Monday, March 31, 2008

Neal Stephenson Returns!

Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. I got hooked on him when my friend Elisa lent me a copy of Snow Crash, which is often compared to Gibson's Neuromancer. I had no idea what to expect at the time, but a day or two later, I'd finished reading the book (I got through Snow Crash much more quickly than I did Neuromancer, Stephenson's writing style is a lot easier to get into than Gibson's for me). I quickly moved onto The Diamond Age (of which there is a magnificent unabridged version at and then I started the Goliath that is Cryptonomicon. I admit, it took me longer to get through Cryptonomicon, in part because the story was a lot more...complicated, or involved, but it also was due to the fact that the book is over 1,000 pages long. From there, it was a short jump to the books of The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World. Interface was another book of his that I read later, as was Zodiac, though Zodiac was in my esteem his weakest novel. These books, as a whole, represent to me what good science fiction should be: just on the edge of believability and a story that sucks you in. Stephenson is one of the authors I compare other science fiction authors to as a measure of how good they are.

Via slashdot, I came across an article on the TIME (the magazine) blog touting Stephenson's return. His new book, Anathem, is already available for pre-order on, with a release date of September 9, 2008. The TIME blog quotes the story description, "Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians—sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides that only these cloistered scholars have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his cohorts are summoned forth without warning into the Unknown."

I don't know if there are any other Stephenson-lovers out there, but this is definitely on my "must get" list.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

If I Kill Oz...'ll know why.

My TV is a 52" Sony Bravia XBR LCD (the exact numbers are KDL-52XBR4, but that really doesn't matter much). The TV it replaced was a 30-ish inch CRT TV that was at least 10 years old, one I got when my aunt passed away in 2001. With the old TV, Oz would sometimes lay on top of it and if I was playing a soccer video game, or when playing Final Fantasy X, he'd try to bat at the ball/cursor moving around on the screen. It was funny, but it was a rare occurrence, and so it wasn't much of a problem.

With this new TV, Oz seems to want to attack everything. If I have the Cartoon Network on, he attacks the logo in the lower left corner. If I have sports on (like soccer or basketball), he bats at the ball, and only runs away when the TV zooms to a close-up of a player coming towards the camera. If I have a movie on, he bats at things moving on the screen. I'm going to have to buy a spray bottle to contend with the situation...or, you know, kill him. ;)

He's much cuter when he's trying to imitate the RCA dog.

On Goals

It's good to have goals in life. Goals for your professional life, goals for your personal life, goals give you something to work towards and allow you a feeling of accomplishment when you've met your goals. When I started writing here "actively" again in late '06, my goal was to lose weight so I didn't look like a fat cow at Wendy's wedding. As a means to that end, I started working out again, a little over 2 years after having my ankle fused.

At the time, it was difficult. The old ways I would work out were no longer viable. Back before I hosed my ankle beyond belief, I would run and do martial arts and play soccer. With a fused ankle, running and jumping are physically impossible, so those outlets were inaccessible. I was never one to enjoy going to the gym, and hated the idea of weight lifting before I hurt my ankle. So, to meet my goal in late '06, I found myself doing those things I never considered before my injury and subsequent surgeries--I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer to help me out.

Needless to say, I've made a lot of progress. Wendy's wedding came and went (beautifully, despite my running a fever on the big day), and I found myself enjoying the gym. My friends had started calling me a gym rat, and even though I'd achieved my goals for Wendy's wedding, I found I didn't want to stop working out. In retrospect, this shouldn't have been a surprise, but at the time it was. I decided to shift my goal to generically "lose weight." Through the course of my injuries and surgeries, I spent almost 2 years virtually unable to walk (and when I could walk, it was very short distances), and I decided to keep working out with Brian (my trainer) and keep up with my cardio to help lose more weight that I'd gained while recovering from my ankle mess.

That was almost a year ago. These days, I'm about 20 pounds heavier than I was when I was at my lightest, but I'm also lifting regularly, something I NEVER did when I was at my lightest, so it's hard to judge things based purely on numbers. I bet I could lose a bit more weight, but if I don't, I'm ok with it, knowing I'm healthy and looking pretty good. I'm still a gym rat, though, as I'm at the gym 5-6 days per week on average.

On cardio days, I do between 65 and 90 minutes of fairly high-intensity cardio (I've been erring on the side of 65 lately, as work has been keeping my schedule really busy, and I've been working out at ~85% of my max heart rate). On lifting days (about twice a week with Brian), I warm up with ~30 minutes of cardio and then lift with him for an hour. But now I'm starting to wonder what my goal is/should be. It's no longer "lose weight" as it were, and it's not like there are too many things I can compete in that I can train for.

My hand is still causing problems, which is a part of why I'm not at this point interested in a cycling-related goal (the vibrations through the handlebars hurt my hand, and pulling my rear brake as it's currently configured is painful, too). I recently re-dislocated my right shoulder, and though I'm done with rehab, I'm afraid that swimming may overstress it, like it did years ago, when I needed stabilizing surgeries on both of my shoulders.

So, I'm at a loss. Maybe the right answer is that I should go back to the hand doc and try to figure out what's wrong with my hand and how to make it better, but right now, I'm not sure I'm ready for that, mentally. Or maybe I should see how much more weight I can lose. Maybe make a new goal of losing 10 pounds, and take it from there. Or maybe in this case I don't need a goal....