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My Experience with NerdFitness Academy

Oh God the tags on this one are gonna attract SO MANY SPAMBOTS.

Last week I took the plunge and signed up for NerdFitness’s Academy, their paid course on weight loss and fitness. It was a one time fee of $99 USD, and I purchased their yoga course as well ($37 I think, half off when purchased with NF Academy). The Academy is essentially a large interactive book, coupled with a goal tracking quest system and tied to a large community, both on Facebook and in their forums.

So far, I’ve made a lot of progress and enjoyed the fuck out of it.

The course starts you off with mindset work, as the idea is less to have you lose weight fast, the idea is to change your relationship with weight and fitness, framed in nerdy and RPG elements. It definitely speaks to me very well, and it’s been successful. They hand you “quests” to complete, which include goal setting, logging your food, taking your measurements and taking before pictures, and as you complete them you get XP and level up.

You also choose a class, which generally symbolizes the kind of things you want to do. Druids, for example, do lots of meditation and yoga. Monks do lots of martial arts, warriors do strength training, etc. In his book, the founder of NerdFitness, Steve Kamb, even suggests creating your own class, though the website doesn’t support this currently. The class mostly comes into play in their forums, where you can join a guild for these classes and do challenges. A lot of people guild hop, however.

The goal setting section is a big part of it, and that’s been helpful. I set a few big goals, including a “Big Why.” Mine was, in short, that I need to give my wife a good, long life, and there’s a lot of things I’d like to do that I can’t currently, stuff like play golf with my in-laws, fit into suits that aren’t custom made, and keep myself well read, both on current events and in terms of fiction and non-fiction. NF focuses on physical fitness, but also has elements of just generally levelling up yourself and improving yourself overall.

So far I’ve been logging my foods and generally making better choices. I’m doing less emotional eating, less moments of “I’ve had a bad day so I’m getting M&Ms,” and it was that loss of control that really got me. Doing something that was legitimately bad for me, that I knew was, both from a financial and physical perspective, because I craved that momentary high of chocolate, of sugar, etc. I’m not saying I’m never eating M&Ms or junk food ever again, but trying to make better choices about when I do. I’d do things like graze on candy if we got some in the office, or if there were appetizers out I’d pretty much graze constantly. Last night we had chips out, and I ate some, yes, but not nearly as many as I wanted to, not nearly what I thought made sense. 

And this is my problem really. It’s not about never having those things, it’s about those emotional moments where I go to eat something and regret it afterwards, because I overeat, my stomach hurts, cause it is never as satisfying as I think it will be. 

So I’m hoping this will stick, and we’ll certainly see. I’m trying to take the victories where I can get them, make better, small choices, as opposed to big ones where I feel like I’m cheating myself or depriving myself. I do feel like my mindset has shifted a bit though. I know this will be hard, but thinking about “this is what’s healthy for me, and this is what I need to do” has been helping.

And there does seem to be a good community out there to support me! NF’s one is top notch, and there are daily Facebook posts of people sharing their victories (and defeats, occasionally) and I’m excited to dive into their forum, the guilds, and challenges therein. The ever-inspiring Jenn has also offered to help me dive into the Instagram fitness community, which looks like a good one as well. Debating if I want to set up a separate fitness Instagram account, as I’ve seen a few others do. Leaning towards it.

It feels good, and it feels like progress, which I haven’t felt in a long time. I haven’t taken any measurements or weighed myself yet, but this is more about lifelong change that will get me there, not about a quick fix. My mind feels better, and I’m excited about the future, and eager to accomplish the things I want to do. I have an idea for a walking challenge that has me really excited, specifically trying to walk the distance from Hobbiton to Mordor. Not barefoot, though.

I’ll do my best to update when I can, folks!


Happy Holidays! Yule (b)Log Day 3ish

So I got into a Facebook debate vaguely about politics yesterday.

Yes, I know, I know.

A friend had asked about referring to a party around this time as a “Holiday Party” or “Christmas Party.” I weighed in and said that, simply, to me I didn’t see any real downside to being inclusive and calling it a Holiday Party, but I didn’t much care either way. Proceeded to debate with someone who felt the opposite, that by management calling a party a Holiday Party, they were tacitly forbidding employees from celebrating Christmas or referring to Christmas. I definitely understand the point, and I think proper communication is key there to ensure no one is excluded.

But I definitely can’t really wrap my head around the idea of “The War on Christmas.” As I understand it (and I’ll admit Sunday School was a long time ago), Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. A key part of this story is that there was no room at the inn, and so Mary had to give birth in the barn. Now I’ve always read that as a bit of a morality lesson on being inclusive, on inviting people into your home, into your lives, and sharing with them whatever you can. 

So it doesn’t quite equate to me when some folks don’t want to invite others into their holidays. I get that you might celebrate Christmas, and want to say that, but wouldn’t you rather try to celebrate the season with as many people as possible? Share the joy and camaraderie and glad tidings? The way I do that is by saying Happy Holidays, personally. It invites everyone in to celebrate, but it also doesn’t exclude me or anyone else from Christmas. I’m not angry if someone says to me Merry Christmas - I sure as Hell celebrate it, even though I can’t say I’m overly religious.

But I do get angry when someone insists on it. When I worked retail I had more than a few people reply to my “Happy Holidays” with a pointed, slightly angry “Merry CHRISTMAS!"

I get that people want to protect their holidays and their right to celebrate how they choose. I’m not advocating for anyone to ban anything or force anyone to do anything. I just don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to invite others to celebrate others, why they wouldn’t wish them glad tidings in a way that makes them feel included?

So that’s why I say “Happy Holidays” generally. I’m not saying anyone else has to. But why not? In some ways I think it’s most in the theme of the season.


Tom’s Guide to Gift Giving: Yule (b)log Day 2

So I suck at gift giving. I’ll admit that straight off the bat. I love doing it, but I just suck at coming up with ideas.

I mean I have lots of great ideas. But they’re all huge and decidedly expensive. Sudden trips. Big gestures. And whatnot. But, I’ll try to share what I think I know. 

1. Give something they wouldn’t get themselves. There are often things we want but that we might think are frivolous, or silly. A gaming themed throw rug. A giraffe print. Even something as simple as a computer game. Think about what the person might want, but might not want to buy themselves, or might not know they want. I’ve always thought about getting my Dad an iPad. It’s frivolous, and he doesn’t need it, but he has taken to using my Mom’s well, and I’ve thought it could open up a lot of worlds for him. Of course, I don’t have that kind of cash, and he would tut tut at the expense, but it’s the kind of thing he’d never ask for, but I think he’d enjoy.

2. Give something they will use. A practical gift isn’t always a bad thing. I’d love a good pair of socks right now! I’ve gotten Klutzy a journal in the past which she uses daily. We got my mother an iPad that changed her life basically, and ditto for an iPhone. Something unexciting isn’t always the end of the world. It all depends on the person. You can’t always get them the most insightful, precious thing ever. And there’s nothing wrong with something that says “I know you can use this.” 

3. Avoid clothes. Clothing is a very personal matter, and it’s something that’s very hard to capture. Someone’s size and personal style can be shifting constantly. A too small or too large gift can depress. The exception here is accessories. A scarf, gloves, a hat, these things can vary and work. Of course this all goes out the window if it’s someone you know REALLY well, but even then, tread lightly. I would be very wary about buying Klutzy anything. While I think I know her style well, I’m not sure I’d be able to pick out something that she’d like. Now, a scarf or purse, though that I could do.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people won’t give you a list, but I think many will happily offer a suggestion, or a general theme. You can get around being too explicit by asking questions like “What are you in to lately?” Maybe they’ve taken up a hobby that you can support! Or maybe they’ve been thinking about it and you can help start them off. 

5. Give gift receipts. Even the best gift ever may not work, or they may get two, or it may not quite be to their taste. Get a give them a gift receipt. Don’t be ashamed or angered if they do end up returning your gift. The joy is in the gifting itself, not the expectation of repayment or something like that. You won’t always get it right, but if you give something honestly, and try your best, they will be grateful. 

Well, that’s about all I know! Now if anyone has any suggestions for my wife, I’m all ears...

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#merryasfuck: Yuled Day 1

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. My favourite, really. I think this is because I tend to embrace things. If I like something I go full steam into it. When I find a new show I love I'll watch it religiously, go read up about it, go follow the stars on Twitter, all that jazz. And I'm the same way with both Halloween and Christmas. I love both holidays!

But Christmas is often a tough time for me. It's always been busy as all Hell. When I was working retail it meant lots of hours and lots of shifts. Now at the office it's one of our busiest times of the year, sending our client gifts and finalizing things before the new year. The days fly by and I rarely have a moment to sit back and enjoy them.

So this year I decided I was going to take my moments to be #merryasfuck. I started the Christmas music every chance I got a few weeks ago. We put up decorations outside and in. And I got a fun Christmas themed mug at Homesense for work.

Sometimes it's about choosing how you're gonna feel, and going from there. I'm still nervous. There's still plenty of stress in my life. But I'm going to do my best to choose to be merry whenever I can. Put on Christmas music in the car. Play it quietly at work. And write about Christmas, right here!

I think this might be the best Christmas yet.

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The Inability to Relax

I’ve found myself almost wholly unable to relax this vacation, so far. It has nothing to do with the vacation itself. Though there have been two days of somewhat stressful, unfamiliar drives, those didn’t stress me overly much, in retrospect. There’s just a kind of base level, inescapable stress right now.

I know they say you should stay away from work email over vacation, but I found myself getting nervous about what was waiting for me. I usually find it eases my mind to check work email a bit over the weekends or breaks. Nothing huge, I check it on my phone. I have it on a separate app which is under no circumstances allowed to send me any kind of notifications. My boss has my personal email if there’s something somewhat urgent, and my cell phone number in an absolute emergency. And she’s good about knowing what’s what.

So I’ve been checking and there’s been nothing urgent. Couple little things, and some people seem to not be getting my out of office email, but as far as I can tell that’s not my fault. 

So why can’t I shake this base stress level? Do I need some kind of detox, to remember that the office will likely not burn down around me? That the few projects I left unfinished are in no way urgent? I spent the first few days in one of, arguably, the most beautiful places in the world, marvelling at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. And yes, I checked work email from my balcony, watching the sunrise over the Rockies, and felt good about it. But since then it’s all weighed on me. Am I spending too much money? Is work okay? Is there work or other such things I should be doing, instead of sitting back and zoning out with a book, or Hearthstone, or WoW? Hell, even this is a bit of a concession to the part of me that says I should be productive (blogging being more productive, I suppose).

I used to be so good at this. Now I just worry a lot. Not sure what the key is. I started working on the WoW/gaming blog I’ve been planning on setting up forever, just to feel productive. 

Anyway, practice makes perfect, right?


Hotel Coffee and the Sunrise

The nice thing about coming west is you wake up earlier. I’m used to Eastern time, where it’s about 10am as I write this. I’d be finishing my first cup of coffee now in the office and likely would’ve just finished reviewing the weekend’s emails.

Instead, I’m sitting on a hotel balcony, cheap hotel coffee (which is surprisingly okay) steaming in the cold air. I checked work emails to feel important, if I’m honest with you, and there wasn’t much. Replied to what I could to show dedication and initiative (doing it clearly on vacation) and then texted my mother to show her the view. Periscoped it too just for kicks. Someone kept asking me to say something, which was a bit odd.

From here I can see the sun rising over the mountains, warming them, that bit of steam like substance forming a haze over some areas. I’m cold as I write this but it’s worth it for the view. Absolutely.

Colorado is amazing so far though. Denver is this city full of culture, growing rapidly, with a wide cross section of people. It still feels oddly half-populated though compared to Toronto. My brother-in-law took us around to several hot spots on Saturday and it was incredibly easy to get a seat, wave down a friendly bartender. Each spot had a massive selection of beer and cocktails, many of them local. And amazing food. One of the best burgers I’ve ever had, period. 

But Vail…I kept telling Klutzy it feels like something out of DisneyWorld, which to me is one of the highest compliments I can pass on. Storybook almost, with its German-inspired ski town feel. Hundreds of neat little shops. Surprisingly delicious pizza (which I may raid for breakfast after this). We went up the mountain today, the air so thin that even a short walk winded me. But the view was worth it. Absolutely.

Even driving here was amazing. A bit hair-raising, yes, down mountain roads in an unfamiliar, older beast of a car, generously loaned by my brother-in-law. But gorgeous. Driving by these little pieces of civilization carved out of rock and stone, at the foot of these behemoths of land. Old mining towns, the structures still there, clinging to life. I wanted to stop and look at things approximately 4000 times.

I’ll close this out now because my ass is getting numb from propping my laptop up on my legs in a weird position. And the sun has nearly risen. But dear God, is this place magical.


Falling Out of Love With Travel and Patton Oswalt

Today was a bit of a tough travel day. Normally I love travel and airports. Any excuse to visit them, to see people arriving from various places in the world, families reuniting, etc. It warms my heart. Today was tough though. 

I was up late packing (entirely my own fault) and we had an early flight, which means our alarm was set for 4:45. I managed to misset it, but I woke up anyway, because nerves. Made it to the airport in good time, but feeling terrible. Something about waking up early always messes with my body, not just from a fatigue but from a stomach sort of thing. I spent most of the walk through security and customs just hating myself. You actually clear US customs in Toronto, as they have a post there. It’s weird. 

My body ached, I was lugging luggage (ha) and a little warm because I decided to dress to impress rather than dress for comfort. I love the idea of being the guy traveling in a blazer with a pocket square but to be honest I kinda wished I’d worn sweats by the time we got through security.

Everything took much longer than I expected, which meant I barely had time to scarf down a terrible breakfast (seriously, YYZ, be better) before we had to board for our flight like half an hour early (cause apparently no one else can follow Porter’s example and board like 10 minutes before).

BUT I did see Patton Oswalt there, famous comedian and actor. Saw him in security and later he was eating breakfast at the same shitty place we did. I didn’t say anything or really acknowledge him other than to quietly nudge Klutzy and then explain who he was and why it was a big deal. 

I do wonder if I’m falling out of love with travel a bit. I used to love airplanes and flying for the novelty, but I worry a bit that eventually I’m going to admit it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable.

But, then I look out my window to the right and see a brand new city, state and time zone I’ve never been in, and think okay, it’s still pretty fucking cool.

Plus I mean I saw Patton Oswalt.

Now I have to stop writing because we’re in the emergency exit row and my tray table doesn’t really come all the way over and I’m leaning slightly forward to type this and ow.

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Learning to Lose

I never played competitive sports when I was a kid. Not really. I did some track and cross country and a bit of soccer when I was really young, but I never felt like I even had a shot of winning those. Never did team sports or anything really. Always hated them. But I've started to wonder if I missed out on something there.

So I'm a big fan of the game Hearthstone, by Blizzard. For those who may not be familiar, it's a card game much like Magic the Gathering, involving playing minions and spells to deplete the opponents health or kill his minions. Whoever gets the other player to zero health first wins. It's a fun game with lots of strategy and pretty animations, and Klutzy and I are both big fans of it.

But I do have trouble with it sometimes. Because, to be frank, I'm not that good. I mean I'm better than a lot of folks, sure, but I lose far more than I'd like. And that gets to me a bit. After 2 or 3 losses in a row I start to get angry at myself. Never really at them, always at myself. I curse myself out. I remember the guy on the Hearthstone subreddit who said I sucked when I posted about some difficulties I was having. I think of all the people who say they have no problem getting higher in the ladder system than I do. Who say the deck I'm playing is great and they're winning all the time with it.

It's funny because it hits me most when I'm doing something that matters, where the loss has a consequence. Hearthstone has a ranked system where for each win you go up a rank, for each loss you go down a rank. Each rank has a few stars or levels in it. So as I right this I'm at Rank 16 with 2 stars. The number of stars required to advance changes from level to level. Your rank is cut in half at the end of every month, and you get some rewards based on the highest rank you achieved that month (regardless of if you dropped back a few ranks).

So playing ranked is stressful, but rewarding to me. I had set a goal for myself of rank 16 this month and when I got there I'm almost scared to play again. Even though I now am guaranteed the rewards for rank 16, it would still feel bad for me to drop to 17.

It's funny to contrast my reactions to Klutzy's. I often avoid ranked, playing unranked modes (which don't offer the same rewards) to unwind. She plays ranked most of the time, since in ranked you tend to be better matched with an opponent (as the matching algorithm takes into account both your ranks, whereas in unranked mode it's more random). And really why not? You might as well play it and have a chance at gaining a rank and therefore more rewards at the end of the season. And for her the losses  aren't particularly punishing. She shrugs them off as bad luck, bad card draw, a better player, or what have you.

I'm not good at that same shrug off. I can do it once or twice but then I start to get angry. I start to wonder what's wrong with me, why I can't make this great deck work. And I extrapolate it. My failure in Hearthstone means clearly I'm not intelligent. This is why I didn't get into grad school, why I've had trouble finding a new job, also why I'm overweight (somehow). It all ties together, and the guy on the other end is sitting there, of course, savouring his victory and laughing at my idiocy.

I've wondered if this difficulty has something to do with a lack of team sports in my youth. If I never learned to lose well. I've started to remind myself that, going into ranked, no matter what, is good for me. A loss teaches me how to lose. A win is, well, a win. But it's definitely been tough. But it's growth, and that's a good thing. It's funny, the avenues we can find for growth, if we look for them.


The Lure of the Simple Life

I’m writing this from a small patio of a wine and coffee shop in Jordan Village, near Niagara Falls, ON (and posting it much later). My wife is asleep in the hotel room next door (because I woke her early to get breakfast) and I’m seriously debating if I need something alcoholic.
I think I do. Be right back.
Okay, alcohol acquired. A nice chardonnay. 
I’ve thought a lot lately about achievement. If I took the wrong road in life, if I should’ve worked on my math, gone in to business school, been some kind of banker or something. I’d love to tell you I’ve followed my passion, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t passionate about HR, but it’s been so difficult to find a job, that I feel like I’m years behind many of my university and high school friends, in terms of where I’d like to be in my career. Some of that is my own fault, for being comfortable where I was and not, perhaps, applying more far and wide and working harder at finding a new job, but as I sit here, looking out at what I think is a Ferrari outside a nearby restaurant, I wonder a bit if I shouldn’t have made different choices. If I shouldn’t have pushed myself more. If I will ever get to the point of comfort with my job, my finances.
But at the same time I wonder if I really want that. Ferraris are a lot of work. They involve a lot of time spent at the office, a lot of time spent in seminars and professional development, and a lot of money spent developing yourself. Maybe I’m buying into a narrative that folks with a lot of money work hard for it, I’m not sure. Is the Investment Banker’s job harder than mine, or does it just require more training up front? Assuming the former, is it worth the long hours? The pressure? 
I’ve often yearned for the idea of working fewer hours. Working a 4 day week, for example, and wondered if I’d trade a fifth of my pay for that now. It’s not even something I could consider, financially, right now, but it’s a thought I’ve had.
We’ve spent the last couple days around Niagara, driving by farms and vineyards, and through small towns and shops. We point out houses we like, and wonder at the idea of eventually moving out here, growing grapes, making wine, and running an animal rescue. We started plotting out names for that eventual property and winery today.
It looks like a simple life, but it is deceptive. One of our favourite stories if of the winemaker who had to miss the birth of one of his children, since it was the only day he could press the Syrah. It seems simple and easy here, but I’m sure it’s not. It’s hard work, often physical, always emotional. I’m sure these little shops here don’t make much, and I’m sure a lot of these wineries operate on thin margins, or require huge up front investments, or extensive background knowledge. 
But the idea of something different, something simpler, speaks to me when I’m down here. I yearn to get away from the rush of downtown, from the pressure of my job. But I wonder what I’d sacrifice for that. WoW? Wine? Times like this, a Saturday where I can sit on a patio with a glass of wine and write? I want it all somehow, the simple life where I can drive the Ferrari.  I don’t know if it’s doable without some advance lottery numbers or severe mucking with the space time continuum. And I still can’t decide which way I’d rather lean, to have a more steady, restful life with fewer amenities, or a busier one with more, filled with rich food, good wine and fast cars.
Likely, like most people, I’ll end up charting a middle path, as I try to do with most of life. But places like Niagara, like Jordan Village, always leave me wondering about the simpler path, about something quieter. For now, I’m going to enjoy the quiet, close my laptop, and sip this very fine Chardonnay. 
And ogle the Ferrari a bit. I mean, I’m only human. 

Confidence and Telepathy

I cannot read minds.
This may sound like a relatively mundane revelation to you, but it was stunning to me, when I read it recently.
I’d heard it before, of course. I think my therapist or a friend said something similar to me, but I definitely needed a reminder. You see, I have confidence issues. Huge. Self-worth issues, what have you. Every time I do just about anything I’m mentally preparing the counter-argument to someone who thinks I should do things differently. Every time I take a few minutes off work to use the bathroom, on the walk back to the office I start mentally preparing how to defend my bathroom break to my boss. “Sorry boss, my stomach was bugging me,” stuff like that. Every time someone speed walks past me on the walk to the train (as many people do, because I’m short and have short legs and generally hate walking fast) I come up with something to say when they, of course, inevitably, shoot some smart comment at me for daring to walk slowly (I’ll note this has happened a stunning total of zero times). 
This was important though, because it reminded me that I cannot, in fact, know what people are thinking of me. In all likelihood the person speed walking past me hasn’t given me a second thought. Ditto for my boss when I’ve went to use the bathroom.
It’s the same thing in personal relationships though. I always worry that Klutzy is deftly not saying when she’s angry, and that of course I’m reading what she’s not saying correctly and she’s secretly hating me, despite the fact that our whole relationship is basically built on being honest and forthright with each other. It might take us a few minutes, but we always get there, and it’s never as bad as (or even what I) think it is.
Even with my friends I often worry about what they’re thinking, that they secretly hate me for x y z. It’s hard for me to remember that, if I were to reverse any situation, I wouldn’t hate my friends, or would forgive them, or what have you. I’m special, you see. I’m not worth that extra consideration. 
I’ve been trying to work on my confidence a lot, because it impacts everything. Trying to trust myself, and in turn work on trusting others. It’s not easy. But the silly revelation of the fact that I cannot read minds, that I cannot know what someone else is thinking, was huge for me. It’s important to remember you absolutely 100% cannot know what someone else is thinking, and most of the time, it’s important to trust them at their word. Cause in the end, really, what else can you do?
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