Tuesday, March 30, 2010

a month of resolutions: March recap and April outlook

One word describes my month of March: UGH!

Seriously. Bad enough Kosh had (and still has) to work vampiric hours 5 nights a week, but the month also started out with me suffering from a bad cold that lingered, knocking me out for over a week, resulting in my being all too willing to sleep the day away alongside the zombified Kosh.

So the daily writing goals? Zilch. But hey, at least yesterday I finally managed to get my trip report d.o.n.e, so hopefully a huge mental block is now over and done with.

The daily fiber intake? Certainly wasn't daily. Might have hit 50%, but I think I'm being generous.

The daily meditation? Ugh. Don't even go there.

The daily exercise? I count 18 days, but most of them were 30-60 mins of morning post-work racquetball with Kosh followed by about 15mins on the elliptical. In theory I had the opportunity to go for evening exercise classes at the Y after dropping Kosh off at work, but that happened for one week, then my motivation went haywire. Hardly the "ramp it up" I was shooting for, eh?

But I'm not hitting myself over the head for the lack of achievement for this month: I had suspected Kosh's vampiric hours would wreak havoc on my schedule, after all... I just didn't expect how badly it would affect me! Still haven't figured out a compromise or way to deal with his schedule without going over to the dark side with him. As such, my goals for April are very toned down:

April Exercise: join the 5:45am classes at the YMCA 5x/week. Any other activities are bonus, such as also going for evening classes, or having Kosh join me in the morning once he's done with work so we can smack some blue balls around.

April Food: Consume only raw / barely-processed food during the weekdays. Weekends are kinda a lost cause (I don't have the heart to impose dietary restrictions on Kosh; neither do I have the willpower to stick to my guns when he's being all bad with his food...), so I'll work on being good to myself, by myself, during the week.

Yes to fruits, nuts, cottage cheese, water, tea ... No Kraft Mac&Cheese and other things that come out of a box; no bagels, bread, cereal (apart from oatmeal), sun chips; no Coke Zero!

It's going to be a challenge all right, but I need to be eating better, and this is the first step. The only exception will be the glass of fiber I still want to take daily. I've already got mangoes, advocados, kiwi and a bag of salad in the fridge, plus a 5lb bag of red 'taters and a first round of roasted chickpeas on hand!

btw isn't it a sign of the times that the smileys I found for "eating" were smiling when eating a burger but have this weird suffering look when eating a healthy apple??!!

... and that's it. Just those two main items for April; they are achievable and sustainable, enough to keep me going up to my departure for Malaysia. My time in Malaysia is going to be bad for me food- and exercise-wise, I just know it! :p

Oh btw, registration for the Postcard/Link Exchange of 2010 is now underway!
I'd love to send you a postcard from Malaysia, so please sign up, it's a lot of fun!
You can also be in the running to receive a Malaysian-themed gift, so why aren't you signed-up yet? Go go go!! :D

PLX2010 image derived from mailbox by clix
Calendar by djayo
All smileys from MS Office clip art

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Plane vs bus/train/other options

On Wednesday I indicated that there was more to the cost of air travel than just the ticket. This was prompted in part by a blog post I read recently: in Why I cancelled a subscription to Lonely Planet Magazine blogger Natalie was disappointed that said magazine seemed to overwhelmingly support air travel to the point that alternative modes of travel were rarely, if ever, addressed, and therefore wasn't helping in reducing the negative environmental impact of travel.

I like her principled stand, especially considering the UK has connections to the mainland other than by air. I've yet to take the chunnel, opened in 1994, but thanks to is existence, one could go from London to Paris in as little as 2h 15m. The Man in Seat Sixty-One even offers ferry/train suggestions for folks in the UK who want to make their way to Europe but without having to go via London or by air. I also have a vague recollection of perhaps having crossed the channel by ferry, way back when.

Of course, if your destination is further away, then you need to make a decision about how much time you want to spend traveling there and back, versus time you'd be able to spend in the destination itself. This is one of the reasons it's highly unlikely for Kosh to be able to take a trip back to Malaysia with me anytime in the next 5 years or so: he can get one week off at a time, so when you factor in the 4 days total for to/fro travel, that's a measly 3 days he'd get to spend getting used to the humidity and time change, only to have to get right back into that plane. Ugh!

Where am i going with this?

If you recall, my plans this time around include Singapore. An island just south of the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is easily gotten to by train or bus as well as by air from Kuala Lumpur. I won't be a rush to get from KL to Singapore, so long I get there withina reasonable amount of time is fine with me... and yet the non-air options flitted only briefly across my attention:

Bus? I look back to my bus journeys, from the time I lived on the east coast and needed a cheap trip back to KL, with amazement mixed with horror that I actually did numerous trips without accidents. Such buses are notorious for being poorly maintained and driven in an unsafe manner. Sure, I've heard of the premium air-conditioned coaches that do the KL-S'pore journey safely, but I'm still leery of putting my life in the hands of a Malaysian bus driver.

Train? I've done the KL-S'pore by train once, back in the early 90's. Perhaps it's because we'd gotten the cheapest seats, but oh boy it was a terribly uncomfortable journey made bearable only by the company of my other two pals. On one of the directions, I recall we just hung out in the restaurant car, everyone ordering a drink in succession once the other was done with theirs so that we were legitimately at that table, in order to have some level of comfort. I vaguely remember having a much more comfortable trip by train up to Penang, so it's not like that one trip has colored my perception of Malaysian train travel. I don't recall how one passes through customs & immigration when going by train, though, and didn't feel like finding out just yet.

... as such, I succumbed to the lure of the plane. I'm kicking myself a little, but what's done is done. Perhaps next time I'll remember to include Singapore in my travel options: now that I think about it, I have the impression that a round trip flight via S'pore plus a return train journey to KL might be cheaper than my usual itinerary via KUL. We'll see what the online ticketing sites have to say, whenever it is that I start planning my next Malaysia trip!

What about you? Do you consciously try to reduce/minimise the impact of your travels on the environment? ... And what of the blog post that sparked this off: do you think Natalie was right to cancel her subscription in order to express her dissatisfaction, or do you think she should have stayed a subscriber but then actively lobbied LP for a change in their practices?

Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

Image credits: plane by goa_s; bus and train by hisks.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Switzerland for me this year :(

... and it's totally my bad: remember about 2 months ago I said I was reeling in shock at what I was going to have to pay for my planned trip to Malaysia & Switzerland (with a tentative addition of Italy)? Well, I kinda sat on it until last week, and to my horror discovered that while the price for the US->Malaysia and Malaysia->Switzerland flights had risen as feared, the cost for the Switzerland->US leg had shot up to over double -- almost triple! -- what I'd seen two months ago.

As a result, I made the decision to forgo the Swiss leg this time around. This means I won't be seeing my niece until perhaps a year from now. What a bummer. From the pix and vids my bro & sil have made available (see right!), she is growing up FAST: when I first/last saw her about a year ago, she wasn't even crawling yet, and her gums were threatening to start teething. Now she's blabbering in five languages, skips up the stairs, and has her molars coming in. What will she be up to in a year's time??! :(

This also means that I'll be in Malaysia for a little under 3 weeks, in time to catch Rachel perform at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (if my mother managed to get me tickets!) on April 27th, and to attend a huge St Mary's school reunion that's being held on May 2nd. There will be time for some meet-ups with former work colleagues, schoolmates, drinking buddies, etc, but they need to book me! :D I'll then hop over the causeway to visit for a few days with my fellow St Marian who recently moved to Singapore, before making the long journey back to Springfield in mid-May.

The cost: about USD 2K*.... ~so~ much more reasonable than the 4-6K I was looking at 2 months ago... just ignore the missing European plans, waaaaaaaaah! :( On the bright side: I have TK-217 and PLX2010 to play with / plan for (I'll explain soon!) ... But there's also another cost to consider in relation to all these plane trips... I'll discuss this in my next post: stay tuned!

*NOTE* I'm waiting for the catch, but have yet to find it... one reason it's so cheap (and yes, I cringe at the fact that 2K is "cheap") is that priceline.com found me a one-way that costs less than USD 1100 (the other sites I tried started at over USD 2K!). It was valid for just that one particular day of travel - searches for surrounding dates returned USD 2K prices too. It's a Wednesday departure, dunno if that factors in somehow. But I won't complain! (Until I find out I get no luggage allocation or something, who knows?!)

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Book Review: Sounds of Murder - Patricia Rockwell

Way back in January, fellow blogger (and face-to-face-er) Patricia Rockwell, who blogs at Communication Exchange and Subjective Soup, asked if any of her readers were willing to provide pre-publication reviews of her novel, Sounds of Murder. I was happy to volunteer my services.

Unfortunately, it took me almost 2 months to complete the book and write the review.

Now, before you think this is a mark against Sounds of Murder, let me clarify that a lot of the delay has nothing to do with the novel's contents, and almost everything to do with the format I was using to read it: I'd already kinda suspected I wasn't the ebook kind of person, and my unsuccessful attempts at getting into Sounds of Murder can be directly attributed to my not wanting to sit in front of the 'puter and read a soft copy off of the screen. In the end I managed to find the right settings, both physical and virtual, that had me tackling most of the book in one go last weekend. Yay!

So, on to the book itself.

Sounds of Murder is Patricia's first novel, and features Pamela Barnes, a college professor who turns sleuth when a prominent member of her Psychology Department is found dead one evening. Leveraging her strength in acoustics, Pamela attempts to figure out whodunnit, preferably without alienating her very protective husband or alerting the murderer to her activities.

I found the idea around which the story was built to be unique, and looked forward to seeing how it all played out. I felt parts of the novel were repetitive, though: it seemed as if Pamela went over the same evidence/clues over and over again -- with herself, her husband, and her girlfriends -- just often enough to be tiresome.

Apart from that, the plot moved along well with concise chapters, believable dialogue and characters I'd like to get to know better -- this book might benefit from deeper characters and backstory, but then again this would be something I'd expect more of in book #2.

In many places I found myself grinning and nodding to myself as I recognised elements that put this book firmly in the "cozy" mystery genre: the keyword is definitely "gentle". Overall it was an enjoyable read, and a decent debut novel.

I'd like to thank Patricia for the opportunity to read her novel before it gets published, and wish her all the best in getting her new publishing company Cozy Cat Press up and running so that it does get published!

    Disclosure as per what I think are the FTC requirements (probably overkill, but better be safe, right?): I received a free pre-publication copy of this free from Patricia Rockwell in exchange for a review on this blog. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are totally my own. So there.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

a month of resolutions: February recap and March outlook

Remember my resolutions for February? Here's a recap of what I achieved, or didn't, in the following subjects:

WRITE: didn't get anywhere with this; I couldn't start (continue?) on this while I had an overdue trip report looming over my head, but I didn't feel like doing the trip report, and didn't feel like spending too much time blogging if I wasn't making a dent in either novels or report... and so all writing suffered.

MEDITATE: I feel positive about this, although I certainly did not achieve a daily practice. I estimate I managed to meditate perhaps half the month.

FIBER: This was pretty good, I think I probably had a glass of fiber and a glass of water chaser daily perhaps 80% of the month. I noticed that if I didn't get this done first thing in the morning, chances were I wouldn't/couldn't bring myself to do it later in the day.

EXERCISE: While I certainly didn't achieve daily workouts, I still exercised at least 4 times a week -- yay! Occasionally I'd have a two-fer, with a class in the morning, and racquetball with Kosh in the evening. I also quickly noticed that Wednesday was a hump day in addition to the weekend which is always a challenge. I allowed myself a lot of slack in terms of choice of exercise, wanting to build up the habit of exercising daily, and not beat myself up on the quality yet.

An unspoken hoped-for consequence of the proper implementation of the above would be my getting up early, consistently, with a routine of fiber&water intake, meditation, devoted writing time, and exercise. I obviously didn't quite get there, but I feel I was certainly moving in the right direction... and I was looking for March to be the time to tighten up on that... except that Kosh now has vampiric hours, and it looks like my days will end up upside down as a result... so trying to set a certain routine in stone at a certain time of day is just not feasible right now.

As such, the resolutions for March are pretty much the same as February's, with the following fine-tuning:

FIBER: 1 glass of fiber followed by water chaser (refilling glass with water and letting it sit for the whole day doesn't count!)

MEDITATE: at least once daily, for however long/short a time as seems to be needed

WRITE: for 1 - 2 hours, daily. ... Understanding February's poor achievement, for March this can be almost anything (catching up on overdue emails; blog posts; my trip report; yes even my novel(s)...) but specifically does NOT allow for Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, Entrecard (my other persona still hasn't quit it), BlogExplosion and other timesucks until the 1-2 hours have been done.

EXERCISE: daily, ramped up from February. I noticed that many of the exercise classes I've been going to tend to be the stretchy yoga/pilates classes that are great for core muscles and flexibility, but don't help with cardio or resistance. So for March the exercise target is twofold: one, still targetting daily workouts, but also, two, ramping it up: doing two back-to-back classes... or do 30mins on the elliptical before/after the class... that kind of thing.

I *was* going to have a new item relating to food: cut out added sugar, drastically cut sodium, or go soda-free, something like that. But I've not had a chance to really consider/plan for it, what with being sick and all (been struggling with a sore throat since Friday, which finally erupted into sneezes and sniffles yesterday), so I'll shelve it first and keep it for another month.

What's your outlook for March?

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