Saturday, June 28, 2014

21 Day Fix: Problems & Modifications

I've been on the 21 Day Fix for almost a week (5 days) and in that time have seen zero progress--no weight lost, no inches lost. I've never ever done a diet/exercise program and had zero first week progress, until now. So let me break this down for you, so you see where I'm coming from and what, exactly, my plans are from here. Remember: This post is based on my experiences the first week on 21 Day Fix and may not apply to everyone.

Problem #1: The Rhetoric

This program's point seems to be that you need fixing and that it can be done in 21 days. This is the one thing that has always bothered me, even before I bought the program. After buying it, I'm even more bothered. BeachBody, the programs makers, are targeting their program to people who need to lose less than 15 lbs. and though they say it can work for everybody, heavy people are not who they have in mind. The only good thing here is that this points to the idea that you can make lasting changes in your life in 21 days, like learning portion control or good workout habits.

The trainer, Autumn Calabrese, who seems very optimistic, says things like "Give me 21 days and I'll give you the body you've always wanted!" This may be true for some people, but not for the majority of people looking to lose weight. She does stress the eating program, which again is meant to teach you how to eat better over the long haul.

My Solution: Ignore the parts of it that are hurtful! I don't need fixing. I'm a person, not a clock. I can't listen to her saying I'll be fixed in 21 days without wanting to cry or throw-up, or both, so I just take it with a grain of salt. I consider that she's not considering me when she says that. That she's not being intentionally insensitive. I consider that I'm not the ideal user of this program, but that I find value in it anyway. It's nothing personal even when it feels that way and, at times, she says things that're helpful, such as "If you're tired of starting over, stop quitting." That certainly does apply to me.

Problem #2: The Workouts

No matter what they say, this program's workout are not for people of every fitness level. If you've never worked out a day in your life and you've somehow managed to have only 10 lbs to lose, then on this program you're a beginner. If you happen to be quite heavy and in bad shape, even if you've done some workouts before, you are not a beginner on this program. The workouts are not low impact enough for people who need to lose a substantial amount of weight, even with the modifiers.

Working out 7 days a week is also not right for everyone. In fact, most fitness experts suggest you give your body a day or so between workouts to avoid injury. Trying to do the workouts every day got me just that, an injury. I managed a muscle strain in my left thigh and a groin pull on the right. I'm actually still sore from trying an exercise on the first day that was way, way outside my fitness level, even with modifiers.

My Solution: Don't do all of the 21 Day Fix workouts. This may not work for everyone, but it has to work for me because I can't, at my current fitness level, do many of the Fix workouts. Instead, I'll substitute some hearty, lower-impact workouts that are good without the debilitating-can't-walk-want-to-die-type-pain. Leslie Sansone, for example, does great walking workouts that're actually quite a good workout. That said, I still plan to do the Upper Fix workout every two days because it rocks and wasn't so difficult that I couldn't get through it (for the most part). I'll also be doing a lower-impact yoga once a week to improve my strength and balance as the Fix Yoga moves to fast for me to keep up, especially since I don't know the moves.

Problem #3: The Eating Plan

This comes down to one thing: If you don't do the workouts every single day then you're eating too much and won't lose weight. Because I'm quite heavy they have me eating the most calories allowed, approx. 2,100-2,300 per day. This is a LOT of calories when you're trying to lose weight. In fact, this is more maintenance than weight loss. Since I didn't do the exercises every day, and when I did often didn't make it through the whole workout, I haven't lost a single solitary pound or inch.

All in all, the food plan is okay, though it's restrictive. For example, you can only have one glass of milk three times a week. There's almost no dairy in this diet. You can have apples, but apple sauce isn't on the list. You also can't have any salt or condiments, except things like mustard and vinegar. No mayo of any type, not even olive oil mayo, and no ketchup. They have a few really tasty seasoning mixes, but they aren't appropriate for foods like eggs. So, you can eat sandwiches but they're dry, or eggs without seasoning.

The best thing about the eating program, though, is that you don't have to measure anything. You just eat off the list and use the containers. No tracking my food down to the calorie. Which is awesome, because that's what makes a lot of other diets so cumbersome. It's meant to help you learn portion sizes and, in that regard, is really helpful.

My Solution: Keep using the containers, but change the eating category. The program includes 4 categories, each with a calorie range. Since I won't be doing all of the fix workouts, I'll be modifying down so that rather than eating 2,100-2,300 calories per day, I'm eating 1,500-1,800 calories per day. And I'll be making some small modifications to including at least one 8 oz. glass of skim milk per day. Finally, I'm going to allow myself some condiments, in small amounts, such as reduced-fat olive oil mayo and a tiny bit of sea salt. Bland food isn't worth eating.

The Small Things & Progress:

Doing this for a week, I've seen a lot of small things that I need to change. My sleeping habits are erratic and problematic. I don't drink nearly enough water. In order for me to go forward, I'm going to need to work on changing these small things that're having a big influence on my progress.

And I won't lie, because I have nothing to lose (or gain, since I'm not selling you anything here), I don't know if this is sustainable. I love food too much. I crave rich, sweet, and often salty foods. All I can do at this point is try. I will say, though, that I think the Shakeology is helping me beat the cravings. I hadn't really struggled at all this week until yesterday (Friday night) when I really, really wanted to eat everything I'm not allowed to eat. I wanted mac & cheese and cookies, and I wanted a milkshake. I actually went to bed early to escape the cravings because they were so strong.

Today, I feel terrible, but maybe tomorrow could be better. Right now I feel like giving up but I won't, especially since I've not laid out a plan to make the sort of changes that will make me better. I'll write again next week and let you know how it went. Until then, wish me luck. I really need to make change in my life.

Friday, June 20, 2014

21-Day Fix & Shakeology

I've been hearing a lot about the 21-Day Fix program and Shakeology, particularly from my little Sister, Candi, who has been doing the program for about the last month and a half. Since she's had pretty amazing success, I decided to give it a try. I ordered last week and got my kit today--my Shakeology should be here tomorrow.

Now that I have it, though, I'm both thrilled and nervous to get started. Particularly so because this program requires that you work out 7 days a week for 3 weeks (each cycle is 21 days). My sister has had success only working out every other day or so, but I'm going to give the 7-day workout cycle a try. What's the worst that can happen? I can't do it? Considering how much I have to lose and the terrible shape I'm in, there's a very good likelihood that'll be the case.

Without the workouts, though, the program doesn't really work. Especially because they have me on a 2,100 -  2,300 calorie a day diet (which is a LOT of food). That's too many calories for someone who isn't working out. Fortunately, the program comes with 7 different workouts so it doesn't get boring and so that you're able to work your whole body. Some will come easier than others, I'm sure.

What I really liked about this program, though, is that there's really no calorie counting on a day to day basis. You calculate what range you're in using a very easy formula and the booklet tells you how many of each color container you can have per day based on your bracket. Then, you can eat anything on the approved list of foods for each color/food group as long as it fits into the container.

Because I'm in the highest bracket, I can have six green (veggies), four purple (fruit), six red (protein), four yellow (carbs), one blue (healthy fats & cheese) and one orange (seeds & oils), and 6 tsp of healthy oils and nut butters per day.

I'm going to repeat what I said earlier because it's really important at this point: This is a lot of food!

In fact, it's almost too much. I've never seen a diet plan that expects you to eat so much. In order to get things straight I decided I would make a meal plan and a menu, which ended up taking me all evening because I can't quite puzzle together how I'm supposed to eat SIX proteins per day, let alone six teaspoons of oils and nut butters. Here's what my week one menu looks like:

Click to see it larger

Okay, so. I have no idea if I've done this correctly, but there it is. I've color coded it to correspond with the containers to make things easier on me. It's three meals and two sizable snacks per day. I'm literally going to have to start eating at 8 o'clock in the morning in order to get all this food down and I'm still not sure how you fit in breakfast and a snack before lunch without getting too much too quickly.

I'm actually considering going down one bracket during week two if this proves to be too much food. The only thing stopping me from doing it now is that under-eating and working out a lot is a big problem. Not enough nutrients for my current weight will stunt my progress, which will already suffer from my 35 year olds metabolism.

The only issues I've run into so far (other than trying to figure out how I'm going to eat so much) are those pertaining to what foods I can actually eat. The booklet allows for oranges, but what about mandarin oranges? It allows for apples, but what about applesauce? It allows for olive oil, but what about olive oil mayo? I struck the mandarin oranges and included the applesauce, which I'm hoping will be okay. I can't find answers to those questions one way or the other.

I start the plan on Monday, which gives me the weekend to grocery shop and prepare. I'm really hoping this program works and I shed some pounds and learn better eating habits/portion control. I really need this and can't seem to do it on my own, unguided. It's going to take much more than 21 days to reach my weight loss goals, but for now I'd be happy with small goals. Maybe 7 - 10 lbs over the 21 days. When I get to the end of each 21 day cycle, I plan to take a few days off to recharge before starting the next, though I read somewhere that some people take up to a week. We'll see what happens when I get to the end. That seems like forever from now.

Anyway, wish me luck as I get started. I'm definitely going to need it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Don't Host with HostGator

Let me preface this by saying that I hosted multiple WordPress installations with HostGator for about six years and that this review is based on my experience only. I've only just recently cancelled and want to share my experience so others looking for a reliable host have an honest idea what they might be getting into with HostGator.

In the beginning:

HostGator was awesome and I was extremely happy with their service. They were helpful in transferring my domain and website that had formerly been with StartLogic (horrible, don't get involved with them either). Hosting with HostGator became so simple and so passive I hardly thought about it. Even billing was reasonable and hassle free. Great.

For years it was like this. When I had a problem they were prompt in fixing it and everything was great. At one point my entire site disappeared for no apparent reason and they were able to recover the entire thing. It had been an error on their end, anyway, which they readily acknowledged. Again, great.

But then, downtime:

When my WordPress installation began including JetPack, which now includes site monitoring, I began to notice a problem. Not with WP or JP, but with HostGator and site uptime--I hadn't been closely monitoring it before this, though my site seemed to be up most of the time. I was constantly getting emails from JetPack informing me my site was down. It happened so much, it became unbearably annoying (especially since JetPack also emails when the site is back up). I wasn't getting anywhere near the 99.9% uptime they were promising. Considering I was paying about $11 per month, I wasn't happy that I they weren't holding up their end of the bargain.

When contacted about this they try to blame everything but their system. If you're running WordPress they'll blame your plug-ins, even though they've never been a problem before. Their unwillingness to take responsibility for their system's failures is not only frustrating, it's dishonest.


At first my hosting was less than $5 to host one site. Then I upgraded to unlimited hosting for about $8.95 per month. Over time the cost has slowly crept up. They notified me by email that they would begin charging me tax, then wanted me to cancel my PayPal subscription and re-subscribe for the new amount which is a pain in the neck.

Suddenly, it was no longer passive and easy. It became something I had to worry about, because after this their billing went down the tubes. On several occasions they billed me twice in a month, on others they said they couldn't process my billing even though nothing had changed with my billing information. In the several years since the cost went up it hasn't ever gone back to being simple.

Customer Service:

This is my number one problem with HostGator. Their customer service was amazing. They connected fast, stayed on the line until your issue was resolved, were pleasant, spoke clearly, got back to you fast, and seemed knowledgeable. All areas of their chat support were like this. Billing and technical support especially so. This is what I loved most about them.

Sometime over the last six years, though, their customer service has tanked. It often takes 15 minutes to be connected with a rude person who can't actually resolve your issue--they just want to get rid of you so they can move on to the next person in the queue. This problem becomes much worse when you try to cancel. So, the issue you contacted them about doesn't get resolved and you've just wasted 20 minutes talking to them about it.

The bottom line, their customer service is terrible.

Finally, cancellation:

Remember way back when AOL was a thing and trying to cancel them was almost impossible? That's what it has been like for me trying to cancel with HostGator. Apparently, the only way to cancel is to fill out a form. I filled it out, twice, but got no confirmation and today they tried to bill me for hosting. When I contacted billing they very rudely told me to fill out the form (again, I had done so twice before) and then disconnected our chat while I was still typing. Since I can see when they're typing, I know they can see me doing likewise.

Per their instructions I tried to fill out the form again, but like before I kept being kicked out of the system. I tried it twice more, still kicked. Then I tried it with Internet Explorer which worked. This really ticked me off. First, what kind of internet hosting business isn't compatible with Chrome? Next, if their customer service/billing chat support had spent just a little more time trying to resolve my issue and find out why I had filled the form out twice and it hadn't worked, I wouldn't have wasted so much time trying again (which is what he told me to do). The only advice he gave me was to clear my internet cache.

If their system isn't compatible with Chrome, this is something their support people should tell customers who're having trouble with their system and forms. But, they didn't which caused me to waste my time.

The bottom line:

There was a time when I would have, and did, emphatically suggest HostGator to every person who would listen. They had great support and their system was user-friendly. But, I cannot suggest them anymore. In fact, I suggest that if you're looking for hosting you look into the sites suggested by WordPress. Avoid HostGator, who brings in customers by offering them good deals. In my opinion and though my experience, however, no deal is good enough to make up for the bad experience you'll have after you've signed up.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Superstition ain't the way...

I had planned to write yesterday, while it was still Friday the 13th, but by the time I got around to it all I wanted to do was go to bed. Sleep won out over blogging, and even though I was exhausted I had trouble sleeping. As I lay in my bed, cuddled up with my dogs, it seemed like I heard every single little sound. The house settling, little noises outside, the people and animals moving around on the other side of the fence, the rhythmic chirping of insects. I turned over and over, my eyes watered from exhaustion, but sleep wouldn't come.

For a long time, I had a very hard time sleeping when I was home alone. It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, I'm certainly not. In fact, I love the night time, how quite and still it is. I love being awake when almost everyone else is sleeping. I love the feel of the cool, or cooling, moist air. But there's something about sleeping when home alone that sort of freaks me out. There's no safeguard, no one to watch over you while you sleep and keep you safe. If someone wants to break into your house and harm you, there's no one there to stop them or to help you fight them off. 

In order to come to terms with this, I've told myself that it doesn't matter. That if someone were to break in here, they would do it whether I was alone or not, whether I was asleep or awake. That I can't worry about things I can't control. It's helped, thank God, because I can't stay awake all night. I have a job, at least 9 months a year. Also, unlike Matt, I need sleep and I need to see the sun because when I don't my depression deepens. That means sleeping at night.

So as I lay trying to go to sleep it dawned on me that it was likely Friday the 13th's fault I couldn't rest. Normally, I eagerly wait for this particular holiday and am let down by how uneventful it is. Obviously, I'm happy that nothing terrible happened, but it seems like there should be more to Friday the 13th than there is. There's so much build up, so much hype, the actual day is such a letdown. I'm not sure why I feel like this, but there you have it. Still, as let down as I am by the day itself, it turns out that despite my cynicism I'm somewhat superstitious and Friday the 13th heightens my fears.

It's something I hadn't even really thought about or realized consciously until yesterday while Skyping with my mom. The 13th and the fact that it coincided with the honey moon (a moon that happens every year, but rarely corresponds with Friday the 13th) came up. Oh, and it turns out the honey moon was on the morning of Friday the 13th for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, not during the evening, so I missed it--not to happy about that! Anyway, I started to jokingly discount superstition and told Matt not to walk under any ladders or cross any black cats at work that night, when I realized that it maybe wasn't all that funny, except maybe that there might be black cats anywhere near his workplace. That I'm actually, strangely a bit superstitious. It seems ludicrous that I should be, but it seems that as I get older this issue is getting worse.

Take for instance my ritual when Matt goes to work. As he's walking out the door I kiss him, tell him I love him, and to drive safe. On days I haven't done all those things, in that order, I've felt incredibly uncertain that he would arrive to work safe. Clearly, that's remarkably stupid. I can't control what happens to him between here and there, and it's only five miles, but I fear the repercussions of not performing the small ritual anyway. It's not the only one, but it's a pretty clear example of my somewhat strange superstitions--or maybe it's just OCD? Why can't I just fear walking under ladders, opening umbrellas inside, crossing black cats or something? That would at least be normal!

The sleep issue will clear itself up now that the "holiday" has passed, I'm sure. I just hope I don't grow any more superstitious because I can hardly handle anxiety that makes sense, without having more anxiety that makes none. I literally feel (irrational) fear when Matt leaves for work and I don't get do my little ritual, which is alleviated only by him texting me to tell me he got there safely. Thank God he's willing to participate in this little song and dance by texting me, otherwise I'd got crazier than I already am being eaten up with anxiety. Superstition sucks, but I'm certainly never going to look at Friday the 13th the same way again. Clearly, Stevie Wonder was onto something when he said Superstition ain't the way--and yes, I know, the video below is Phillip Phillips, I like his version better than the original. ^.^

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Surprising Source of Motivation

The strangest thing happened. I've been pretty low lately (as evidenced by my string of ranty, bitchy posts) and when I get like this I'm not much motivated to do anything. I mostly just lay on the sofa and watch TV while the mess piles up around me. I have zero motivation to clean it up, or even to care that I should be cleaning it up. It's not laziness, though maybe I have a touch of that, too, it's rather a total inability to feel the usual guilt or disgust at how messy things are and at what seems like impossible effort to do anything about it. Add to that my pure, completely irrational resentment at having to clean the house (I'm not much domestic) and things got pretty unruly around here.

Until last week. Sometime last week I started to feel motivated to clean up. I did the dishes, which weren't that bad, and hunted down the missing piece of my new vacuum. I even used it to vacuum the living room. I cleaned under my desk and washed a half-dozen loads of laundry (though they're not all stacked up in my laundry room getting wrinkled and waiting to be hung up). I even contemplated shampooing the carpet, which still needs doing. I convinced Matt to take out a huge pile of boxes that was literally stacked to the ceiling (he got most of them) and the trash. My house is starting to look like normal people live here again... even if it's not true.

Then it dawned on me, the motivation had come from moving my blog. I moved my blog to blogger and discontinued my hosting, got everything in order, and somehow cleaning up my virtual house gave me the motivation to clean up my real house. I have no idea why, but I'm not looking this particular gift horse in the mouth. I'll take motivation wherever I can find it these days and if I can get that from doing blog maintenance then so be it.

Do I understand it? Um, no. Am I grateful that it's given me the drive to do those domestic things that need doing so we don't end up on an episode of hoarders? Yes! And though the house is still not what I'd call clean (not by a long shot), it's at least picked up and in some working order now. More than I can say for the last month or two since the spring semester ended. Heck, I've even been more motivated to blog, to read a really good book rather than just staring at the TV, and to take care of business matters that needed doing. I'll take it.

A Little Rant about a Bad Date...

This weekend Matt and I went to the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth, which seems like a long way to drive to see a movie. I justify it by remembering it's actually two movies and going we get the chance to do all of our other fun Fort Worth things like Barnes and Noble, Central Market, and eating out with much more variety than we get in Small Town, Texas. It was actually the second time we've gone in a month, since we had so much fun the first time.

The first time we saw Godzilla and Blended--and had a really, really good time. This weekend we saw A Million Ways to Die in the West and Neighbors. Let me just tell you, this place is awesome!

They have three huge screens, which all afford a view of the skyline of downtown Fort Worth--though as we learned this weekend, not all screens are created equal. There's a stadium complex type thing next door to the theater and the angle of screen two has you looking right into the stadium lights. But, if you lay your seat back (only the passenger seat in our car lays back, so Matt was SoL) you can't see the lights at all so it turned out okay.

Anyway, Matt had worked twelve days straight (10+ hour shifts) and though he was tired we had made plans to go to Fort Worth. Turns out he was much more tired than he thought he would be, so our date was pretty much ruined. I really wish he would just be honest about what he can and can't do so that we can have a nicer time when we go to the Metroplex--this isn't the first time he's slept through pretty much our entire date.

So, he let me drive until we got to the Red Robin in Forth Worth, which is unusual for him because he hates my driving. He slept most of the way there, about an hour, which was fine because he had only gotten about five hours of sleep during the day. He had never had Red Robin before and seemed to enjoy it, he even tried their Blue Moon beer milkshake (which he really liked), but he was groggy and not terribly good dinner conversation. Since I hadn't had it in more than 15 years, I left feeling a little bit like it's too expensive for what it is and that we should have gotten In-N-Out instead. I did buy a bottle of their seasoning salt, though, which is really delicious stuff.

After dinner we got into a little argument, and I say little because we were going to Barnes and Noble which wasn't all that far down the road, so there wasn't much time to get into it. We slogged around B&N for a while, but left when our arms were loaded down with books, three of which were huge hardcovers. After that we were on our way to Central Market, which we both love. Matt's driving at this point and not all that well because he's tired and sore, but we get there okay (with only one near miss, not his fault) and got the usual stuff--coffee, muffins, his high-caf tea, some cheeses we can't find in town.

After Central Market we had about an hour and 45 minutes before the movie started, so we decided to go see the Fort Worth Water Gardens. It's a free water sculpture thing in downtown. With Siri's ridiculous directions it took us longer than it should have to find it because we kept missing our exits (Matt's not all there, remember?) and when we do get there we spent 20 minutes driving around the block looking for parking before Matt gives up and decides we're not going at all. There is no parking for the water gardens so you either have to pay toll parking or parallel park on a side street and walk, neither of which he was willing to do.

Okay, so we headed for the theater, which is also in downtown. Again Siri gave us strange directions (not entirely her fault since DFW is in a constant state of road construction these days) and we ended up on several freeways, in some pretty heavy traffic, and very nearly to the airport which is quite a long way from where we should have been. At this point I'm frustrated and not coping with the traffic and Matt's driving well and have an anxiety attack--the first one I've had in years. It took us another half an hour to get to the theater, where we parked in the worst possible place, as far from the canteen as we could get, and Matt went to sleep while I started reading Stoker's Manuscript, one of the books I had gotten at B&N.

He slept the 40 minutes until A Million Ways to Die in the West started and then he slept through the entire movie. He was really tired, and I get that, we probably should have just stayed home. However, when he falls asleep during movies (almost every movie we've seen at a theater in the last ten years) it makes me irrationally angry. I can't seem to enjoy myself because he basically just paid money to sleep when he could have done that at home. In this case he drove an hour and paid money to fall asleep in the car, which again, he could have done at home.

After the movies, he drove us home but could barely make it as he was falling asleep the whole way. We got out and walked around somewhere between here and Granbury, at a creepy closed gas station in a tiny hole in the wall town. I definitely spent the whole time thinking we were about to get axe murdered and possibly eaten. So when we got home, I expected him to come to bed with me. Nope, he says he's not tired anymore and stays up to do... I have no idea what. I went to bed so pissed.

At this point I feel like he seriously owes me one, especially since he miraculously had no problems staying awake on Saturday when we had planned to, and did, play D&D. I know this makes me sound like a grumpy bitch who has no sympathy for her overworked husband, but that's not at all the case. I have very much sympathy and I appreciate everything he does for me. This, though, is an ongoing problem. When he doesn't particularly care about our plans and he's doing something other than gaming to placate me, he tends to make it as miserable as he possibly can. Whether he's doing it consciously or sub-consciously, I have no idea.

Anyway, I did like both movies (I also liked Godzilla, Blended, and Maleficent all of which I've seen in the last three weeks). I really wish Matt had been awake to see Million Ways since it had been a movie he wanted to see and because he would have loved it. It's really funny, if you enjoy that sort of humor--we do! I suppose I'm just going to have to put this one in the bad dates file, which is apparently not just something that happens to singles, but that you can apparently still have with your husband. I'm sure the next one will be better, we'll just have to plan more carefully and go on the second day he's off, rather than the first.

Now that I've ranted a little bit (all I seem to be able to do lately), I need breakfast and maybe to go back to bed, this rain is making me groggy!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stupid Texas GOP

I'm a liberal. In fact, I fall quite far to the left--way moreso than my also moderately liberal husband. I'm also a Texan (by marriage, not birth). Let me tell you, it can be pretty excruciating to be a liberal Texan. Texas is the kind of place where you're only really a person if you're a conservative person. I'm used to it and politically I have a pretty thick skin. I also have some very strong beliefs about things like the environment, climate change, social programs, gay marriage, and the right to choose.

So this morning, while reading some news sites, I was pretty profoundly disappointed--note: not surprised--to find that the Texas GOP have sunk to a new low. Two new lows, really. I don't think things were this bad before the rise of the Tea Party Republicans, who make regular ol' conservatives look like liberals. Now, though, the idiots in Texas politics make me glad that I won't be living in Texas much longer and that I'm not a conservative.

First, they've decided that their party platform doesn't believe in climate change. Never mind the very sound science that supports climate change. They've just decided that it's a scam and they're encouraging constituents to ignore pleas for money when they're connected to initiatives to either slow or study climate change. All I can think is that they don't really understand it and rather than bothering to become educated, they're just sticking their heads in the sand and denying it exists at all. I won't lie, I don't see how denying climate change furthers their party's platform (either in Texas or nationally).

As though the climate change issue wasn't bad enough, their new platform is also supporting so-called "reparative therapy" for gay minors. They say they support it "for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle." These people actually support sending children to therapy to fix their "homosexual lifestyle." Don't they realize that children are most fragile during their formative years? They don't even have fully-formed brains, yet the Texas GOP supports brainwashing them into believing their "homosexual lifestyle" is wrong. Also, really, children don't have a "homosexual lifestyle," they're children.

They're proposing this ludicrous and potentially damaging "therapy" rather than supporting gay marriage, which has recently won a victory in Texas when a federal judge struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. The only good coming from the platform changes is that some gay conservatives (talk about people who vote against their best interests!!) are working toward getting the language about homosexuality in the party's platform removed. Currently it says that "homosexuality tears at the fabric of society."

I cannot wait to leave this state behind. I'm almost certain I'll never come back or at least not without protest. These people clearly don't live in the real world, where climate change is a very visible thing. They definitely don't see that being against gay marriage is being on the wrong side of history. After all, these are the very people who would have (and did) fight against interracial marriage. It's disgraceful for a political party to be so hateful. Shame on them.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Emoji Dick, Classical Literature, and Pictograph

Waiting at the GM house while our brakes were serviced, I was reading through a Smithsonian Magazine that happened to be laying on the table. Apparently, according to a short article, a data engineer named Fred Benson compiled a translation of Moby Dick written completely in emoji. The book is, not surprisingly, called Emoji Dick and it costs $200 for the hardback (or $40 for the softcover)--there's a website, but I can't bring myself to link it.

Okay, where do I start? I can certainly understand an interest in emoji  and I can understand an interested in Moby Dick, which the Smithsonian article called "a pinnacle of American Romanticism." What I cannot understand is turning Moby Dick into emoji and peddling it for $200? It's literary sacrilege. Just because classics are no longer under copyright, and are therefore open to this sort of projects, does not mean they should be used in this way.

Of course, this isn't the only classical novel that has gotten this sort of mis-treatment. Several years ago, a jerk named Seth Grahame-Smith appropriated Jane Austen's classic, Pride and Prejudice, and turned it into a zombie novel. He took something genius someone else had produced and slaughtered it. There's nothing original in that novel, it's Austen's structure and wording (sort of) with more gore and this guy Grahame-Smith is making money from it.

But you know, in his defense, at least he's not charging $200 per copy for his rip-off. Benson is, A novel that he didn't even re-write into emoji, but rather paid minions he found on Amazon to do. A project crowd-funded by a Kickstarter campaign. He edited it, that's all. Thankfully, he's not trying to claim it's a work of genius, just that's it's a work. Sadly, he's charging an arm and a leg for something for which other people have paid.

Where I run into the biggest issue isn't actually with the fact that he's torturing classics for profit. My biggest issue is that he called emoji "a new mode of expression." I'm sorry, but the use of pictograph is far from new. We can put them on our iPhones, that's new, but pictographs have been a form of communication for thousands of years. In fact, pictographs are the most archaic form of communication. Cave paintings are pictographs, hieroglyphics are pictographs. The only difference between elegant pictograph languages and emoji is that emoji is more simplistic. For emoji, cute is more important than communication.

So if anything, translating a book into emoji, which is a form of pictograph, is a big step backward. It's not language evolving, it's language devolving. We have words, grammar and punctuation now. We are capable of higher forms of communication--though I would argue that hieroglyphs are extremely sophisticated, certainly more so than emoji will ever be. Unless you take into consideration that as a pictograph "language" emoji breaks to language barrier and is capable of facilitating communication among people who have no common language, but that's not what's being said here. No one is saying this book is a leap forward because it can be read and understood by people who speak more than one language.

Unfortunately, what's being said here is just simply: isn't this cool. Oh, and that this brilliant piece of American literature has been turned into something that, in the words of Benson, only works as a conceptual piece. It doesn't even work as a translation unless you've read and fairly well understood the book. What's further disconcerting is that the Library of Congress has acquired it, offering it a credibility it might otherwise not have received. Their rationale works, though, in that it's an artifact of our time and will be much more valuable in the future when the emoji fad fades and cellphones are history.

Personally, I think it's unfortunate that our generation and the modern culture takes great works for granted. That we've somehow started looking at the classics as fair game. These books should be revered and respected, not exploited for profit. I certainly think it's relevant that Benson is a data engineer, not an English or arts major. The humanities are going away, even in college curricula, as we're becoming less interested in our histories and more interested in science and technology. STEM is fine, it's fantastic even and necessary, but when they take a piece of that history they don't much care to acknowledge and deconstruct it, that should not be acceptable to anyone.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A New Home...

Well, after days and day of exporting, breaking files into smaller parts, converting to .xml format, and trying to import--with varying degrees of success--I finally got everything moved. Let's just say that when you have a pretty big blog (and mine was 6.5MB total) moving from self-hosted WordPress to Blogger is a big ol' pain in the ass. Neither WordPress nor Blogger make it easy to move as, for whatever reason, they seem to be in denial about the reality that anyone would switch from one to another (when, duh, people do it all the time). I mean really, how hard is it to make the import/export files a standard format? Jerks.

And honestly, all that converting and taking days to import to Blogger because there's a limit on the file size that can be imported per day, it wasn't even really the most difficult part of the process. You see, there are hundreds of pictures on my WordPress blog. Apparently I like to share my pictures of... um, everything. But, since the images are hosted on my web-host, in my WordPress installation, there wasn't any good way to move them. Especially since all the pictures were embedded with a path to a folder in my WordPress install. Great. So when I moved everything the pictures still showed up, even though many of them looked weird (spacing, etc.), but they all had to be downloaded from WordPress, uploaded to Blogger/Picasa, and then re-embedded in each of the 500+ posts on this site.

Since this was a hefty job, and since Blogger has a limited amount of space for pictures, my archives are much picture lighter than before. I removed a lot of images and/or replaced them with [IMAGE REMOVED]. But there were still a LOT of pictures I wanted to keep, so I spent two days going through each post and fixing the pictures. There're still more than 250 pictures on this blog, even though I removed a lot of them. Not fun.

The really fun part was looking for a new template and, when I found one, making it look the way I wanted it to. No surprise, this template comes from Designer Blogs. They do really beautiful work. I'm in love with it, for now, though I can't speak to what will happen a month or so down the road expect to say that I will, more likely than not, look for something new. I'm never really comfortable in my virtual skin for long.

After that it was just a matter of changing my social media icons, which I'm not ashamed to admit that I watched a tutorial to figure out because it's different than WordPress, and my links and buttons, etc. I enjoy that part, so it wasn't a big deal. The last pain in the ass was changing my URL so it directed to the right place. It's working fine, for the most part, now. Fingers crossed that the kinks work themselves out sooner, rather than later, because I had to do some fancy footwork with my DNS at to get this thing working.

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with the change. Now I just need to download some things from my web-host, make sure that my "Project 7th Sea" site is all moved (that one was much easier since it was like a 200KB in total size), and cancel my hosting. I think being free of that $11 per month fee, which has slowly crept up over the last few years, will make me feel lighter... does that make sense? I don't know, maybe you know what I mean even if it doesn't?

So what do you think? Like my new digs? ^.^