Friday, January 27, 2012

The appearance of being healthy

People have written about these things before but I couldn't resist. And no one really thinks ramen noodles are health food. But when the cover of the box looks like the picture at the right, you can imagine yourself getting ready to eat a healthy soup with a large portion of vegetables. That is, until you open the package.

I know a lot of people who use ramen noodles that just throw out the flavor packet because it has so much sodium in it. My stupid joke is that while everyone else in the lunch room is wondering if they are getting enough sodium in their diet, I'm sure I am when I eat these noodles.

Well, there is no flavor packet to throw out when you get this particular version of ramen. It comes mixed in - with all the vegetables. So, how many vegetables do you get? See the second picture on the left. Yes there are about seven pieces of corn, three or four peas and about eight slivers of carrot. Not exactly vegetable soup. But it is tasty. And my wife always gives me something to mix in. Today it was some ham. It is amazing how much better that makes it taste. And it's filling. So, while I wouldn't eat this too often, it's fine for a quick lunch when there isn't time to prepare something more elaborate.

Also, there are some interesting things you can do with the blocks of ramen noodles. Someone at work told me about breaking a raw egg over the noodle block along with a slice of cheese and maybe a piece of ham, sausage or Spam. It tastes pretty close to an Egg McMuffin but a lot cheaper. And, as before, I don't recommend a daily habit of this but once in a while, it's not bad.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Going to non-existent meetings

I'm getting behind in my posts again and part of the reason is that things are so hectic at work. I been under pressure for a few months. We were working on two different versions of our software product at the same time. The first of those was released just before Christmas and the the other was just released last week. Now, we're pushing on to make a new product that has a very aggressive schedule but I'm also in tech support again this week (see my Customers: who needs 'em? post for more about that). It's not that I write these posts during work hours but that I'm so exhausted by the pace at work, that when there is some free time to write in this blog, I'm too tired to do it.

One indication of the problem is that today I went to a meeting that I wasn't scheduled for! I looked at my email and saw a meeting agenda, noticed that it was a few minutes after the hour and rushed off to the meeting the agenda was for. I got to the room and saw only a few of the people I was expecting to see. They all looked at me with smiles on their faces. It was then that I realized that I wasn't supposed to be in this meeting. It happened to be using the same room as my meeting would use - later. I think it's time for a little break. I know my family would like that. But I can't take any time off until this new product is released late in March. Can I hold on till then? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First snow of the season

We had previously gotten a dusting of snow and ice a couple of days ago but this is our first real snow of the winter. You can see my usual picture to the right. It doesn't look as impressive because I took this the day after the snow after we'd cleared the car and packed down a lot of the snow in a snowball fight and in making a snowman. The local TV station says we got at least seven inches but I think we got more than that. The TV station reports that a town a few miles away got almost ten inches so I think it depends on who measures it. But if that's what they say on TV, it must be true!

Our snowman looked a lot better yesterday when we made it. A photographer from our local paper even stopped to take pictures of the kids putting the finishing touches on it. This morning, you can see it must have been a rough night. The snowman looks like it is leaning into a strong wind but it's just leaning - no wind.

We cleared the dirveway once when we thought the snow was ending but then the forecast changed and we got more snow. It snowed until dark so we will have to clear it today when there is time. I'm glad we can just walk to church this morning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First base syndrome

We've all seen it, especially in youth baseball games or pick-up softball games - the person playing first base gets set to catch a throw from another fielder for a put-out of the batter running toward first. The first baseman puts one foot on the bag and prepares to catch the ball. But, due to the skills of the players in the game, the throw is wide of first base. The first baseman has been told that they need to keep that foot on first base or the out won't count. They stretch as far as they can and still maintain contact with first base but the ball is just too far away. Their foot is on the base but the ball falls far away from any of the fielders and the runner not only reaches first base safely but can then run on to second base base because everyone is scrambling to get the ball (another syndrome that we might talk about some time). I call this "First Base Syndrome". The player has gotten their priorities wrong. Yes, it is very important to keep your foot on first base if you are catching the ball but the higher priority is to not let the ball get by. If you can catch the ball and keep your foot on the base, that's great but don't let the ball get by or you've got two problems. The runner is safe and the runner (and other runners) are going to advance.

I think we all do this from time to time. We are working on two projects at work but we work on a less critical project first because, perhaps, we aren't as sure about how to do the more critical project. Or our child comes to us with a question while we're watching our favorite TV show. We tell the child to wait while we listen to a show that seems so important at the time. We are faced with a problem we know the answer to but we say we'll pray about it because we don't want to face it just then. Prayer is almost always the right thing to do but we shouldn't get our priorities wrong. Sometimes we just need to do what we know needs to be done. We need to take our foot off the base and make sure we've got the ball first.

I'm not saying this to be preachy. I've written this to remind myself. There are important things and then there are more important things. Lord, I pray you will help me to keep it straight!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Worries from both sides

I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning about protests in Italy about how monetary policy trying to make the world one, big market and removing the national identity of the nation. They don't want the big international banks coming in telling the country what to do.

It seems that both sides of the political spectrum worry about these things. The right worries about world Communism and Socialism taking away their individuality and the left worries about big banks doing the same thing. We do need to keep our eyes on small groups getting too much power.

Monday, January 09, 2012

My thoughts on walking

Evan and Charlie walking - a long time ago
As I was walking today,  I had a few thoughts about walking for enjoyment or exercise. Most of my thoughts are about making sure you continue to walk and staying motivated to walk. I guess most of these thoughts could be summarized in the statement, "Walk every day."

1) Get out even if it is only for a few minutes
I find this to be the most important of these thoughts. Even if I am dead tired or sick or it's raining or snowing or too hot or too cold, I get immense satisfaction even if I only walk for five minutes. But usually, once I get out, I'll continue the walk for the full time. Another reason for getting out even for only a few minutes is that any exercise is better than no exercise. Also, once you've skipped a walk, it is much easier to skip the next walk, too.

2) It's better to walk on uneven paths and up and down hills
I haven't done a study on this and I'm not aware if anyone else has, either. I just find it to be true in my own experience. On my first walk of the day, about one mile with my dog, Charlie, we are walking on the sidewalk and the ground is flat. On my second walk of the day, at lunch time in the woods behind our office, I'm walking on an uneven dirt path that goes up and down some small hills. At least they are considered hills here on Cape Cod. Depending on the direction, that walk is about a mile and half long. I find that I get more benefit from the walk in the woods. I'm constantly needing to balance myself and exerting more on uphill sections. Maybe it's because it is longer. Maybe it's because I'm not stopping as Charlie checks out smelly points of interest. I just find that my back hurts more at night if I've missed my lunch walks as opposed to when I miss my morning walks.

3) It's better to walk on a schedule
Here we're back to a version of my "Walk every day" thought. When you walk on a schedule, you can set aside time for the walk. You are not interrupting something to go for the walk. Also, other people expect you to be going for the walk and don't expect you to do something else.When you walk on a schedule, you can set up a reminder for yourself in case you forget. If you're low tech, you can set up an alarm clock to go off at your walk time. If you're higher tech, you can set up a more elaborate reminder (something that allows for different times on different days). In my case, I don't need the reminder. My schedule is: first thing in the morning (after getting a pot of tea ready, feeding the pets, cleaning out the cat boxes and checking the news on TV for a few minutes) and at lunch time on work days (after eating lunch). So, maybe I should amend this to, "It's better to walk on a natural schedule." That way, you don't need to be reminded.

4) It's better to walk with a dog (or another person, but a dog is better)
Let's start with why you should share your walk. It's another motivator to keep you going. If you don't go for the walk, you have to explain yourself to the other walker. Sometimes, it's not easy to find that other person before the walk starts and you know they will show up for the walk and wonder what happened to you. And this is the reason it's better if your walking companion is a dog - a dog will accept no excuses! Charlie has gotten me out for a walk in the worst conditions simply because he won't take no for an answer. He just expects to go every day at the same time (whether it's New Year's Day morning and you stayed up till midnight or not). Yes, this is yet another variation on "Walk every day" - if you're keeping track.

5) It's a good idea to take a cell phone with you
This is both for safety and for helpfulness. I'm fortunate that I've never gotten into a problem where I've needed to call for help but if you did twist your ankle, you'd need to call someone to come and get you. But the reason I always bring a cell phone with me is because of the time Charlie and I found a stray dog on our walk. I found his name and a phone number on his collar (but no address) but since I didn't have a phone, I walked all over the place looking for someone out in their yard looking for him. I had taken my belt off to use as a leash and, fortunately, he and Charlie got along well. We walked all over the place but I didn't see his owners out anywhere. We were saved from needing to bring him all the way home with us by some neighbors being outside and lending me their cell phone. The owner was not far away (but not on our usual route) and we met him half way. I've never needed the phone since but it's ready.

6) Take a small notebook and something to write with
I find I get some really good ideas while I'm out for my walks. But I also find that these ideas are fleeting. I get so many thoughts and see so many things that the ideas can fly away as fast as they alight. It's great to be able to pull a small notebook and pencil out and jot down the ideas before I forget them. If you're not as forgetful as me, you can probably skip this one.

7) Keep track of how long you walk
There are a couple of reasons for this but I think the most important one is that it keeps you honest. If you find that your walk over the same distance is taking longer and longer, you need to remind yourself to keep up the pace. If you're not walking for exercise, you can ignore this one, too, but another reason for keeping track of the time is to let your own competitive nature spur you into improving yourself by walking the same distance faster or by walking a further distance in the same time.

8) Take a camera with you
For two reasons: One reason is similar to the reason for taking a notebook with you. You never know what wonderfully interesting things you'll see and may never see again. I've gotten pictures of a box turtle, squirrels, chipmunks, people dressed in medieval gear (sorry, that picture isn't on my blog), birds, people on dirt bikes (again, that picture is not on this blog), Presidential helicopters (actually, I missed that one) and the results of fires in the woods and tree munchers. In every case, they weren't there the next time I walked. That leads to the second reason I take my camera and it's another variation of the "Walk every day" theme. I have convinced myself that if I don't walk that day, I'm going to miss a great picture. It's gotten me off my lazy rear-end a number of times that I wouldn't have done otherwise.

9) Walking a shorter distance more times is better than walking one longer distance - and then canceling
This is similar to my first thought. If you walk only once a day, say for two and a half miles, and miss it, then you've not walked at all. But if you walk twice a day with one walk of one mile and the other of one and a half miles and you miss one walk, you'll walk at least one mile and maybe one and a half miles (assuming you didn't miss both walks). There is a limit to this but you might extend this to taking five walks of a half mile each time. Each walk doesn't take as much time and it may be easier to motivate yourself to just get out and walk. But I would worry that it is then too easy to say to yourself, "Well, if I don't walk this time, there are four or three others that I can walk." This is a bad precedent. You get too used to skipping walks this way. I think two (or maybe three) walks is ideal.

But that is just for me. As with all of these thoughts, they work well for me and maybe not for anyone else. As with the first thought, just get out and start walking. It is good for you and may lead to some wonderful discoveries. You can come up with your own motivators as you go along. Another idea is to start a blog so you can write down what you find on your walks. If you don't walk, you'll have less to write about!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Eighteen years

It was eighteen years ago today that Cindy and I were married. I was in love with her that day but I didn't realize how much more in love with her I would be in eighteen years. It just goes to show you that even if you think you can't love someone more than you do now, love can grow. For as great as everything seemed that day, it is amazing how it has gotten even better through the years.

I remember being nervous when our minister was giving his message during the ceremony and he said, "I don't believe in marriages that are 50-50." He was pretty conservative and I was sure he was going to talk about men's roles versus women's roles and that some people at the ceremony were going to be offended by what came next. But I was delighted when he continued, "Those kinds of marriages have more trouble than marriages where both partners give 100%." How true that is. Of course, no one can give 100% all the time (in spite of what the TV commercials would have you believe) but I think he meant you have to do your best all the time. You should give your all to your spouse and the marriage. When you have children, it does sometimes feel like your giving more than 100% but all you have to do is sit back (for a minute) and see how much more your spouse is doing.

Cindy, I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Rudolph is #1

I'm in the habit of checking the This Day in History site (beware, a movie will play when you first start it, but you can pause it or click on any story other than the Lead Story to stop it). Today, I was surprised to find that on this day in 1947, the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hit #1 on the popular music charts. Wouldn't you think that it would have been before Christmas or at least during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day? As with many things, though, I was wrong. You can find the story here. It's a nice story with a sort-of happy ending.

I've always enjoyed the TV special about Rudolph, too. I'm talking about the one done in stop motion animation that has its Internet Movie Database listing here. As you'll see if you read about the original story on This Day in History, the fellow who wrote the music for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Johnny Marks, also wrote the music for the other songs in the TV movie like A Holly Jolly Christmas.

Would the song ever make it to #1 now if it had just been written? I doubt it. I think the only reason we hear it now is out of nostalgia. For one thing, singing cowboys don't usually get to the top of the popular music charts. They usually only show up on the country charts. Getting to hear this song every year around Christmas is a reminder to not forget some of the old things. If we forget them, we may never see their like again. The only reason we get to hear Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or get to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas around Christmas now is that they were made at the only time they could have been made. If they wouldn't have been made then, I doubt they would have ever been made.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Cloning the nose

Woody and Diane telling how they'll do it
I'm off to a slow start writing blog posts in the new year. I've had a few ideas but it's been so busy after my time off for Christmas that I haven't had time to think through my ideas and get them into good enough shape to publish them. It reminds me how far I have to go in improving my writing.It's one thing to come up with ideas but putting them down on paper (or typing them into a computer) is another story.

Well, this post was inspired by a post on one of my favorite blogs, Just Thinking... by Earl Pomerantz. In his post Sitcom Slang, he mentions that there can be short phrases that describe certain situations so that you don't have to spell out the entire story. He says he came up with a few of those himself and that reminded me of the time I did the same thing.

I really enjoyed Woody Allen's movie Sleeper. Woody plays a man who is awakened from cryogenic sleep far into our future where he finds a totalitarian state rules the world. He ends up in a ridiculous situation where he and Diane Keeton are mistaken for surgeons who have been given the task of reforming the assassinated leader of the state from the only thing that survived the assassination - the leader's nose. They are supposed to clone the nose and make an exact copy of the dead leader. So, to stall for time, Woody and Diane give a talk, with a lot of hand waving and jargon filled talk, about how they plan to clone the nose. The picture here is from that scene. They have no idea what they are doing and the task before them is well beyond their (and probably anybody's) ability.

It reminded me of some meetings I had been to or talks I had seen where the presenters had no idea about what they were talking about. They had no idea what they were getting into and probably had no idea how to do what they were talking about. So, whenever I go to a meeting like that, I tell others that the presenters were "Cloning the Nose". Now I don't have to describe the entire meeting. Just that short phrase lets others know everything they need to know about what went on there. With all the time we save, maybe we can really accomplish something.