Gimme that book!

Free book? Free book!

One of the best things about living in a big building in the middle of a large city is that you’re surrounded by people but they don’t know you. This means you don’t have to stop all the time and chat with people, explain what you’re doing, and promise to talk to them later. You just live your life like a normal person who doesn’t want to chit chat.

You can accomplish the same thing by living in a remote cabin, but then you won’t find free books from time to time on the little table next to the elevator.

Folks on my floor will, on occasion, pop a book they are done with on the table. This means it is up for grabs, and the people who know me know I’ve got me some book grabbing hands. That’s how I ended up the book pictured above!

He’s going to be a lawyer, isn’t he?

When dealing with a toddler it can sometimes be difficult to know if they are doing the exact opposite of what you asked them because they don’t understand you or because they are tiny jerks.

During bedtime tonight Declan brought along a plastic egg and a plastic piece of corn on the cob. Sammy invented a game with some rather simplistic rules:

  1. Take the plastic egg and corn on the cob
  2. Throw them under your crib.
  3. Ask your father to retrieve them.
  4. Throw them under the crib again.
  5. Ask your father to retrieve them.

And so on.

After the 6th or 7th round I was tired of this game and it was clear, judging by his giggles, Sammy was just getting started. I settled him down, looked into his eyes, and said, “If you roll this egg under your crib one more time you’re going to get a time out. Do you understand?” Sammy looked at me and it was hard to tell if he understood me.

What he did next made it clear.

He threw the egg behind the couch and laughed like a madman.

Books I liked in 2021 that you could enjoy in 2022

I usually try to post some of my favorite books of the year before Christmas as folks can use the list as inspiration for gift giving. This year I didn’t get a chance to do that, and really I’m pretty sure no one is waiting for my book list to buy their loved ones Christmas presents.

However, you can still buy any of these books for anyone you might like! Don’t like purchasing stuff from Amazon? Buy them somewhere else! Heck, buy from them a local indie bookstore. I dare ya!

Anyway, I read 76 books last year and here are the books that I gave the coveted 5 star rating (though in the spirit of full disclosure I gave a lot of books 4 stars last year):

  • Cloud Cuckoo Land - This book has gotten a lot of attention, and for good reason! It is sort of literary fiction with a dash of science fiction… or is it? Either way, it is very well written.
  • The Lincoln Highway - A shaggy dog story in which the main character spends several hundred pages not doing the one thing they want to.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built - Want a short book about a robot and a monk who makes tea? This is the one for you!
  • The Dictionary of Lost Words - A book about the Oxford English Dictionary and womens’ rights. How can you go wrong?
  • Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life - Did you know that fish aren’t a thing? Mind blowing.
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within - Another Becky Chambers book! This is the 4th in a series, but you really don’t need to read any of the others to enjoy this one. Nothing much happens in this book, and it is a delight.
  • The Midnight Bargain - Be careful with which spirits you make deals!
  • Piranesi - I was nervous about reading this book, so I put it off for months. Don’t be a fool like me and read this as soon as you can!
  • Mexican Gothic - This book, as the kids say, is a mood. I really enjoyed that mood, but if you don’t… you won’t like this book.
  • The Hidden Palace - I wasn’t going to include this book on my list because it is the second in a series and the author is a friend of mine (crazy, I know! I’m even mentioned in the acknowledgments) but it is so good! And you don’t need to read the first book to read this one, but it certain helps… and the first book is so good too.
  • The Liar's Dictionary - A low paid editorial assistant realizes there are fake words in the dictionary she’s working on… and it gets complicated.

There you have it! My top 11 books of 2021! Read one, or read them all! Heck, you can even not read any of them.

I did that!

Lighting Fixture

Over a year ago when we bought the studio apartment next to our apartment one of the seller's requirements was that they get to keep the light fixture in the kitchen. We didn't actually like the light fixture, so that was fine by us. Plus, surely we'd replace it soon!

Over a year passes... and we replaced the fixture! And I even installed it myself (which, I am sure, would have taken someone who knows what they are doing far less time than it took me).

Shout out to the fine people at Rittenhoue Hardware for setting me up with a voltmeter (the guy said, "This is the safest one..." And I interrupted him to say, "I'll take it!") and for having an amazing website.

Ran, Scott, Ran

The Many Faces of Post run Scott

Runkeeper, for whatever reason, asks me to take a selfie at the end of my runs. Which I do, because I do what my phone tells me.

This leads to collages like the one above, and very amusing entries in any of the autogenerated "memories" or "On This Day" photo videos that apps these days feature.

This pictures really capture how I feel about running.

Running on vacation isn’t as much fun as you might think.

We’re spending the week “down the Shore” as they say in Philadelphia, and I’m happy to report that based on people’s behaviors the pandemic is over! Hurrah! Good job, everyone.

Now, I haven’t been in many shops because, as you know, the global pandemic is still raging and I live with two unvaccinated children (I don’t know why they are anti-vaxxers. They keep telling that they are doing their own research and will get vaccinated when they feel like the facts line up. I counter with: 1. You don’t have a computer with which to do research. 2. You can’t read. At this point they usually break something to distract me), however, I have been shocked by the lack of masking in the ones I have ventured into.

I suppose I got spoiled living in a big old blue city (though really, this isn’t political). This does make me appreciate how good Philadelphians, in general, are about masking. I am still baffled by the folks who don’t seem to know that the mask needs to cover your nose, but that’s a different subject entirely.

Whilst here I am continuing to run 4 times a week. As you may know, the pandemic took my already meager supply of interest in exercising and pooped all over it. I bought a bike and signed up with Peloton in hopes that would magically make me want to exercise. It didn’t, though it did show that I like stationary biking even less than I like running.

So, I’ve been running again, and continue to run on vacation. I find, and many other people in a variety of areas concur, that consistency is key. I’m not a great runner, but I am a regular runner.

One of my internal goals has been to always run faster than a 10 minute mile no matter how far I’m running. I’m not sure where I got this idea from; it might stem from high school gym class. You see, I wasn’t a very fit high schooler. I exercised far less than I do now, and I was a very, very poor runner. In fact, over the course of those 4 years of high school I only ran 3 times a year.

How do I know this? Because each year we had to run a timed mile in gym class. If you ran it slower than 15 minutes (I think that was the target, might have been 12), you had to run it again (on another day). In order to “train” for this run we… you guessed it.. ran a little over a mile once earlier in the week of the timed run.

Therefore, I would run about 3 miles a year and always feel bad about myself. Thanks, gym class!

Last night I went for a 4 mile run (I know!) and it wasn’t very good. I know what you’re thinking, “when is a run good?” And I feel you! But this run just plain sucked. The first mile I just barely made it under the 10 minute pace, but the remaining 3 all took more longer than 10 minutes each. Not by a lot, but still!

Given that I’ve been running a lot lately I was a little bummed about this performance until I thought to check the weather. Turns out I was running during an evening with 95% humidity. No wonder it sucked so much, and after learning that I was amazed that I did as well as I did!

I suppose the moral of this story is don’t go on vacation with 2 2 year old toddlers.

A shirt from the other side of the hanger

Photo on 6 1 21 at 1 27 PM

The pandemic hasn't been good for my waist line, like many other folks out there.

I've been snacking more, and moving less... because life has been stressful (at least for those of us who think COVID-19 is a real thing). However, since the pandemic seems to be winding down a bit for those populations in the world who can get vaccinated (and if you can, you should. No, Bill Gates isn't interested in tracking you and this isn't a grand government experiment to limit your freedom. Stop being an idiot.) I am again trying to do the right thing in regards to my health.

Since I'm vaccinated I am comfrotable with running outside again. I tried running with a mask for awhile, but it really, really sucked. So I bought a spinning cycle and used that, but my body just doesn't respond to it the same way. Could be that I just don't push myself hard enough on the bike, but running always seems to work for me when I want to start shedding some pounds.

And so I've been pounding the pavement in Center City.

A few months ago I spent a few hours trying on each and everyone one of my Hawiian shirts as I watched "Head of the Class" on HBO Max, as is tradtional.

This exercise left me with two groups of shirts:

  • Those that fit

  • Those that didn't

I hung them all up, but placed a couple of hangers between them so I would know from which group to grab a shirt in the morning (let me tell you, trying on several shirts before you find one that fits is not a great way to start the morning).

Today, dear reader, I'm wearing a shirt that was formerly in the "Those that didn't" section. Hurrah!

Now, I still have a lot of work to do before all of my shirts can intermingle once more, and I can close my eyes and select a shirt at random (my prefered method of dressing myself) but progress is being made.

Thanks, Pandemic!

My Weight

According to my blog I've cared about my weight for the last 15 years ago, ever since I realized I was 383 pounds and wanted to be... not 383 pounds. The good news is that I've managed to keep about 120 under that for over a decade. Hurrah!

The bad news? Well, if you look at the chart above you can see that over 2020 my weight trended upward (the dotted line is the overall trend-line... which goes down. I included it because it made me feel good and this is my blog. So deal with it!). I've gained about 25 pounds or so over the last year, which is less than ideal.

As I looked into this I wanted to figure out why I might have gained this weight when I've been pretty good about maintaining my weight around 235 pounds or so for awhile. I imagine it might have everything to do with:

  • Global Pandemic Stress
  • Working from home for the last 11 months, with access to all things delicious
  • Worrying about Trump getting re-elected
  • Celebrating Biden getting elected
  • Worrying about armed insurrection

It has been a year, people!

Anyway, I've decided I need to get back on track. This is a little way to hold myself publicly accountable. I've set a goal weight of 230 pounds. I think that's do-able, especially since I'm going to give myself until 2022 to get there. Should be easily doable!

I fell with (and for?) an iPhone 12 Pro Max

The Part in the Recipe you usually skip

When I peel off my disturbingly snug winter tights after a run I usually don’t find pieces of my flesh adhered to them. Thursday night was unusual.

Perhaps I should back up a bit.

I, like many people, have been struggling with healthy habits during the pandemic. There’s a lot going on and sometimes endless treats help. Ok, endless treats ALWAYS help.

That, dear reader, is why I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers for years. And why I’ve been consistently running 4 - 5 times a week. Since I live in the middle of the city it isn’t unusual for me to come across a number of other folks while running. A pre-pandemic mild annoyance transforms into potential danger when all these heavy breathers are shedding virus (a phrase I love) all over the place.

Given my paranoia, I stopped running for a bit and we bought one of them fancy spinning bikes (not that one, this one). I spun exclusively for awhile and it led me on a journey of discovery. I discovered that I have it in me to dislike an exercise even more than I dislike running. I also discovered that Peloton instructors are very fit, very peppy, and very much unlike me.

With winter slowly spreading itself across Philadelphia I figured it would be safe to run after 7pm (post baby bedtime). I figured I wouldn’t run into (ha!) many others on the streets or the river path during the cold, dark night. Turns out I was right, and I’ve adjusted my exercise routine to include both running and spinning.

That’s how I found myself sprawled on the sidewalk in front of an empty church during a chilly early winter Philadelphia evening. Directly before being prone, and slightly moaning, I had been very close to finishing my 3 mile run. I was listening to a podcast and feeling pretty good about myself. I thought to myself, “how far have I gone?” So I took out my brand new iPhone 12 Pro Max to take a peek at Runkeeper.

What a lovely thing that phone is. I opted for “Pacific Blue, ” which I think translates from marketing speak to “kinda blue if you squint in the right light.” Things to love about the phone: Sharp, flat corners and a great camera which almost makes up for the very ugly camera bump. Oh, and the battery life is amazing.

Anyway, I glanced at the completely unshattered screen of my brand new iPhone and saw that I had about 6 minutes left in my run. I didn’t feel like fiddling with my pocket zipper, so I held the iPhone in my hand for the rest of the run.

Up ahead on the dark, cold sidewalk I saw some dude walking down the street. I performed my usual “running in a pandemic” move of swerving as far away from him as possible which lead me to hug the church fence.

What I didn’t notice was the uneven sidewalk ahead of me. I definitely noticed the scrapping sound as my iPhone, hands, and knees skid across the very pebbly sidewalk moments later.

I don’t know if you’ve had a serious fall lately, but it is a rather jarring experience. One moment you’re in complete control of what your body is doing, the next moment you’re hurtling through the air without any time to react in a meaningful way.

The dude I was trying to avoid asked me if I was alright, since he had just seen a rather large man suddenly hit the sidewalk. I glanced at my iPhone and told him I was fine. He walked on.

I stood up and stared at my iPhone. The screen at the lower right corner was pulverized and there was a spiderweb of cracks where before there was but a single sheet of pristine glass.

My running app was still running (ha!) so I couldn’t wallow for too long. I finished my run, which reassured me that I hadn’t broken either of my knees, and then headed home.

Whilst walking home I found out that it is very easy to sign up for Apple Care+ on a brand new iPhone (it covers two instances of accidental damage) which is nice.

Marisa helped assess the damage when I got home. In addition to a broken iPhone I had sacrificed most of the skin on my left knee to the sidewalk, and a good bit of my right knee skin too. My hands had a few cuts, my right elbow was banged up, and I pulled some sort of muscle on my flank. Nothing too serious, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

The iPhone Review Part

But would I recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max?

If you like big phones I cannot lie: this is a good one. However, if you have a newish phone there’s probably only a few good reasons to update to the 12 Pro Max:

  • If you feel like your current iPhone is slow and you’re eligible for an upgrade, go for it.
  • You want the best camera on an iPhone (the camera is so very good).

Here are some sample images from the camera. Note that I’m not a pro photographer and I’ve done no editing to these pictures (which I’m sure you can tell!). My photographic subjects these days are mostly two 16 month old buys who won’t stand still and random crap in Philadelphia. Not exactly what Apple would pick to highlight the camera, I don’t think.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

It does its best with bouncing babies, but otherwise I think it is does a great job for my needs.

I should note that I had the iPhone 12 Pro Max for about a week, and during the course of that week I took a seemingly unbelievable 438 pictures. I don't know what you should do with that information, but it seems relevant.

That’s really about it, honestly. Battery life is great too, at least it has been for me.

I will say that I’m writing this on my XS Max and this phone, with its rounded sides, feels much better in my hand. The 12 Pro Max looks nicer, though if you’re a case person they’ll both look and feel the same, so what do you care?

There you have it: the iPhone 12 Pro Max (dumb name, by the way) is better than falling down and hurting yourself.