Friday, December 30, 2011

Survived the car-free month

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Made it through 30 days of being car-free -- well, almost car free. I did take the car to visit the mechanic, and I drove it yesterday because I wanted to buy a heap of stuff from the store and I couldn't carry it all home on a bicycle. Ordinarily, I would've waited until the month was up, but I needed the stuff for this month's challenge.

My thoughts on going car-free for a month:
  • It's doable, in large part because I made a point of buying a house in a walkable neighborhood.
  • It takes planning and organizing, skills that are not among my strong points. If I want to go to the library, the grocery store, and Home Depot, I have to figure out my route and make sure that the lights are working on my bicycle.
  • I was limited in how much I could carry home at one time. Therefore, I shopped more often. Even though I bought fewer items each visit, I still bought more things because I was in the store more.
  • Going car-free is great if you have a monthly pass and access to a train or light-rail. It stinks if you take the bus. I didn't know this before, but I am an elitist. I hate riding the bus. I don't like the bus drivers and I don't like the people who ride buses. One woman I rode next to, Ms. Contagion, had a long conversation on her cell phone describing in detail how sick she was and how she still had to go to work. (I really hope she doesn't work in a restaurant.) On another bus ride, Mrs. Sharp Elbows squeezed in next to me. She kept jabbing me in the ribs. Finally I worked my arm in between us, so she couldn't actually hurt me anymore, but it was still uncomfortable. Note: I only rode the bus a couple times. There might be intelligent, charming, polite and healthy people out there riding buses. I just didn't see them.
  • Going car-free is a terrific way to work in exercise into your day. I love having exercise become part of my commute.
  • Having a car-free commute saves a ton of money. A lot of people told me that they could ride the light rail, but their car got good mileage. I don't think they've actually sat down and ran the numbers. By taking the train instead of the car, I saved over $300 a month. Granted, my car is an SUV, so it doesn't get fantastic mileage. But even if a car does pretty good with the gas, it's much cheaper to take the train.

Will I continue to take the train to work? Definitely. Will I use the bicycle to do my shopping? Most of the time. Am I ready to toss the car keys away and walk everywhere? Not yet. But I think I can do a lot more without driving.

Site du jour: A family decided to get rid of their car and go car-free. And they're not living in a particularly walkable neighborhood.

Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Boxing Day -- not Kickboxing Day

Quote du jour: Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.
- Kin Hubbard

I've never found a good explanation for why the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. Even Scopes found it hard to explain. All I know is that it means I have to clean up wrapping paper and do some extra dishwashing.

Wait. It also means I have to go back to work tomorrow? Already? Jeez.

Something tells me that if I found a job that I loved to do and looked forward to every morning, I wouldn't have that reaction. Just a hunch.

Job hunt update: Got some nibbles, but most employers aren't really interested in hiring between Christmas and New Years. Still, I've updated the résumé, dusted off the interview outfit, and posted my latest info up on Monster. (Surprisingly, that's still a highly popular job site. I'd have expected a more tech-specific site, but that's where a lot of employers still look.)

Exercise update: I've been Suzy Slacker all week. Luckily, this blog is a guilt-free zone (or I'd have a lot to say to myself on this subject). Instead, I'm going to focus on getting something done exercise-wise every day this week. It's not that I'm incapable. I'm just totally unmotivated. Pretty sure I don't need to be motivated to exercise; I just need to be capable.
Plus, if I get up and work out this week, I'll end the year on an up note, which is always a good thing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter is coming

It's dark outside.
It's too dark outside.
Therefore, it is entirely logical for me to think that it's too dark to:

  • Exercise yes, that includes the elliptical in my bedroom, the one that is currently sulking from neglect

  • Do yard work no, even if the sun is up for part of the day. Hey, it's going to get dark soon. No sense starting something I can't finish, right?

  • Clean my house okay, so this one takes more rationalizing, but bear with me. It's cold outside and therefore unless I want to spend all my money on heating bills, it's going to be cold inside. Therefore, I think I will spend the rest of this month curled up in bed huddling under the covers.

I do realize that work is needed on the attitude front. On the plus side, I have been doing well on the car-free front. Not that I had much choice, since I had to take the car in to see Mr. Mechanic. I will have to drive today, since I can't pick up the car from the mechanic and also hie myself to work. (That's one drawback to taking a commuter train that doesn't run in the middle of the day.)

Exercise du jour: 4 miles of walking a day. I can, I can, IcanIcanIreallycan.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can't go forward, don't want to go backward. Will tread.

funny pictures - DON'T ASK ME  I JUST WORK HERE
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Quote du jour: Nothing will work unless you do.
- Maya Angelou

Feel a bit up in the air. Can't concentrate on exercise because I'm spending a lot of my time focusing on getting a job or fixing the one I've got. Going to see the manager of the department today to see if something can be done. Sent 5 résumés out last night. A couple of the jobs were pretty good fits for what I can do, another was a long shot, one was 'meh' and the last one was sent to a former co-worker whose new company might need somebody.

Exercise du jour: I will aim for 4 miles of walking a day. I know, I know, it's not pushing myself to do this. This week, maintenance is all I am asking of myself.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Would it be okay if I were assertive? Or I could just impersonate a doormat if you'd prefer

Funny Pictures - It's Not Nonsense Because KITTIES!
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Good: Legs not so swollen up, can walk without limping. Still don't know what the heck I did to earn that.
Bad: I don't know if I should even ask a doctor about it.

Remember a few months back, when I was talking to new recruiters every day? Every time it was the same routine:
  1. They'd describe the job and ask what rate I'd expect.
  2. I'd say the rate would depend on whether or not I'd have to pay for health insurance.
The responses fell into three basic categories:
  • Most recruiters said "No insurance and oh my that's a high rate Merry."
  • Some said "Welllll, we have a sort of reimbursement plan and oh my that's a high rate Merry."
  • A rare few said "Oh yes, we offer health insurance and that rate is a bit high, but we can deal."

This job I'm at now, the conversation fell into the last category "but of course there's a waiting period." The waiting period is now up. And... they don't offer health insurance.

So I send them an email saying, essentially, "WTF?"

They sent back an email saying "let's chat." I was not interested in anything they had to say unless it was in writing, so I suggested email instead.

Now I get an email from them saying "Oh gosh! Turns out that when you first spoke to the recruiter we did offer health insurance, but by the time you got an offer from the company, we'd changed our policy. Still, since we're such nice people, we'll up your salary by an additional $300 a month so you can buy your own insurance."

Huh. Now I've got to sit down and figure out whether or not that's a good move. I'm not even sure I could get health insurance -- surely being overweight is a bad mark in the eyes of an insurance company?

Site du jour: Jennette Fulda wrote a post on insurance for the self-employed. I found it clear, comprehensive, and depressing. I think the best thing to do would be to marry a rich old man who had no close relatives. Preferably one who is Canadian.

Monday, December 05, 2011

How hard can it be?

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“In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale.”
- Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Yes, I thought up another 30 day challenge. It occurred to me, since my car is having difficulties, that this might be a good month to try going car-free. This might be considered making a virtue of necessity: my mechanic doesn't work weekends, so with my work schedule it's awkward trying to get the car to him right now. I'm going to try to work another week of four 10-hour days, so maybe I can drop the car off Friday, pick it up next Friday. Aside from that, I want to see if I can go without driving anywhere at all for a month.

What I've discovered so far is that I'm getting a lot more incidental exercise. Just shopping for groceries or picking up a DVD from the library involves walking or cycling for several miles. On the down side, I have to plan a lot better. Because it gets dark so much earlier, my bike ride had to be cut short yesterday when I found out that the batteries in my bike lights had quit working. Even so, I managed to cycle for about five miles. It's not much, but it's a start.

These 30-day challenge things seem a bit cheesy, but I've noticed that they get results. The other day, I was running out of steam at work at the end of my 12-hour stint. I picked up a packet of M&Ms to give me some energy, but I couldn't finish them. The first taste of chocolate was great, but after that I didn't enjoy the experience. It tasted as if I were eating wax flavored with a lot of chemicals. Probably I was. Maybe going a month sans car will lead me to automatically reach for my bike helmet instead of my car keys.

Site du jour: SuperMarket Sweep blog. Last weekend in San Francisco there was the 6th annual Supermarket Sweep race, where participants go to local grocery stores -- on their bicycles -- and haul food back to donate it to charity. The winners hauled 845 pounds in 2 hours. (It was a father-and-son team on a tandem. They had a long line of grocery carts, filled with groceries and linked together, that they hauled up and down S.F. hills.) Makes my little grocery run (1 pannier) look pretty wimpy.

Exercise du jour: This week, I'm aiming for 5 miles of walking a day and 15 minutes ellipticalling at night.
Most emphatic FAIL.
Yes, I did walk about 2 miles, what with my commute to the Max and the trek down to the cafeteria for the morning coffee, but other than that -- Pffft!
My legs felt swollen at the start of the day.
It only got worse as the day went on. I couldn't even touch my toes. (No, that's not normal. Usually I can almost touch my palms to the carpet.)
Don't ask me what the problem was today. I don't know. I didn't exercise at all yesterday, neither did I feel sore from the bike ride the day before. I'm pretty sure that starting my cycle wouldn't cause my hamstring muscles to throw a hissy fit. On the walk home, it was so bad that I was limping. Noticeably.
I think this is a sign that I should chalk the day up to Whatever and try again tomorrow.