January 2017 Checkin

Based on last year, I know I won't keep up with checking in each month. However, January is usually pretty easy. Let's go straight to the chart.

My no eating sugar looks pretty successful so far. The first week's failures were all because I didn't realize that bacon contained sugar. So I didn't eat much sugar on those days, but it was some. So they got changed to frowns after I read the package ingredients on Friday. Aside from that, there were only three days where I had sugar. The 20th was worst and I was a bit upset with myself on the 21st for not staying in better control. The 28th was a party for Ted's birthday and I had a piece of cake. Happily, it was a small piece and I didn't eat any of the other sugar that was around.

Since a lot of foods have added sugar, what am I actually eating? Each day, for breakfast, I scramble one egg in butter, put it in a tortilla with some mozzarella cheese and eat that with a handful of blueberries. I have maybe 4 oz of orange juice mixed with water to drink. On the weekends, I may make some coffee which I drink with just milk. I'm not crazy about the coffee, but I'm usually cold, so I like the warm drink. For lunch, I've mixed things up more. A lot of days, I'd take noodles with mozzarella cheese on them for lunch. Lately, I've been just taking a tortilla and putting cheese in that. If I make some chicken, I've taken that too. I like the tortilla the best because there's no plasticware that I need to bring home to wash. I usually just take it in a freezer bag. And then I also take a bag of raisins and blueberries as well. I also have a container of macadamia nuts in my office. I've learned that around 9 - 9:30, I'm usually eating some nuts and blueberries. For dinner, I've been trying to get more protein, so I've been making meat. I bought chicken breasts, pork chops and some steaks. I clearly don't know how to cook a steak because they always seem really tough to me. Breading and frying the chicken and pork work out the best. The key? Paprika. Found that I like that a lot. I've also had some salad with a vinegrette, but I have to say I don't really enjoy that at all. I've been enjoying the pork chop the best and I'll probably be buying some more of those. My favorite thing to eat lately are triscuits with mozzarella cheese and raisins.

The good news is that I'm sure I've saved more than I paid for the Costco membership with what I've bought there. I eat about 5 lbs of mozzarella cheese every few weeks. I can finish a big container of blueberries in just over a week. Raisins last longer, but I buy lots of those as well. A container of macadamia nuts lasts about as long as the blueberries. All of that, I get at Costco. Other stuff, I get from Mariano's. And an added benefit for so carefully preparing my lunches and dinner is that I hardly use any cash. Not buying any meals, so I'm not spending $5-$10 per day.

I'm very happy with how things are working out. And I don't know why, but avoiding sugar has been easier than I thought. I've been reading some blogs about what sugar withdrawal feels like. The only really bad day that I had was one where I was just really depressed. It was weird in that I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. A day or two later, I realized that in the past on a day like that, I probably would have eaten a candy bar or something and have felt better. But without that rush of sugar, the depression lasted for basically 24 hours. I can laugh about it now, but I was just really numb on that day and didn't care about anything. Now I'm sort of curious if something like that will happen again. Interestingly, the day after that my weight went down 2 lbs after holding steady for about two weeks. Don't know if those things are related or not. Anyway, I'm happy with the month overall. I lost 3.5 lbs which I think is a good start to the year.

Awk notes

I love awk and use it a lot. Yesterday, I used it for something with multiline records. Awk on single lines is quick and easy to use, but I always have to look up what to do with multiline records. And I still don't exactly understand everything about multiline records, but here's what worked for me.

Say I had this file:

George Washington
1789 - 1797

John Adams
1797 - 1801

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

James Madison
1809 - 1817

I needed to reverse the order of the records like this:

James Madison
1809 - 1817

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

John Adams
1797 - 1801

George Washington
1789 - 1797

The first thing I needed to do was to create a file with my awk commands because they're going to be a little long to type at the prompt.

BEGIN { RS = "" ; FS = "\n" }
{
	print $1
}

RS = Record separator
FS = Field separator

And then I'm just going to print out just the name (which is field #1).

$ awk -f y samp.txt 
George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison

Ok, now I want to reverse the order and just print the entire record.

$ cat x
# The BEGIN section is run once at the start.  Here we just set up some separators
BEGIN { RS = "" ; FS = "\n" }

# The middle section is what runs over the file.  Here we're just adding each record to an array
{
	a[i++]=$0
} 

# The END section runs once. Here we print out the array starting at the end and working back to the beginning
END {for (j=i-1; j>=0;) print a[j--] "\n"}

$ awk -f x samp.txt 
James Madison
1809 - 1817

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

John Adams
1797 - 1801

George Washington
1789 - 1797

First Book Down

I started it last year, but finished it in 2017. So "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas Friedman is the first book I read this year. It's all about how so many aspects of life are speeding up and how that's affecting people in different ways. I'm not sure that I agree with many of his ideas, but it was an interesting read. I have to say my favorite part of the book was when he described the town in Minnesota that he grew up in. I'm sure everyone didn't get the same sense of it that he did. But it was nice to hear about a place where different people worked together and weren't all just looking out for themselves. I like to think that most of the country is still like that, but it's getting harder and harder to do so. If nothing else, this book got me to go to a neighborhood advisory meeting and join the group. I'm happy about that.

I had another book from the library that I took back after reading about 10 pages. There are too many books that I want to read for me to suffer with one I don't find interesting. Now I'm reading another book by the same author of the one I just returned. This one is "Thinking in Systems" by Donella Meadows. I'm on page 17 and so far find this one much more interesting.

Not a great start

So I thought I was doing a great job avoiding sugar last week and it turns out I was mistaken. I think it started with my Costco run where I thought I was buying food without sugar. I swear that I read all the labels and didn't see sugar on what I bought. But I should take my reading glasses with me when I shop because two of my purchases have sugar. I ended up eating a chicken pot pie because I already had it in the oven when I reread the label. I wasn't going to throw perfectly good food away. The second one was a pot roast and thanks to the chicken pot pie incident, I reread the label before I even turned the oven on. That one sort of pissed me off because I don't think there's any need for sugar in it. And because I love pot roast, grrr.

The second issue was with bacon. I am, apparently, the only person in the world who didn't know that bacon had sugar in it. I'll be honest, I didn't read the label because I thought it was just meat. What bummed me out more was that I only added bacon to my breakfasts because I thought it would be good to eat a little more food in the morning so I wasn't so hungry at lunchtime. Anyway, this mistake caused me to turn all the smiley faces on my calendar to frowns. Taking my mistakes into account, this year, I've only had one day so far where I haven't eaten sugar.

I'm not going to beat myself up about this. Even if I didn't avoid all sugar, I have avoided a lot of sugar. (Except for yesterday...definitely fell of the wagon then) New day, new start. I'll see if I can finish out the month better.

Hello 2017!

Happy New Year!

I made it to 2017, so things so far are great! As always, I want to make some plans to get the most out of my year. Though, I really need to start thinking more long term. Bill Gates has the great quote "Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." I think that's very true. And I think I sort of due that here. At least I have my bucket list for things I want to do over my life. My idea of tracking something on the calendar is mainly a way for me to build a new habit that I'll hopefully have for the rest of my life. And so far, it seems to be working. I'll keep doing my yearly resolutions and hope that they end up being lifelong habits. Let's get started.

Sugar - My focus for the year is going to be reducing the amount of sugar that I eat. I did this for about a month last year and I noticed enough changes in me that I think it's a worthwhile goal. This is what's going on my calendar this year. It's a simple yes/no question. If I ate something with sugar, black frown goes up. If I avoided it, red (if I can find the red marker) smiley goes up. And much like when I was trying not to use my car two years ago, I'm not going to be a jerk about this. If someone invites me to a birthday party, yes I will eat cake. I'm not asking anyone to make food special for me. Just when I'm home or on my own (which is most meals), I will try to avoid sugar. This means that I need to have food in my house to eat instead. I went to Costco the other day and bought a bunch of fruit, cheese, nuts and some frozen meals that all don't have sugar. There may be some foods that I stop eating altogether. For example, I'm having a cup of coffee and oatmeal right now. I much prefer both of these with some sugar and a few chocolate chips, respectively. If that was the only sugar that I ate all day, it would probably be fine. But it still gets a frown because I'm avoiding all sugar. Those are the rules.

DIY Projects - I love to make stuff. I love to watch other people make stuff. This probably isn't really a resolution, since I already do this. But I'd like to do things more regularly and post information. As an example, I went to the store the other day to buy myself a calendar. I couldn't find a calendar I liked, so I decided to make one for myself. I have a printer and paper and very little design talent. I made simple calendar with quotes about life that I like. Here are what some of the pages look like.

Pretty simple, but it was fun to make. I have some ideas for binding books and making traveler's journals. I also have some woodworking projects to finish and some new ideas. And I'd like to get another sewing machine (more on that later) for a couple of sewing projects that I have in mind.

House - It's time to get back to work on the house. If nothing else, I'd like to have at least the back half of the upstairs gutted by the end of the year. Taking down drywall should be far less messy than the plaster and lathe removal of the downstairs. It'll still be messy, but I'm hoping I can control it a bit more by hanging some plastic to contain dust. I'd also like to finally bury the electric line that goes to my garage. If I install a new one, I can then put in another line and add more lights to my garage. That would be great. I'd also like to add some outdoor plugs which would be great for when I cut the grass and helpful for my garden.

Skills - As always, I would like to learn how to weld. And I'd like to learn how to design/build some simple electronics. Not to be able to do anything at work, but just to be able to create some ideas that have been floating around in my head. I did some soldering last year and while I was eventually successful, I wasn't comfortable doing it. That's just because I need to practice more. That's the case for a lot of the things I want to do: sewing, woodworking, bookbinding, etc. I need to do some simple projects just to get good with my hands. Once I'm comfortable with the basics, I can move on to trying to make my more difficult ideas. I guess the resolution here is that I'm going to work on any skill at least two or three times per month.

Read Books - I read a lot online, but I'd like to get back to reading more books. Online reading is really just skimming things for ideas and I want to get back into deep reading which to me means books. My goal is to read one or two books per month.

Write a Book - I still want to work on my book. It will be technical and I doubt that I'd sell many copies, but I'd like to do it just to see if I can.

Tune My Tools - I have a table saw that I use quite a bit. However, I don't think that it's set up properly. I haven't done any tests, but I don't think the fence is completely parallel to the blade. If I want to get serious about woodworking, I need to make sure that all of my tools are working correctly. So I need to research what to do to check and what periodic maintenance I need to do to make sure things are working properly.

Language - I've been swearing a lot more of late. I need to watch my language and cut it out. This is going to be hard, but it's something I need to do.

Things I want to keep doing
More bike, less car - Since this has been my focus for the past two years, I think it's already something I do a lot. But I just want to note it so that I remember it. I plan on going for a bike ride today because I can think of no better way to start off the year and it's a nice sunny day with temps in the 30s.

Work on financial independence - Last year put me in a much better position financially that I had been in for a while. So I'd like to keep working to financial independence, which is still a number of years away. But I think I'm doing the right things and I just need to stay the course.

Travel - I still like to take my bike to new cities and explore. I had been doing big rides around cities, but I think I may stop doing them. I signed up for a number of them last year and then didn't go because of bad weather. So now, I may just throw my bike in the car and drive to a city and ride around myself. Or look up interesting trails and go and ride them. I'm already going to go to Sedona this year. And I'm thinking that it might be cool to go to the finger lakes region of upstate New York.

Rewards - There are a few bigger ticket items that I'd like to buy for myself, but didn't because I was being financially responsible. Now I'm thinking that it would be a good idea to use these as rewards. Say if I don't eat sugar for 75% of the days in a month, I get a reward. Or if I do take all the drywall down from the back of my house, I get a reward. So here are the things that I'd like to get:

New bike - Totally don't need this, but very much want it. Test rode this bike last year and it was so nice to ride. Planned on buying it last year, but didn't because I was being responsible.

Sewing machine - After going through a few used sewing machines that were given to me, I decided that I wanted to get one that I actually want. And what I want is an industrial sewing machine. First because they really only do straight stitches and that's the only stitch I've ever done. Second because they'll be better at sewing through heavy material, like canvas or leather. I have zero interest in ever sewing clothes, but I would do curtains, bags and maybe even get into upholstery. I've been watching Craigslist to see if any used ones come up. Otherwise, this one with the 3/4 hp servo motor is the one I want.

Camera - If I want to start posting videos of me making my projects, I think I'd like to get a good camera. I have a little point and shoot camera that I've used in the past, but the battery doesn't last very long and it doesn't hold much video. I haven't researched these too much because this would definitely be bought after the above items. But I was thinking that something like this camera would be pretty nice. If I do decide to get a new camera, I'll have to do more research.

Tools - There are a few more tools that I'd like to get for my workshop. I'd like to add a drill press and a bandsaw. Here I should just keep an eye on craigslist or start going to the flea market by my house to see what they have.

That's it, my plans for 2017. I think for now, I'll start the year by trying to install a new light over my stairs before I head out on my bike.