Thursday, January 31, 2008

Updating the Desk Walker 1000

There seems to be a bit of interest in this whole treadmill desk thing, so I thought I'd write a little more about it.

For the treadmill, I used a Phoenix 98516 Easy Up Manual Treadmill. I chose a manual treadmill for a couple of reasons. First, because manuals are cheaper. But second, and maybe more important, I read complaints that running a treadmill all day at low speeds will cause the motor to burn out quickly.

As you can see in the picture, I built a little prototype keyboard and mouse platform, which sits on top of the hand rails. I also have my laptop sitting on a box, about 18 inches above my regular desk.

Yes, I am able to type with both hands. I lean a bit on the cardboard platform for balance. Also, I have a bungie cord attached around my waist, as the speed of the manual belt is not exactly even and it's hard to keep a steady pace otherwise.

Notice I'm smiling as I work. That's because I love my job. Plus I am happy that I found an angle for the picture where my office looks halfway decent.

I walked three miles on Tuesday, and 4 miles on Wednesday. Today was spent in Dallas walking up and down real stairs with boxes in my hand, so I didn't have much left to give when I finally got back home for a few hours of work.

Tomorrow, however, I expect great things.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Redefining the Desk Job

With the exceptions of six long weeks as a computer salesman, every job I've had since graduating from college has been a desk job. Getting a desk job was why I went to college in the first place. That, and to pick up chicks.

I've had the same chick for 18 years now, and unfortunately I've lost my svelte college physique. When it comes to burning calories, working behind a desk has proven woefully inadequate.

The problem, however, is not really the desk. It is the chair.

I was inspired after reading several articles about treadmill computer workstations, and decided to give it a go.

My office chair is literally falling apart (no fat jokes, please) and for less than actual replacement cost, I have picked up an inexpensive, manual treadmill. In true handyman fashion, it's currently rigged with cardboard boxes and bungie cords, and for the last two days I have been walking most of the time I've been working.

In fact, this blog posting is being written at a blistering 0.9 MPH.

I tried to take a picture, but the office is so cluttered I couldn't get a decent shot. I'll work on that - in the meantime, here's what the system would look like if I wasn't cheap/broke/geekily handy and bought a system rather than try to build one myself. And was daft enough to wear a suit to work.

I haven't noticed any weight loss yet, but I certainly can work up a sweat. And I my legs feel like I've just done a two day stint at an amusement park. Without the nausea, of course.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Update

I was testing out a new printer yesterday with pictures that we have taken over the years. I came across this one, and looking at it I found myself yet again with tears streaming down my face.

I've been crying a lot the last week or so. I'm scared.

I took this picture of Kara by the ocean near Santa Monica in October of 2005. We were there for an Angel Flight meeting, and had an hour or two to take a walk along the beach. At that time, the gains we thought we had made with Kara's health earlier in the year were quickly evaporating, and we had just decided to send her to the clinic here in Dallas for what we hoped would be a few weeks of treatment.

Now, two and a half years later, we seem to have truly reached an impasse. The doors are closing so fast, and the windows don't seem to want to open. Kara is still not able to eat, and she has been reacting badly to the IV nutrition that she is on.

I have a vivid imagination, and can usually come up with creative solutions to all kinds of problems. Why can't I think of something to make my wife well?

Gingerbread Girl

It seems we get one of these pictures every time we make gingerbread.

Last night we just made the dough. With any luck, we will turn it into cookies tonight.

Update: All went well, and we made gingerbread hearts, in honor of the upcoming St. Valentines Day. Alyssa has decided she wants to give cookies to her friends, and was very cute assigning a different cookie to each of her friends and teachers.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

60 Pumpkin Pancakes

This morning I decided to make pancakes for breakfast. I was awakened earlier than I wanted to be, and couldn't go back to sleep, so I had the time. Also, the kitchen needed some serious attention, and pancake making goes well with dish washing, what with all the waiting between flips and such.

So I looked through the pancake recipes, and came across one for pumpkin pancakes that I synthesized a few years ago. I decided to go with that one, as it would give me an excuse to open one of my bottles of butternut - just to see how it turned out.

The recipe called for 8 oz of pumpkin, but I got 12 oz from the jar (one pint minus an inch of headspace). No problem - multiply everything by 1.5.

The recipe makes a lot it is - increasing it by 50% gave me a total of 5 dozen pancakes.

We ate one dozen this morning, and there are now eight packs of frozen pancakes, ready to go for a weekday breakfast.

Pumpkin pancakes

1 cup pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup applesauce
2 T brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger

Friday, January 25, 2008

Five Reasons Today Sucks

Serious whining to follow. You've been warned.

1. The IRS says we owe $1,800 taxes on a 401k we cashed out to pay for medical bills. The bills span multiple years, and nobody seems to know how to get the paperwork right. I tried to get it resolved today, but the helpers I talked to were clueless. It looks like we'll have to pay so we don't get penalized further, then try and find a tax attorney to help.

2. CIGNA has decided today to stop paying on Kara's treatment. $18,000 worth of claims (for services we paid for out of pocket) have been denied. I have another $10,000 worth that we haven't even submitted. So we'll be looking for a medical claims attorney as well. (They can help us with the $25,000 Aetna refused to pay last year.)

3. I tried to vent my frustrations at the above two issues by giving my Mii an angry face and doing some Wii boxing. I lost points every time.

4. I burned dinner. Well, OK. Not totally burned, but the bottom of the pizza crust was pretty brown.

5. I knocked out power to the office when I tried to run my space heater and a laser printer at the same time.

But there were some good things, too.

1. I didn't punch any walls or throw anything glass. I threw a box of cereal, but it didn't hit anything.

2. Having lost all desire to do any work around the house, I completely ignored my chores and played Wii with the girls all evening. I totally toasted Anna's cookies.

3. The cat came back. He wasn't in his bed in the garage this morning, which surprised me because there was a bit of an ice storm going on outside. He was gone all day, and I was starting to get worried.

4. The chocolate chip cookies turned out next to perfect.

5. I have a blog where I can vent my frustrations.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fifteen Good Things in Fifteen Minutes

OK. I'm feeling down tonight. I need to think of fifteen good things that have happened this week. I have fifteen minutes to do it.

Ready? Go.

1. Made dinner. Several times. Shepherds pie, meatloaf, and enchilada casserole that ended up more like soup.

2. Successfully convinced the girls that the enchilada soup was really nachos.

3. Got my wife connected with an Asus Eee computer. Now she can check email, read blogs, and research treatment options.

4. Had family prayer via Skype video conference, thanks to above mentioned Eee.

5. Filled a bag with garbage from off of my desk. The desk doesn't really look any different, but I had to have made SOME progress.

6. Cooked and bottled a bunch of butternut that needed to be dealt with. 11 pints worth.

7. Taught a reasonably decent lesson in Priesthood on Sunday.

8. Made sugar cookies with the girls.

9. Cleaned off the kitchen island so we had a place to make sugar cookies.

10. Made French toast casserole for breakfast on MLK day. It was yummy.

11. Remembered to give the girls their vitamins. Yay!

12. Found a Santa cake pan on clearance to give as a gift to my mom.

13. Put the nativities and Christmas tree away.

14. Spent Friday and Saturday night with Kara in Dallas, and got to church within 5 minutes of starting time on Sunday.

15. Got the girls to the bus on time every day, with hair combed and lunch boxes filled.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tucker's Posse

Tucker has moved up to being a garage cat, thanks to the cold weather outside. The poor beast knows that the real action is inside, and we're holding out on him. But he's got food and a soft bed, and the garage is warmer than outside. That's the best we can offer him for now.

Today Alyssa decided he needed some friends, so she nestled a dozen or so Beanie Babies all around him. He was purring contentedly when I found him.

Doing More By Doing More

It's been a bit too long since my last post. If you think that's because I've been busy, you're right.

I've been trying to live life in the "Do It All" zone, and I've had some success. I've been planning out my days with taskmaster-style efficiency, and applying liberal quantities of stick-to-itiveness.

I'm doing another Book in a Month challenge, and I have been fairly successful at meeting the writing goal I have set for myself (see my other blog for progress reports.)

I sometimes question the wisdom of spending any time writing when there are so many other, more tangible things that need to be done. But the writing is something I really look forward to, and it is really because of this time spent that I have the willpower to make a schedule and stick to it. I really think I get more done when I take time to write, because I am motivated to make the best use of my other time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shopping for Handbags

So the other night, after Activity Days, Anna wanted me to take her shopping for a handbag. Never mind that Activity Days ends at bedtime, she was insistent that we go to a store. I figured that since Kohl's was on the way home, we'd take a chance and see what they had.

The girls both got $5 in Christmas cards, and thanks to a 90% off clearance they each got a fairly nice handbag, with money left over to put in it.

Anna's bag contains her iPod, Nintendo DS, her video games, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Alyssa's has her Gameboy and a plastic Scooby-Doo.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Time

Have you ever noticed how analog clocks in catalogs and ads usually read 10:10?

The idea behind this (I've been told) is the clocks look "happy" at that time.

Why is the clock happy?

One theory is that the hands look like a smile.

We just started the 9:00 am schedule at church, starting with Sacrament Meeting. As that 70 minute meeting was ending yesterday, I looked up at the clock.

Maybe that's why 10:10 is considered a happy time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Enjoyable Run Around

Last month, Anna announced that she wanted to join the Runner's Club at school. This surprised me a bit, because running has never been something she has done before. But she wanted to do it, so who was I to say 'no?'

This Runner's Club meets after school twice a week to prepare for the Kid's 5K run associated with the Cowtown Marathon next month, so we signed her up for the club and the race.

I signed up, too. Not for the club (I have to be responsible and meet Alyssa's bus after school), but for the race. I used to run quite a bit, but I haven't been more than a half-dozen times in the last two years. So I saw this as a good chance to get back on the road. So to speak.

So yesterday I took the girls out to run up and down our street. It's just a little street, and I figured we could just all run at our own pace and get a pretty good workout.

I was mostly right, although things didn't quite happen the way I expected. For one thing, I was very surprised to see just how well Alyssa could run. It's actually more of a speed walk gait, but she can really move.

She started running the same time I did. I settled into my "old fat man" jogging pace, and she very quickly left me behind. What's more, she kept going at that pace for probably 200 feet, and she did that over and over and over during the 18 minutes I ran up and down our little cul-de-sac.

In fact, I think she probably ran four times as much as Anna, who spent more time fiddling with her outfit and her iPod than she did actually running.

I didn't sign Alyssa up for the race, but maybe I should.

Christmas Dresses

I have finally managed to get the girls, their Christmas dresses, and the camera together in the same place. Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy Blogaversary!

It was one year ago today that my delusion first found its internet voice on this blog. Looking back, it has been quite a year - thanks for being a part of it!

I thought about doing a retrospective on the year, but decided not to. The year is all right there in the archives - go and read it yourself. :-)

I wrote 264 posts last year, for an average of one every 1.38 days, or just over 5 times a week. That's a pretty good average for any activity!

I've had visitors from all 6 populated continents, and since March 2, 2007 (when the counting of such things began) this blog has been viewed 3,332 times by 1,357 readers. The busiest day was April 22, when 43 different people came by (courtesy of the Blogger "next blog" button).

128 comments have been left, with roughly 80% of those coming in the last few months.

Thank you all for stopping by and sharing in my delusion. I really do believe it's done us all some good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Back On Your Heads!

The girls are FINALLY back in school today. Hooray!

I faced the morning with a mix of relief and dread, knowing that it could be a real crisis if not handled properly. To this end, I made sure that the girls had their clothes for today all laid out last night. Alyssa was easy (as always), but Anna wanted to try some new things.

She got some leggings for Christmas, and wanted to wear those with a pink skort and pink shirt that she has. She found the skort OK, and the shirt was in the load of laundry she put in the dryer.

However, what she thought was her shirt turned out this morning to be a pair of pink stretch pants, and tears followed. Fortunately we were able to improvise, and she made it off to school looking more like a young woman than she ever has.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Each Life That Touches Ours For Good

We never know when we might have the chance to touch the life of someone else.

I have a collection of blogs that I frequent. Some belong to friends I've known forever. Others are people I've met through my writing hobby. Still others are blogs I've found by people in Laie, to help me cope with my current bout of homesickness.

One of the Laie-based blogs led me to the blog of a family in Oregon. I really enjoyed reading their entries, so I added it to my collection.

Today, I took the girls to church, and Kara was here at the condo alone. She was having a very difficult time, overwhelmed by the Lyme disease information her internet research was turning up. She was feeling extremely low.

The mention of 'mangoes' in the title of a blog on my bookmark list caught her eye, and she ended up visiting the Oregon-based blog.

As she read through the writings of a complete stranger - a mother with little girls not all that different from ours - she was reminded of the days when it was our kids emptying the toilet paper roll and getting into the makeup. She remembered all of the good times that we have had as a family, which boosted her spirits, made her laugh, and made her cry. Reading this blog really helped her out when she was having a very tough time.

I love that the internet gives us new and powerful ways to connect with others all over the world, and gives us the chance to help and be helped by people we have never even met.

Thanks, Mahina.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Boredom Rears Its Ugly Head

We've been here in Dallas with Kara since just before Christmas, and up until today everything has worked out pretty well. This is due primarily to the fact that a set of eleven-year-old twins was staying in the condo next door, and the girls have had a great time playing with them.

That all changed today when those kids left for home, and I heard the first grumblings of boredom from mine. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a very long day.

We have also benefited from the fact that we don't have cable at our house, so Disney Channel and Animal Planet are all new and exciting. But even that began to wear thin today.

I think we'll be headed back to the house for good on Saturday. There is no way we can get home, changed, and to church in time, as we start the 9-12 schedule at church on Sunday. I was hoping for the 10-11 schedule, but such is life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

2008 is here. We stayed up late eating chips and dip, playing Wii and watching Shrek The Third. We drank our apple juice bubbly sometime after midnight, and slept in late this morning. A very typical New Years Eve.

While I'm certainly not sad to see 2007 end, I must admit that there were quite a few blessings that came my way. I had thought about doing a Good, Bad, and Ugly list. But the day is almost over, after which there will only be 365 left this year, and I've got a lot to do!

Happy New Year, everyone.