Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Talkin' bout a resolution

This year I made three New Years Resolutions, and I thought I'd use this post to explain what they were, and how they turned out.


1.Get a pet kitten!

3.Learn a new language (French)

3.Lose weight/exercise more

Thankfully, I am quite happy to report that I have accomplished (or continue to be accomplishing) all of these goals this year, and now I'd like to share some stats/pics/etc about each one.

1. This May, Claire and I went out and got a kitten.  I knew I wanted a young cat, so I waited until Spring when there were more to choose from.  He was born in mid-February, so by this point he's about 10 months old.  His name is Rupert, he's very high energy, and he looks like this:
This was taken when I'd had him about a month (so 4 mo's old)

2.  After work, about three days a week, I started teaching myself French.  I chose French for a few reasons, but mainly because it is widely spoken, uses a similar alphabet to English, and I know quite a few people who speak French so I could get extra help when I needed it.  Also, I am already decent at German, so I thought I'd get a new language under my belt (though I definitely would like to continue pursuing German to get completely fluent at some point).  Anyway, J'ai étudié le français après le travail, trois ou quatre fois par semaine.  I have a lot to learn, but I feel like I've made good progress, as I've completed Rosetta Stone levels 1 and 2, and I'm in the middle of level 3.  Each level is broken in to 4 units, and each unit is broken into about 4 sections, and each section has about 10 subsections, so there's a lot to work through.  However, I plan to keep this up in 2012 so I plan to be well versed in it by this time next year.
My favorite sentence that I've seen in Rosetta Stone so far was: Le jeune gens jouer à un jeu.  Nice alliteration there.

3. Weight loss/exercise!  Let me say one thing first:  Working in an office is not good for your health.  When I lived at KU, I walked to class every day and occasionally worked out, so I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to eat it.  Those hills at KU are no joke, and walking across campus every day was great exercise.  However, after graduating and getting a job last may, I realized that sitting practically all day long and eating/drinking whatever I wanted was not working for me anymore.  So, after 6 months of that, I decided to start keeping track of my weight and managing my calorie intake.

I know that it's quite cliché to say you are going to lose weight for New Years, and never do it.  I decided not to fall into that trap, so I took some proactive steps to keep myself on target.

The first step was signing up for a Lose It! account.  It's a free website that lets you log what you eat each day, and manage your calorie intake.  This was important to me.  I'm not the "diet" type of guy, so I decided that I would take minimal steps to change my diet, and instead would focus on consuming fewer calories rather than saying "NO MORE ______!."  So, I logged every day (except weekends--those are guilt free), and now have a comprehensive profile of where my nutrients come from, and how many calories I consumed each day for the entire year.  You do not want to know how many times I had chicken strips...oh my.  

However, by using that site, I was able to curb my munchies.  I practically never snack anymore, and I stopped keeping Dr. Pepper in the home (though maybe I'm fooling myself and just eat out more often now? Nah...).

I also kept up a light/moderate work out routine of hitting the gym for at least a few minutes about 3-4 times a week, which I also did a decent job of logging.  In the end, I met my calorie budgets and lost weight (see below).

Using withings, I set a daily calorie budget of no more than 1400 a day.
This macro view shows my month to month trends.

In addition to the website, I also purchased the Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale which measures weight, reports BMI, and has a rough estimate of your body fat percentage.  It was a little pricey, but is nice because it reports my weight to my Withings account which I could track online, on an android app, or through's withing plug-in.

Love that trendline
If you're wondering why there's a huge jump from February to March, that's because it's when I replaced my old scale with the much more accurate Withings scale.  It just goes to show my old scale was saying I weighed much less than I actually did, so the top number on this graph should be ~168 pounds instead of 160.

Also, the reason the measurements go up and down is because I measured once in the morning before work, and once right before bed, and naturally, you weigh the least right when you wake up.

You can see that I set a weight goal of 140 pounds, and I have recently hit that and play to stay around that mark :)

So, dear reader, I'm happy to say I accomplished all of my resolutions.  Next year I plan to keep these up, but I probably won't be getting another pet for a good while.

Hope your resolutions (should you choose to make them) come to fruition!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Worth a thousand words (but I'll only type ~50 here)

Looking back at photos of myself, I can safely say there are very few recorded moments of sadness compared to happiness.  While one might think that's because it's impolite to take pictures of crying people, or that unhappy people will refuse to stand still for a photo, in my case it's because life makes me happy.  Even when it doesn't.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Letters To Santa (and you!)

It's almost December, and with it comes the season of children writing letters to Santa with all of their Christmas-present-hopes inside.  Or do they write letters these days?  Perhaps it's email...I mean texting...tweeting?  In any case, as I think about my letters to Santa in the past, I loved that I often got a letter back from the post office saying they had sent the letter to the North Pole, and while I waited for Christmas to come, here were some free holiday window clings to play with (cheap, but effective.  I loved putting the little window clings of Rudolph and snowmen on the freezing window glass).

However, as Christmas comes and goes throughout the years, I was thinking that I write very few letters by hand these days (though Grandma always gets a hand written thank you card, of course!) and how tragic it will be if we lose this medium.

Those that know me understand that I am a big proponent of technology, as the shift to the "digital age" has brought us so many wonderful (yes, you may replace wonderful with scary if you so choose) ways to keep in touch with each other over distances that would have taken letters days or weeks to reach.  For instance, I can play guitar with crystal clear audio and decent video to a friend in England for free, or  text a picture of my cat over wifi despite being in the basement of a house with no cell reception.  How neat is that?  With IM, you can chat in real time with a coworker in Taiwan while you sit in your pjs at home, or use facebook to organize an event with 500 people while only clicking the "send" button once (much cheaper than stamps).

However, despite all of the niceties that come along with technology, the art (yes, I said art) of composing a hand written letter should not be forgotten.  Letter writing contains so many benefits that it is crazy to think of a time when people will no longer convey messages through this time tested medium.  For instance, with letter writing more so than email or IM, you really have the ability to compose your thoughts.  If you write with a pen, there is no backspace or undo button, and space can be limited, so you get to really consider your words.  With the time it takes to deliver a letter, you also get to think about what is most important to write, to make sure you really convey what you had hoped for.  Also, letters are so much more personal.  They are written by hand, so you see your wonderful calligraphy (or chicken scratch, as it may be) looking back at you.  You know that you wrote this, not some anonymous being from the internet (read:chatroulette).  When you address the letter, you aren't writing to moniker@some_handle.domain, but to an actual person in a physical place who will physically be there when they read your message.  Didn't you imagine Santa reading your letter in front of his fire at the North Pole?  You can't get much more personal than that.

Sometimes I miss this, and for this reason I would like to invite you to ask for a letter if you would like me to write you one.  All you have to do is request one (you may do so via email if you don't want to leave it in the comments).  I don't mind whether or not I know you well, as this is an invitation to all.  I also can't promise I will have anything poignant to say, but will write you a letter all the same, and maybe we'll know each other better through the process.

If you would like one, feel free to hit up the comments, send me a private message (if you got here via facebook), or email me at Giffdev (at) gmail (dot com).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A very guitar Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!  While I am spending time with family and friends this weekend, and don't have time to make a substantial post, I thought I'd leave you with three songs in the style of guitar that I only wish I could emulate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Here is a short poem that might grow into something bigger than just a couple thoughts I wrote down while waiting on code to compile.  It's inspired by Enchanting Ghost by Sufjan Stevens, but is not meant to be a direct application of the tune to these words.

when did you last think of me
am i still implanted in your memory
or am I now a waking absentee
only to creep across unwanted dreamery

oh no, I never hoped to be your past
no, I never intended to be the man
that you once knew
oh no, I never hoped to be your past
but oh, do I linger, last, 
and live in you

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crazy for comedy, but not that crazy

Sometimes the best stories are true (embarrassing) stories.  When I was in third grade, we got our first quarter report cards back.  Mine had the usual grades; S or S+ down the board.  You weren't allowed to get A-B-C grades until you were a grown up (read: 5th grader and higher), so S meant Satisfactory, because why not?

However, to the right of our grade cards were spaces where each quarter, the teacher could write a few comments in the margin.  Mine happened to say that while I was a good student, I also acted quite often as the class clown.

When the report card came in the mail, I opened it up, read the grades and comments, and merrily waited for my parents to come home so I could show off.  "Class Clown!" I thought.  That must mean I'm funny, and people must like my jokes and antics since even the teacher thinks out of everyone in the class, I'm the funniest.  Why wouldn't I be thrilled?

Well, when Mom and Dad came home, they were less enthused, and my glee turned to dismay as they explained that this did not mean that everyone found me funny, but that I instead goofed off and needed to mind myself and be a better student (we all know some of those S's should have been S+, yeah?).

In any case, I've always enjoyed making people laugh (and the ensuing awkwardness if a joke just doesn't land as you intended).  I really enjoy listening to stand up, and there was a fleeting time when I thought this might be a great career path (though I didn't entertain that notion for too long, since I realized it isn't all it's cracked up to be).  Plus, if you can't already tell, my comedy heavily relies on an audience's eager desire for puns.

However, there is one type of comedian in this world I will never aspire to be, as it is the lowest form of comedy....besides Jeff Dunham.  Of course, I'm talking about the Elevator Comedian.

This happens all the time at work.  You get in the elevator with a large group, and that one guy or gal decides they have the perfect elevator jokes that nobody's heard before.  Let's just pretend I'm putting out a cd of Elevator Comedy's greatest hits, with such classics as:

1. [elevator has almost every floor pressed except 6] 6th floor anyone? Going once, going twice??
2.[someone in back of elevator tries to get off and you need to move around them] Care to dance?
3.[all buttons pressed] BINGO! and/or YAHTZEE!
4.[elevator is packed] Wow, are we clowns in a clown car?  Where's the circus?

Yes folks, there are much more, and I have heard all of these in my life.  Let's just all make a pledge together to never be that man or woman making the lamest jokes ever to be funniest-elevator-goer.


Friday, November 18, 2011


This is going to be a short update, to show off the latest song that I wrote (and the hurried first draft of a recording).  It's called "Before", and I tried writing it in Starbucks one night but the blaring Christmas music made writing difficult, so I had to take it home and revise.

Also, I rarely go to Starbucks, and the last two times I went

  • An employee made fun of me for using Discover Card, because he informed me that it is "clearly a dying brand."  I always take my financial advise from Starbucks employees.
  • When I ordered a small hot chocolate, an employee said "oh big risk taker, huh" in a very facetious tone
So, Starbucks is pretty much awful.

So, here's the song, and the recording is here

November 16, 2011

The path we walked was covered in leaves
The autumn wind coaxed the clothes from the trees
The air I breathed felt crisp in my chest
Couldn't give it a name, I hadn't felt like this

The pea coat’s collar pulled up to your cheek
Did little to hide months of sorrow from me
Your eyes were dark water, your thoughts withdrew
You were in too deep, and I couldn’t join you
Now, or before

The fall is coming to an end
She's calling on the wind
for you

As we crossed the park, I felt my heart break
For that unspoken empathy was too great
I kissed your forehead, unsure if that was allowed
Blessed for the glimpse of a smile bestowed
months before

The fall is coming to an end
She's calling on the wind
for you