Post-Thanksgiving, Post-London, but Pre-Vacation

I have four more work days this year, including today, and then I’m on holiday until January. That’s pretty exciting.

Staying on my diet through Thanksgiving was pretty easy. I just ate turkey, ham, and green beans, and saw my siblings and some extended family at my mom’s house. It had been almost 10 years since I had seen my brothers. One of my nieces was there and I hadn’t seen her in 24 years.

Then, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I went to London. I was able to stay on keto through the first week without too much trouble. Salads with chicken, a McDonald’s salad with a couple of hamburger patties on top, roast chicken and squash and other veggies. Not too bad.

The second week was a loss, though. It’s hard to avoid rice when you’re having Thai food every other meal. I didn’t drink a single beer, but I did drink two bottles of wine one night. There was a pot pie for dinner one day, and pizza another, and I lacked for choices. So not ideal, but I tried to manage my portion size at least, and I think avoiding beer helped.

I was back on keto as soon as I got home last Friday, and the re-adjustment has been a bit tough. I’m hungrier than I was, so I made a fat bomb yesterday comprised of almond butter, cocoa, cream cheese, and heavy whipping cream. Then I made hot chocolate last night with almond milk, cocoa, some vanilla powder, cinnamon, a bit of xanthan gum, some swerve, and a bit of heavy whipping cream. I didn’t have much sugar while in London, but it was enough to have me craving sweets again.

All’s well that end’s well:

  • Starting weight: 240
  • Goal weight: 190
  • Current weight: 223

It’s neat to see these numbers, because I forget between blog posts what I weighed. I’m weighing myself every 1-3 days and logging it into MyFitnessPal so it’s pretty incremental, then I blog and see I’ve dropped 5 pounds since my last weigh-in.

This week, I’m finally adding in the exercise that I was supposed to do in week 2. I have a new battery for my heart rate monitor, so I got that working this morning, then rowed for 20 minutes and stayed in the target range for 7, per Mark Sisson’s book. He recommends 2 hours of exercise every week, so I figure if I do this 20 minute routine every morning, 6 days a week, that should set me right. We’ll see if I can keep that up, though. It was nice to listen to NPR while rowing this morning.

I have an 8 a.m. meeting, so I better get going. Heading into the office this week since I haven’t been there in almost 3 weeks.

Let’s get this out of the way::

I’m not entirely sure I want to blog, a word I’m using as a verb rather than a noun at the moment, and it’s mostly because I’m feeling content and happy and no particular pressure or impetus to reach beyond my immediate surroundings and speak. Except… except that there is something that needs said, and this is likely the best platform to say it from, which leaves me in a bit of a quandary.

And then, when I think about saying those things, I remember all the other things I haven’t said, and I feel like I must say those things first. So, this isn’t a rant about not blogging enough, nor is it a promise to blog more. I may blog exactly twice in the next month, including this current post. But the next post is important. This post just needs to be written so I can get it out of the way.

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PAX Plans

As many have noticed, I’m not at PAX. It’s a sad state of affairs, but our finances just didn’t make it this year and we’ll have to pay higher taxes next year, so a big trip right before tax-time seemed unwise.

Despite that, I’m already making plans for next year. April and I are charting a vacation in March over Spring Break that will take us to Oostberg, Wisconsin. From there, we’ll hit Chicago, and then we’ll hop over to Boston for PAX East.

Some friends of ours just moved to Oostberg so the husband of the duo could become the pastor of a church there, so we’re going to fly to Milwaukee, take a bus to Sheboygan, and see if they’ll pick us up there. On the return trip, after they get us to Sheboygan, we’ll take a train to Chicago where we’ll spend a couple of days. Flying from Chicago to Boston is only $100 a ticket, so we’ll hop on over a few days before PAX to explore the city.

I’ve got some work stuff going on that might result in a raise, so I’m hoping to manage both PAX East and PAX Prime next year, though attending Prime will be just a quick jaunt to Seattle for a three day party. The last time I attended PAX Prime it was a two week vacation for me, but since we’ll be doing Boston in March I won’t be able to afford two long vacates. A lot of people I met at PAX only attend Prime, so I’d really like to go there, but the timing is more difficult. PAX Prime is right after our fall semester starts, and since I work at a University it’s hard to get away. Spring Break for PAX East is a bit more convenient.

For those of you at PAX this year, I hope you all have a blast. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but hopefully we’ll see each other next year in the holy land. Have fun and stay safe!

Quick heading out of town post

We’re always so uncomfortable talking about death. Or rather, we’re not really uncomfortable talking about death, but the accouterments of death. We can discuss death philosophically, talk about it directly, and all that’s fine, but I have no good way to refer to certain things. It seems crass to say that someone died. We have to go to a funeral. We try to find better ways to phrase these things, like “They passed away,” but everyone still knows. We’re not fooling anybody.

April’s brother, Adam, is driving down tonight to spend the night with us, and then we’ll be leaving early tomorrow to go to Cape Giradeau for April’s uncle’s funeral. I, for one, was shocked, and that surprise continues to linger. I know his health wasn’t good, but I… just hadn’t expected him to die. I’m still not sure what to think about it.

We were just talking a couple of months ago about a book he wanted to write. It’s the only time we have spoken, really, but I enjoyed the conversation and looked forward to talking with him again. It’s a paltry connection, but it is startling to realize it is broken now.

Back on Friday, when I will try and power my way through 14 pages of research paper on applying structuralist and poststructuralist theory to the medieval inquisition, which is due on Saturday. Considering I’ve been typing and/or transcribing my research/notes as I went along, and those notes are about 13 pages by themselves, I’m pretty confident I’ve got enough material. I don’t know that the paper’s quality will be great, but oh well. It’s not like I need a good grade.



Since I was already on the west coast I figured I’d visit my brother-in-law Eric in Portland, just a short three hour train ride down the coast from Seattle. This was my first time riding on a train in the United States (at least, since I was about 3-4 years old–I recall riding on a train or something like it when I was very young in Maryland, but other than that I’ve only been on the L in Chicago) and Amtrak was an entirely pleasant experience. The seats were very roomy, the train was clean, and the ride was smooth. The coast was beautiful as well, and someday when I have time to write again I want to dwell on the idea of houses beside the sea and why we are drawn to such tumultuous, tenuous places.

Portland, like Seattle, was not what I had expected it to be. I had never visited the Pacific Northwest but had come to view it with highly romanticized notions of an intellectual mecca coupled with spiritual revival. These two cities seemed like twins to me, centers of intelligent discourse and rational thinking that lent itself to a moderate and educated Christianity. While what I found wasn’t necessarily negative, it failed entirely to live up to my unreasonable expectations.

My self-deception surprised me later because I had already learned this lesson: people are people everywhere. I’ve traveled enough to realize that most everywhere is pretty much the same. You have cars and buildings, restaurants, a mix of educated and ignorant, wealthy and homeless people, and while the ratios may change the basis is the same. Why did I expect these two towns to be different? I have visions in my head of philosophical centers like in ancient Greece, but the truth is that ancient Greece was probably similar to Portland. No place is perfect.

Still, I am glad for the experience, and it was nice visiting Eric. There are a load of pictures over on Flickr, most of which are from a walking tour of the downtown area we took, and I would gladly return to Portland (though probably not to live). I wish my knee hadn’t still been hurting, as it curtailed our exploration of Powell’s Book Store (though on the plus side, that meant I only have to carry 20 extra pounds of books onto the plane!).

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Pre-PAX Day 1

There are certain facts we know to be self-evident:

  1. Today was very long.
  2. Today was very awesome.

My flight from Denver to Seattle was around an hour and a half late, but I was still able to meet up with the Magical Mystery Tour (MMT) for lunch without too much of a problem. Ironically, I managed to get there on time (with a quick, somewhat expensive taxi ride) while the MMT was about an hour late, at which time I proceeded to awkwardly insert myself into the existing social structures that had begun to form at nine this morning.

Essential Bakery

Essential Bakery

The coffee here was absolutely fantastic, and the sandwiches were pretty good too. I was pretty nervous when everyone showed up due to my general introvertedness and social anxiety/awkwardness, but once we got on the bus and began chatting everything seemed to work out. Funny how that happens when we’re all at a common event, have similar interests, and are generally incredible nerds.



We got our food from Essential Bakery to go and ate it at the Gasworks, a park near what were presumably oil refineries at one point. Following our delicious repast, we had a quick few games of Mario Kart DS in the shade of a nearby… thing. The structure was as mysterious as the oil silos.

Ballard Locks

Fish vs Twizzler

Ballard Locks is a dam… where there are locks… to raise/lower the water so boats can go through.

Also, there were enormous, jumping fish, and as this sign so helpfully warned us, they have been known to attack Twizzlers. If you carry a Twizzler across the Locks, the fish will maul you. To death.

Archie McPhees

Toys at Archie McPhees

This was the most random gift shop / crap store I’ve ever been in. Highly amusing, but I do not regret buying absolutely nothing there. Still, it was a fun stop that caused many a chuckle.

Trophy Cupcakes



So, I’ve always felt that cupcakes pretty much always taste the same. Trophy Cupcakes is special though, or so I have been told, and the cupcakes are all gourmet and unique and awesome. Subsequently, I have acquired six to test over the next few days. I’ll let you all know the results.

Sheraton Hotel

Laptop Desk

I actually stopped in at the hotel before heading to Essential Bakery, but all I did was drop my luggage then turn and run back out the door to get to the bakery on time (or, as it turned out, an hour early). The room is spectacularly nice though and I’m really excited to be here through Monday. It’ll be a good get-away when the crowds become overwhelming (and with my penchant for agoraphobia, that probably won’t take too long).

Dinner at Kell’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

People at Kell's

Kell’s was a lot of fun, and in addition to giving me my first drink of Glenlivet 21 year scotch it was also great service and a tasty hefeweisen. Unfortunately, the food was sub-par at best and the steak they served me was the second worst I’d ever had. In addition, the prices were unreasonably high for what they served. I know the cost of living and whatnot is different here, but I’d have gotten a mindblowing dinner from Rodizio back home for the same price as a really poor one was at Kell’s.

I’ve eaten at Kell’s in San Francisco and it was pretty horrible there too. Not sure why I had expected this one to be better.

More pictures »

Going home

We’re leaving the conference in about 10 minutes, maybe to grab an early lunch or some sort of brunch or something. I’m particularly excited about hitting Starbucks at the airport since we got a $5 gift certificate yesterday.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo. You can keep up with my work by reading and/or subscribing to that blog.

Cheap as Free

If you saw my Twitter last night, you saw that Bahama Breeze doesn’t know how to measure tequila shots. After ordering a shot, they brought me a tumbler with probably 2.5 shots of Patron SIlver in it. This was after an amazing meal coupled with a Bahama Mama (fresh fruit and lots of rum), onion rings, and firecracker shrimp.

Then we went back to the hotel, where there are free drinks until 7:30 p.m. A couple of glasses of wine and a cigar later, I went back to my room and watched Family Guy until bedtime.

As Jeremy put it, there’s free booze, and that makes this a vacation 😀 At the same time, I’m now in an 8-hour session today about virtual computing labs, and I’m really enjoying it. For more information, check out my notes on VCL, which will be undergoing development throughout the day (and probably further formatting throughout the rest of the week).

I really want to do this VCL thing (which has now been released open source), but it would require completely restructuring the way a lot of things work at the university regarding computing. I’ll talk with Kevin about it tonight.

Educause 2008

I am currently in the Springfield airport, preparing for a flight to Orlando by way of Dallas. I am honoured to be attending Educause 2008, and even more glad that I don’t have to speak at it. I like speaking and all, but it’s nice to just relax and listen to other people for once.

I’ll be updating here, but not as much as I’ll be updating over there. This year, I’ll be keeping a blog on the Experts Wiki throughout the event. Not to the extent of live blogging, but as often as I’m able. I may or may not have pictures, though; I just tried to plug my camera into this laptop and it wasn’t picked up at all.

Heading down to the gate now, so I’ll update on the wiki again in Dallas.


I’m currently at the MoreNET Information Technology Conference… at least, I think that’s what the acronym stands for. I first heard about this conference about 4 months ago when I received an email from MoreNET inviting me to speak and, since I had spoken at their spring conference (HELIX), I agreed to do so and submitted a presentation about the Confluence wiki I’ve been working on.

Then I found out, some time later, that where HELIX is for higher education, MITC is for primary/secondary education. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t too excited about coming, and I’m still a little nervous that my presentation will be horribly out of place. But after attending my first session this morning, I’m optimistic.

One of the telling statements by the presenters was, “They don’t seem to realize how much we’re doing on the primary/secondary education level with technology!” Admittedly, they were using Blackboard as their full LMS and CMS, where I might have used a wiki system or something akin to SharePoint rather than Blackboard, but they had some really neat integration with the software, more advanced than how we’re using it at Missouri State University in fact. It is clear that they are very dedicated to online learning and have really poured their time and effort into their system, where ours seems a bit more… grudging. It is used, but not much, and not well.

At any rate, I’m going to wander around the exhibitor hall a bit, then go work on my Buddhism homework (due tonight for a class I’m missing). I’m also using one of the conference’s computers to blog, and there’s a line, so I’m off. Lates.