Catching the Worm

Kris is enjoying Get Fit Slowly, the new fitness blog that Mac and I are writing together. However, she likes it because she can make fun of us, not because she finds it useful.

Apparently Mac recently wrote somewhere (though I can’t find it) that he’s feeling better rested because he’s going to sleep earlier and getting up later. Kris found this hilarious. “I’ve been telling you to do this for years,” she said. And she has.

But try as I might, I can’t make myself get to bed before 11pm on most nights. I get up at 5:30, so that means just 6-1/2 hours of sleep. Recently I’ve been so exhausted that I’m willing to try to change some of my habits.

Last night, for instance, I fell asleep at about 9:30. I took my melatonin at 8:45, climbed into bed, read about Benjamin Franklin, and by 9:15, I was feeling groggy. I put on my C-PAP mask and my iPod (“Deep Sleep Every Night”, a “hypnotic” relaxation program), and turned out the lights.

I slept soundly.

This is a good thing, right? I woke feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day. I’m sitting here in front of Amy Jo’s light box, getting stuff done. The problem is that it’s 5 am! I woke up at four, and then spent an hour tossing and turning, trying to get back to sleep. My body said, “Aha! Your 6-1/2 hours of sleep are up, Buster. Get out of bed.”

I can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing…

My Own Special Circle of Hell

David, the new salesman at Custom Box Service (my replacement), starts work on Wednesday. To prepare for his arrival, we’re buying lots of new toys: a new Honda Element, a new computer, a new office. (Well, the new office is still several months out, but it’s in the cards.)

Jeff took care of the car, but it’s my responsibility to set up the new computer. Should be easy, right? I’ve been working with computers all my life. I did computer consulting for several years.


It’s been a long time since I set up a new PC, and the experience hasn’t improved at all. This machine is a new HP purchased from Fry’s Electronics. I didn’t think setting up a new PC could get any more frustrating than it used to be. I was wrong.

First of all, Windows Vista is a mess. How did Microsoft even think it was okay to release this? It’s ugly, slow (even on a fresh out-of-the-box computer), and clunky. I’ve managed to revert to many of the “classic” (Windows 2000-era) display preferences, but not everything gives me that option.

Worse, there’s a mind-numbing quantity of desktop apps and taskbar icons. I tried to remove some of the taskbar widgets (Yahoo! search, in particular), but they keep coming back. Also, why is there even a caps-lock and scroll-lock indicator in the taskbar? That’s insane.

I’m also baffled by the number of security programs a new PC comes with. Do you know how many my new Mac comes with? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

After getting the machine set up today, I realized I needed another network cable, some speakers, and a copy of Microsoft Office, so I made another trip to Fry’s. Networking went fine. But when I went to install the speakers, I was shocked by how short the cords were. Am I expected to set the things on the floor? Nick traded speakers with me, but that didn’t help. His speakers don’t work on David’s computer. Neither do the backup set of speakers we have. Ugh.

Meanwhile, we couldn’t figure out how to open the goddamn Microsoft Office box. Why should it be so difficult to figure this stuff out? It took three of us ten minutes to open the thing. I’m not kidding.

Then when I went to install Office, I couldn’t. It was an upgrade version, which I already knew, but it wouldn’t recognize that I had a version of Works. At the Microsoft web site, I was instructed to download a patch that would force the installer to recognize Works. But the patch couldn’t find Works, either! And it wanted a CD! A CD that HP conveniently didn’t provide with the computer.

Finally I found a solution. We own a copy of Microsoft Frontpage 2000 which we never really used. Fortunately, it too qualifies for the upgrade. I installed Frontpage, and then installed Office. End of story, right?


Next I had trouble getting David’s e-mail set up. And the Visual Basic program that I wrote to provide quotes for customers doesn’t want to work on his machine.

Eventually I just gave up. We’ll fix this stuff on Wednesday.

In Which the Cats Hinder My Productivity

Yessir, this full-time writing stuff is going to be amazing.

On Sunday, I generated ten blog posts on various topics. (None of them for foldedspace, sadly.) Today, I produced 28 single-spaced pages for an e-book project. The mind boggles. (Of course, much of that material was refurbished from previous bits, but still…there was plenty of new stuff, too.)

When I’m able to work without interruption, I get a lot done.

Unfortunately, we have four cats. This may not seem like an issue on the surface, but it is. At any one time, there’s at least one (and sometimes two or three) cats who want my attention. They drove me nuts this afternoon!

Eventually I had to banish the beasts outside. For three hours they pawed at the window and gave me their most forlorn looks. I ignored them. I got stuff done. Then I let them in and they were up on the table, begging for attention. Poor things.

No Longer Children

“Hold out your hands and close your eyes,” Kris told me this afternoon. She’d just returned from a shopping trip. “I have a surprise for you.” I held out my hands and closed my eyes. She gave me a cold plastic package.

I opened my eyes to see she’d bought me a jump rope. “Guess how much this cost,” she said.

“I don’t know. $9?”

“No. It was only $3!” she said, her eyes wide with amazement.

“$3? That’s a bargain,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I should have bought two.”

I opened the package and took the jump rope outside to test it. I tripped on the first two twirls — I’m old and clumsy. But then I got the hang of bouncing twice. I did a dozen twirls or so and then went back inside the house.

“Ouch,” I said.

“What happened?” Kris asked.

“I pulled a muscle,” I said. “I should have stretched first.”

“Yeah.” Kris said. “It actually says that right on the package.” She was right. It did say so right on the package.

“When I was a kid, I loved to skip rope. I don’t remember ever having to warm up,” I said, rubbing my calf.

“We’re not kids anymore,” muttered Kris. Alas, that is true.

Finding the Future

I’m at an interesting place in my life, a place it had never occurred to me I’d reach. My little personal finance blog has taken on a life of its own. It’s a business. It’s a brand. Sure, it’s a small business and a small brand, but that’s a start.

But what do I do next? For a long time, I’ve believed that a book was the next natural progression. But what sort of book? I have three discrete ideas kicking around in my head — which one do I pursue? And how do I find a publisher? (This morning on the drive to work, I found the seed for a fourth idea.)

The answers to these questions have become a little more clear during the past several weeks. I’ve had conversations with about a dozen very smart people, all of whom have opinions on this subject. Some believe a book is The Answer. Some believe a book is A Mistake. All of them are wildly supportive. Whom do I believe? How can I know which path is best?

Fortunately, I don’t have to decide just yet. I have time.

My favorite advice so far has come from the bold Penelope Trunk, who is a force of nature. “You’re fat, right?” she said. Penelope is not one to mince words. “The best thing you can do right now is get fit. If you get fit, you’ll gain confidence. If you gain confidence, and if you look good, you’ll be in a position to do whatever you want. You’ll have flexibility.”

I laughed at the boldness and simplicity of her suggestion.

“I’m not joking,” she said. And she wasn’t. “Don’t do a book. Get fit. Spend all your time working on your site and exercising. In the months it takes to do this, be thinking about what Get Rich Slowly can do for you. Brainstorm ideas. A book is not the way to go.”

Though I’m not convinced a book is a bad idea, I think Penelope’s other suggestions were fantastic. Some of them were mind-blowing, actually. Her vision for my site is even bigger than my own. Talking to her made me realize that perhaps my goals are too modest.

In any event, the next few weeks are going to be filled with a lot of soul-searching and introspection. If you see me deep in thought, it’s only because I’m trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life!

Trivia: I’ve written the word “exercise” (or some form of it) several times over the past few days. Every time I’ve misspelled it “excercise”. Where did that come from? I never used to do that.

A Bedtime Story

“You need to put up something different at foldedspace,” Kris told me tonight when I went upstairs to tuck her in. “It’s been a week since your car trouble. You sound all suicidal and stuff.”

“Hm,” I said. “You’re right. I just haven’t had time. And I’m not suicidal.”

“I know,” she said. “But it sounds like it.”

“I’ll go do that now,” I said, getting up to leave.

“No,” she said. “Tell me a story.”

I lay down and began: “Once upon a time, on a planet far far away, there lived a race of people devoted to pure intelligence. These people were believed to think the most sublime thoughts in the galaxy. But there was one problem: they were so devoted to intellect that they neglected their physical nature. They evolved into ugliness. In fact, they were so ugly, that it was said any human who set eyes upon a Medusan — they were called Medusans — would go insane.”

“Is this Star Trek?” asked Kris.

“One day, a spaceship called upon the Medusan planet to pick up its ambassador and his companion, a human woman who had not gone insane from looking at these ugly people. Why hadn’t she gone insane? She was blind.”

“This is Star Trek, isn’t it?” said Kris.

“On board the spaceship, there was only one man who could be trusted to deal with the Medusan ambassador. The first officer, you see, was only half human, and with the proper visor over his eyes, he would not be driven insane.”

“I knew it. It is Star Trek,” Kris said, laughing.

I paused. “Yes, I guess it is,” I said, as if I hadn’t just watched this particular episode fifteen minutes before. “And it’s a long story, I realize now. In fact, it’d probably take fifty minutes to tell it to you.” An episode of Star Trek lasts fifty minutes.

Kris laughed. “Why don’t you just give me the summary.” And so I did.

“I don’t know why you watch that show,” she said when I had finished. “It’s not very good.”

“Well, you’re mostly right. Most of the episodes are average. But some of them are great. I really liked this episode. It was very science fiction-y. My favorite episodes are those with stories that don’t have to exist in the Star Trek universe. This was one of those.”

“And what was the one with the gangsters?” Kris asked. I made her watch “A Piece of the Action” with me a couple weeks ago.

“The one with the gangsters was just bad,” I said.

“They’re all bad,” muttered Kris as I kissed her good night.

And I went downstairs to watch another episode…


Some days are cursed. Some days everything goes wrong.

Most of the time I slog through those days, trying to get things turned around. Sometimes it works. Today, however, I’m giving up. My body and mind are telling me I need a break.

It’s Star Trek and video games from now ’til bed time.

My Favorite Christmas Cookies (2007 Edition)

Alas, Christmas is over. That’s probably a good thing. The holiday season is dangerous for me, filled as it is with cookies and other baked goods. Most holiday cookies are nice, but run-of-the-mill. Every once in a while, a friend surprised me with something truly delicious: Jenn’s gingerbread cookies, Courtney’s hot pepper and chocolate wonders.

This year, though, I tasted two great cookies. On the same day. Oh, my poor poor belly. Fortunately, I’ve been able to obtain the recipes for the future. Maybe once I’ve lost some weight, I can bake a batch of one of these as a reward.

First up, from Michael Hampton comes this delicious jelly-filled cookie:

Great Grandma Emilia Marie Martin’s Jelly Cookies

  • 1 cup butter/margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter.  Add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Add gradually to creamed mixture.  Chill 3-4 hours.


Roll on well-floured surface to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut in desired shapes – Grandma’s were always round so cut circles and then circles with a hole in the middle.  Put circle on a baking sheet and then put the circle with the hole on top.  Put a bit of jam or jelly in the hole. 


Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 for 6-8 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack and frost with a thin powdered sugar icing.

Next, from the Moenne-Loccoz household, here are some chewy oatmeal cookies that, well, are more than oatmeal:

Praline Snaps

from Art of the Cookie by Jann Johnson

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick (not instant) rolled oats, coarsely ground in a blender or food processor
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oats; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla extract. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and combine well.

Scoop the dough into 1¼-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten the balls slightly with the bottom of a glass.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes, or until barely browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Well-wrapped cookies may be frozen.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Yum. My mouth is watering just thinking about these…

Fat Lumberjack Slob: A Scene of Domestic Bliss

Kris comes home from work. I leave my computer to go visit.

Kris: Tell me you didn’t wear that shirt today.

J.D.: I wore this shirt today.


J.D.: What’s wrong with this shirt?

Kris: You look like a fat lumberjack.


Kris: Untuck it. [I untuck it.] That’s no good. Now you look like a fat lumberjack slob. Did you run the dishwasher?

J.D.: Oops. [I go run the dishwasher.]

Kris: Don’t tell me you forgot.

J.D.: I forgot.


J.D.: Why are we running the dishwasher again, anyhow? We just ran it last night.

Kris: Yes, but you made a salad.


Kris: Did you get cat food?

J.D.: Oops.


J.D.: But I fed the cats!

Ah, married life is pretty hilarious sometimes. For the husband, anyhow. Of course, everything can be made right by a trip to Gino’s for clams. Yum!