risen at 6AM. That's 8 LONG hours of sleep. I have woken up at night, as usual, but go right back to sleep. Also, I seem to be in remission from a health issue that was causing a lot of back pain. The combo of a better diet, regular cardio at the gym, and all this sleep seems to be working. My hope is that I'll become more productive as a result of all this sleep. I was never really doing anything useful being up late or waking in the middle of the night and staying up. I might watch TV or surf the web but I wasn't crossing things off my list. The plan is really to spend 33% of my time in bed, the rest hopefully will become more productive as a result. I also plan to do less during the week when it comes to my personal goals; instead, I am saving these for the weekend. What I had been doing was trying to squeeze in an hour or so on a personal project (whether it was "check tire pressure and clean the car", or "build new XYZ software thingy") late at night instead of turning in early. This is obviously (now) counter-productive and actually feeds my sleeping troubles. I'll keep track of how well things go here. Oh, I also plan to "let myself" stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights so I don't feel like I HAVE to go to bed all the time. I should WANT to go to bed early... if things go well, I will hit the sack around the same time on weekends, too, but by choice.


Moon rise - Sleep disorder

I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately... Like for the last 10 or 15 years, say. Hence my love of energy drinks. For a few years here and there I have been a good sleeper but I have also had major bouts with insomnia. In the last year and a half I realized that when I was at the point where the lack of sleep was affecting my life (and you don't always notice; it creeps up on you) I decided it was OK to take sleeping pills to get the sleep I needed. I do this maybe three times a year for a couple of days running. This puts me back on track and gets me sleeping again. After that I am good to go and start sleeping between 10:30 and 11 every night (I get up at 6 every morning). This is WAY better than 12:30 or 1:30 bedtimes or rising in the middle of the night for a couple of hours. I wouldn't recommend the pills to everyone but they do work. And yes, I have tried all the standard sleep techniques (e.g. bed at the same time every night, winding down before bed, no napping, I don't drink coffee, etc). Anyway, off to bed! Once I do the dishes, that is.


Ice storm!

Holy ice, Batman! I spent some time outside scraping ice and putting down salt. The car was covered with a thick layer and was barely scrape-able. I was using my pocket knife to get in under it to create air pockets allowing it to slide off. In other news reports are in from friends in different parts of the city:
  • one was hit no less than three times with ice falling from various things over head during a short walk
  • another was "almost killed" when their car started sliding towards him on the ice; he was able to redirect it onto the grassy shoulder of the driveway where it stopped moving before "exploding in a fireball of heat and light"
Having just returned from a short walk to the drug store I have to tell you if you live near me (do you?) stay off the sidewalks. Very treacherous. Bring on the rain now.


TODO capture tool

I use TODO list all the time for work and personal stuff. Even though it is super-easy to use I find the act of opening it to make a quick note can often suck me into reviewing my lists and next actions. I think I need to make a little tool similar to Launchy. Ideally, this tool would allow me to enter a project and a TODO item. It would then add this as a line item to a TODO list file (I guess it could search for an existing item called "project" and add the todo item as a child). Every so often I could review that list and move the captured items where they belong (so yet another inbox on top of email and my physical inbox). The idea here is that all I would see would be a couple of text fields... I type the item, hit enter, and am back to work. I think this would increase my over-all efficiency. Launchy and TODO list are open-source. I should be able to make this work. :)


GTD with Thunderbird

http://entropicprincipal.blogspot.com/2005/09/using-thunderbird-to-get-things-done.html entropic principal: Using Thunderbird to Get Things Done I am going to try this out at work for a while... Seems like a good system.
I ran through my inbox with it... Seemed to work ok but the labels don't work for me. I know they are pure GTD but I don't always follow the system exactly. I never (almost never) delete correspondence so for me there is no need to mark things as deletable... Instead I mark them as "processed" which means "I read it, I can archive it, nothing further needs to be done". For my email technique these labels work better (I think):
  • Action Required
  • Archive - contains useful info
  • Archive - general (I save everything)
  • Waiting
  • Meetings/Agendas (these are in my calendar but I use a paper agenda so it is useful to see at a glance what I have coming up -- I know, I know, paper agendas are dumb... I have my reasons)
I am on day three of this system and have to say I am REALLY impressed with how easy it is to manage my inbox. I used to try to process my inbox to zero but would frequently defer filing my email. I used "important", "useful info", and "meeting/agenda" as my labels. Adding "waiting" and "processed - archive" has made it much easier to filter things.


Who's it for? Internal and external drivers for prioritizing

This post isn't about productivity in general as much as it is about prioritizing TODOs in the short term. Whether you use GTD, write lists on the back of napkins, or have a personal assistant track everything for you, at some point you need to sit down and decide what to do next. This decision depends on time, inclination, what's at hand, etc (this is familiar sounding to fans of David Allen's GTD system). Anyway, what I try to do is always ensure that I accomplish at least a couple of things for others before I do things "just for me". I know that I am supposed to put myself first, and no one is more important than me, and I need to love myself and all that crap but in reality two things motivate me to do things for others first:
  1. I can't relax and enjoy things for me if I know I am preventing others from doing this (NOTE: this is NOT always the case when it comes to external drivers for TODO items and so not everything has urgency for me in this way)
  2. If you don't get things done from other people's perspectives they are less likely to want to rely on you, work with you, trust you, etc. Sometimes this is a good thing, if they are unwanted. For those you do want in your life, though, this is a huge thing.
Anyway, it comes down to being able to enjoy downtime and not being a chump. That is one way in which I prioritize what I want to do next.


File explorer addin - quick local backup

This would be available as a right-click item on a list of files and/or directories. The UI is:

- right click to archive

- the file is archived into the local directory by making a copy

- the file is renamed "filename.ext.orig-20070308" and uses -001 -002 etc as suffix if there is already one from today or whatever.

Selling on Ebay

Lately, and uncharacteristically, I have been buying things on eBay. It started out with a cable, that led to another cable, and now I am hooked. Next purchase? Who knows? Maybe some cheap, generic energy drinks? Or something nice for home defense? Anyway, it led me to thinking about how easy it would be to be an ebay seller. If only I had something to sell. I need to think about it. My domestic partner (to use a Friendster term) sometimes sells clothing on ebay. She might see something priced low at the store or maybe has tired of an outfit. She doesn't do it very often but I think it makes sense and is a great idea. OK, 10 second brainstorm of stuff I could sell: - my old GPS (Magellan 315 w. cable and manual) - used books? is that worth it? - dirty socks... - an instructional video on how to make the best pizza ever (actually, I plan to give that away for free here on the blog soon) Anyways, I'll think of something. Whatever it is I'll need lots of it and it better be cheap. Stuff + ebay + ??? = Profit


Organize your hangers

Here is how I organize my closet. I'll use shirts as an example. In my closet I have short sleeved shirts, dress shirts, long sleeved shirts, and fleeces/hoodies. The dress shirts and fleeces/hoodies are few in number. They get hung on opposite ends of the closet with a few empty hangers on the inside of each... between them go tshirts on one side and long sleeved shirts on the other with lots of empty hangers between them. When I hang up laundered clothes I always put the clean shirts closest to the middle; short on one side of the empty hangers, long on the other. That way, I know all my favourite shirts are close the middle and the ones I never wear get shuttled off to the sides. Periodically, I can easily prune the outer shirts and either donate them or turn them into rags. There you go. This simple hack makes it easy to locate your favorite shirts and makes it easy to prune out those extra ones that accumulate in everyone's closet.


Democrat vs. Repulican - who is more interesting?

http://www.google.com/trends?q=democrat,+republican... That is a link to a google trend search for who is more interesting: Democrats or Republicans. I was just curious. Seems like interest spikes at the same time. As a layman, I would venture a guess that more Democrats search for info on Republicans than the other way around. Here is another one comparing just searches for "primary" information about both parties: http://www.google.com/trends?q=democratic+primary%2C+republican+primary... Both links are comparing searches from 2006, only.


Pizza Dough


  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast (any yeast will do) 
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour (depends on consistency of dough needed) 
  • 1 tsp of salt (to taste) 
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp of oil (olive oil makes the dough heavier)  

Method and Notes  

I am not 100% sure of the quantities above but that is pretty much how I do it... 

When it comes to flour I go by the dough consistency. I want a nice, soft dough I can spread out and work with... Softer and easier to work than bread dough. 

Mix water, sugar, yeast and let the yeast sit until it is bubbling. 

Mix flour salt and oil in a mixing bowl or mixer. 

Slowly add wet ingredients to dry, mixing/kneading until fully incorporated. Add flour as needed until the dough is sticky but not wet to the touch; reserve some flour for kneading (you can add more, just don't add too much or the dough will get too stiff). 

Knead until the dough is soft and elastic (a mixer with a dough paddle is best for this). 

Place the dough into a floured bowl and coat generously with flour all over, leaving some in the bottom of the bowl for use later when you form the pizza. Cover the bowl with saran. 

Allow the dough to rise in a warm place. 

To prepare the pizza, roll the dough out (using the flour in the bowl) to a circular shape or form it over a closed fist and throw it into the air, spinning it, to form a circular shape. Make the dough as thin or thick as you would like. 

If you prefer a thick, doughy crust allow the dough to rise a second time on the pan. 

Brush a pan with olive oil (seasoned oil works well, e.g. rosemary and garlic, or a spicy oil) and place the dough on the pan. 

Preheat an oven to 500. 

Brush the pizza dough with olive oil and top with salt, pepper, and any spices you would like to flavour the crust with. 

Bake in the oven until the dough is lightly browned. 

Remove from the oven and top with tomato sauce (or pesto, etc). 

In a bowl, mix your other toppings with grated/chopped cheese and distribute evenly over the sauce. 

Bake again until the cheese is melted and brown. 

When you remove the pizza from the oven the final time a nice touch is to brush the exposed crust with garlic butter and sprinkle fresh grated parmesan cheese over the hot pizza and some fresh ground black pepper.



Gcal/Gmail Mashup with Web Clips

Want to have some Web Clips in your gmail that remind you of important things, display your favorite sites, scroll witty quips, or what have you but don't have any easy way of publishing and maintaining an RSS feed? Simply create one or more Google Calendar and enter the items (they show up with the clip name as the calendar name and the calendar event title as the text of the clip) to be displayed as you wish. None of the data other than the calendar name and event title are displayed so if you date/time reminders you should create events with titles containing the date and time of the event. Some links to figure out how to order/constrain the XML feed: You could also publish/consume public calendars for this purpose. Anyway, enjoy.

Memory Foam Pillow

I recently purchased a memory foam pillow at Canadian Tire on a whim while we were browsing for other stuff. My sleep has improved somewhat. It is just super-comfortable and is "smooshy". A smooshy pillow can be formed into various shapes to support your head for different things. I got the non-contoured model and now want to get a contoured one to try it out. Some common pillow actions:
  • stacking: it doesn't stack well with other pillows because it is quite thick and is meant to conform to your head which requires it to be flat on the bed in my opinion, but that's ok.
  • use with "the wedge": I have a foam wedge made for people with health issues that require them to be propped up in bed; I use it to watch TV and read as well as sleeping propped up when my back is bugging me -- the pillow works well with the wedge.
  • sleeping positions: worked well when laying on my side, back, etc... I was even able to get it under my shoulders and it settled down to contour to them as well as my head (head was still comfortable).
Overall rating: get one.



Energy is a funny thing. I have trouble sleeping through the night so I know all about energy highs and lows. Unlike a sound sleeper each day presents a new challenge for me. Sometimes I am well-rested and full of energy, alert, and responsive. Other days I am exhausted and spaced out (and ineffective). I have tried many things to get a good night's sleep but nothing seems to work. Even sleeping pills don't do much. I'll take them one night and get a good sleep, the next night, I'll wake in the middle of the night and other than being groggy it's like I didn't take anything. Ideally, I would have a job where I could nap, work when rested, etc. I actually do have a job like that but my lifestyle doesn't really allow me that freedom... I guess one day I'll figure it all out. The latest thing I'm trying is going to the gym and doing cardio/fat-burning exercises on the machines. Hopefully, this will exhaust me into sleeping through the night. I'm not holding my breath. One last thing: chemical alertness is not really useful to me. If I chug various stimulants (tea, energy drinks) I just get more scatter brained and restless. I have energy but it isn't focused. Life goes on. How do you get enough sleep?

Velocity Trap (1997)

Velocity Trap (1997) was interesting but bad... :) SciFi B movie, for sure. I wanted to see the whole thing but fell asleep (it was on at like 2AM). I plan to try to see it again as it was very intriguing and had great atmosphere. A SciFi movie that was believable (the universe was, the plot wasn't so much). There were some funny scenes when one of the characters goes through an extended period of isolation from other people. Worth watching if you are alone and love SciFi.



Daily Weight

Update - 2007-08-27 - After abandoning weight loss this summer for logistical reasons (long story), I am back on track (and 10 lbs heavier) and starting again. Using Physics Diet to track my weight loss (see my public profile: http://physicsdiet.com/Public.aspx?u=macdonaldster@gmail.com).

Old Info:

View the entire spreadsheet or:


Energy Drinks

Update - 2007-08-27 - Superstore is now selling a case of 24 Red Rain for $27 + deposit. Nice. My most significant food discovery lately has been Energy Drinks. I thought these were for frat boys and steroid junkies for the longest time but, during an extended period of "working late", learned they were good for me as well. See, I recently learned I could no longer drink coffee and never really found it very good for staying up late, anyway. Late night work and driving are the two times I really can't afford to be drowsy and I was telling a friend this, when then said "we get Red Bull free at work" and told me it helped them get through all-nighters. I tried a can of Red Bull on my next road trip and it worked. It worked really well. The drowsiness (and fear that I would fall asleep at the wheel) were gone. I soon began drinking them as needed (not very often). Anyway, now that I have established that these are used by me as needed and I am not hooked or anything (really) here are the ones I have tried ranked by how much I liked them:
Red Rain (Superstore)My fav... all the juice of Red Bull at half the price.
RedFire (Sobey's)Similar (same?) as Red Rain.
Red BullWorks well but it is pricey.
Beaver BuzzTastes like it has maple syrup in it... doesn't seem to give me the same quality of alertness... I have had one and remained drowsy on two occasions.
Sobe Arush This one is rapidly becoming a favourite and may move to the top of the list. The price is right and it works like a charm. I find the "energy" curve is more leveled off so it isn't like you get a burst then slow down.
...lost (large) Flavour is sweet, almost like cotton candy... Contains lots of "energy" but I am not sure I like the cloyingly sweet taste. I just really need to drink one right now.
My general comment on all of them is that they don't taste great. There is some citrus masking and light carbonation. When I am driving or working I just chug them back as fast as possible. If I am at home I might mix one with ginger ale or orange pop and some ice and drink a little slower. :) Benefits over coffee: they don't seem to dehydrate but I could be wrong, you don't drink much volume so you aren't pulling over 30 minutes later if you need to stay alert while driving, and if you are like me and coffee "doesn't agree with you" it can save the day when drowsiness strikes on the road or at the office.



The Drive Home

Did about 5.5h of highway driving today from NB to NS. Saw a panel truck almost almost run a car off the road while it merged in, couple of people barely squeezing in a pass before oncoming traffic nailed them, and lots of speeding... About 20 km/h faster than posted for most drivers, I'd say.

First Post!

After a long period without a blog I have given up on building and hosting my blog on my home network (for various reasons, hopefully to be detailed below) I am moving onto Google... It'll be interesting to try out their system.