Where do I go from here?

2017 is turning into the year where I take my feelings and convert them into action. Ever since the election, I’ve had a lot of feelings about our new President. A man who doesn’t want the job as much as he wants applause. A man who wants to put people in place to lead agencies with little idea of what they do and why it’s important.

I’ve focused a lot of my growing discontent on what I can do with myself and where I can go from here. Since that’s the question I keep coming back to. Where do I go from here?

Uncertainty

I work for the government as a contractor. I want it to stay open. And while I feel it’s less likely to close now that the Republicans control it, I fear their choices may lead to shutdowns in other ways. The short of it is I don’t trust Trump to look out for anyone but himself. The rest of us are collateral damage.

I know government is a huge ship. It doesn’t turn swiftly in new directions, but it can knock out small boats without even seeing them in its wake. I fear for our position in the world and what it means for our safety at home.

I have a lot on my mind and I’ve started to channel that into action. Even if that action is slow and uncoordinated, it’s a start.

Tech Solidarity

First, I attended the first DC Tech Solidarity Meetup. The “secret meeting of the resistance” was attended by people from all across the spectrum. I was worried it would be mostly programmers. We had activists, advocacy groups, cyber-security and cryptography people, government affairs consultants, marketing and communications people, public policy folks and IT folks of all stripes.

We had all come together to try to find an answer to the question on all our minds. Where do we go from here?

It was a good start for something bigger. I hope it continues to grow and lead to action.

Swamp Revolt Nonviolence Training

Second, I attended Active Bystander and Nonviolence Training hosted by Swamp Revolt. The training was a solid three hours of learning the basics of what it means to be an active bystander. In addition to many role plays, we talked about the basics of nonviolence and the Bystander Effect. It was interesting and helped me learn how I can be a better ally to those facing harassment if the opportunity presents itself.

Women’s March

Third, I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC yesterday. It was an amazing, positive event. I will miss the spontaneous cheers throughout the day. Standing in line for the metro. There was love and pussy hats being passed around from those who had a supply. We got one from a woman in line who had extras. Each hat came with a note and contact info for who knitted it. Ours came from Jessica Greenfield

@jessiasott Thanks for the hat! On the way to the march in DC!

A photo posted by Annie Holscher (@daylightfading20) on

It was worn proudly all day, and later that night when my Gengar hat and my wife’s pussy hat got us some weird looks at our local grocery store.

The event was a marvel in sheer scale. I have never seen any crowd so large in Washington DC. We arrived in town a little after 9am, fueled up with donuts then made our way towards the National Mall.

March Fuel.

A photo posted by Carl Holscher (@carlholscher) on

I say towards because there was no reaching the mall itself. We made it to 7th Street and Jefferson.

There was no getting any closer. It was a wall of people all the way down the mall from 3rd St where the stage was setup. There was also no backing up since we were surrounded by people for at least two full blocks behind us. Though we didn’t realize it at the time.

My wife and I only saw the fuller scope of the march as we started to move. The rally was scheduled to end at 1:15 then the march was to have begun. However, at 2:30 the rally was still going and word was trickling through the flow of people walking away from the stage the march was cancelled due to the overwhelming number of people who showed up.

So we made our way out with the flow of people. We ended up taking a turn down Pennsylvania Ave with a couple thousand others. We were going to have a march whether it was official or not. As we got a couple of blocks down the road, I got a notification from the Women’s March app the march was starting. So it did finally get underway. By then we were walking past bleachers full of people shouting support and cheering. I didn’t intend to be in a parade that day, but I was and the energy was incredible.

I have never attended anything like this before. I’ve never been to a rally or demonstration anywhere and to be with hundreds of thousands of women, men and those somewhere between has no comparison.

Despite being packed like sardines standing in the street, we made paths for people suffering from health problems so they could find some relief. We parted the human sea so those trying to make it to the Don’s Johns to relieve themselves.

Well-equipped for every need.

A photo posted by Carl Holscher (@carlholscher) on

Even riding the Metro home was a magical experience. Despite the exhaustion of those on the train, when we arrived back at Shady Grove, one of the station managers there was smiling and clapping. Spontaneous cheers rose from the crowd as we entered the station. High fives and smiles exchanged with the tired WMATA staff.

Speaking of WMATA, the entire Metro experience was fantastic for the march. They had extra trains and despite the huge number of people, the trains were running every 5 minutes from the end of the line where we started. We made it into and out of DC without and mechanical issues. The trains were packed but just as we do on normal commuting days, we squeezed a little closer to allow more riders on.

There was a feeling of community that extended to every part of yesterday’s march.

As I awoke this morning, very sore and still tired I felt a withdrawal. There were no cheers or chants going on around me. I was left to watch the speeches and performances online that I was able to see, thanks to the large screens, but unable to hear thanks to the lack of speakers.

Where do I go from here?

I’ve spent the day taking action and talking with friends about what more we can do. The march was about translating intention into action. It was about finding the courage to do something outside a keyboard and a screen.

I am a more active citizen of democracy today. I am making strides to stay active and find groups to help channel my desire for change and to fend off the upcoming attacks on rights many who aren’t straight, white and male fear are coming.

The path is still uncertain but it gets clearer by the day. I move forward. I continue to vote. I call my representatives more. Even if it’s to tell them I agree with the way they’re voting and doing their jobs. I will continue to push them to fight for the rights of people who don’t look like me. I will weaponize my empathy and use it for good.

Mindful Eating

My relationship with food is changing. I’ve always had a good relationship with it. I love food. I love to try new things and I love to eat. I always have.

I still struggle with not wanting to eat everything in sight. But since I started paying attention to what and when I eat, my relationship with food has improved.

When I have a set number of containers of food I can eat everyday on the plan I’m on, it helps me think through my choices. Do I want to blow all my carbs early in the day? Is that sandwich worth it?

What about proteins? Where do I want to spread them out? How will I ever fit that many vegetables into my day? And the fruit! What about those fruits?!

I’ve been at this for about a month and I’m far more mindful about what I eat. And I’m more appreciative of that food.

After dinner and my workout, I was hungry and looked at what I had left for the day. I had half a container of healthy fat (the blue container of cheese) and three proteins (the red/pink container with yogurt). My snack for the night was one red container of greek yogurt, 12 slices of lunch meat and a few small cubes of cheese.

Beachbody Containers for food

Before I started this plan, I would have reached for ice cream or more of the enchiladas we had for dinner. I would have eaten more than I needed to feel full. I would have eaten until I was emotionally fully. Not physically full.

Feeling full and being done is something I struggle with. In my head, I need to clean my plate every time with every meal. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating at home or out at a restaurant with a 3-meal portion of food. I need to make it disappear.

It’s a behavior I am fighting and this is helping. Being mindful of what and how much I am eating helps. I have a structure for food. And tonight, as I laid in bed reading, I enjoyed every single slice of that ham and turkey and I savored each little bite of cheese.

I’m seeing the changes in my body an I’m really happy with it. I’m down 20-25 pounds. I can’t tell for sure because when you’re as fat as I am, despite ordering a scale online that supports a weight larger than yours, it still disagrees with itself. It varies 3-5 pounds even when I step on it twice in a row.

But the difference is clear to me. The number is not as important to me as the inches I’ve lost around my waist. Nor as important as my wife being able to reach her arms farther around me when we hug. Or when my shirts fit better and I look better in them.

It’s still a very, very long journey but I’ve made that first step and I’m not dead yet.

How I lost 20 pounds in 21 days

Less of me.

It as the name of a Tumblr site I started years ago. Then it was abandoned just like the effort it was started to support.

I am fat. When I bought a new scale that wouldn’t error out when I stepped on it, I was around 380 pounds. I was dangerously close to 400 and that was frightening because I want to be around for many decades to come. I want to be there for my wife and to live the life we’ve worked so hard to make for ourselves.

It was time to change. I’d talked about it and made small efforts before, but it was time for a big change. That change has come in the form of BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix.

I am wary of all the competing weight loss ideologies and programs available. Many of them require massive life changes and specific eating regimens. They require math and points and other nonsense to eating right.

21 Day Fix is a simple container system. You get X number of containers for fruit, vegetables, carbs, protein and healthy fats. The containers are sized to promote better eating. The program also comes with a book and app that lists examples of each food group and quantities of those foods. This may sound like a small thing but for someone who knows little past what’s a fruit or a vegetable, it’s very useful as a starting point.

There’s also a shake mix that comes with the program that’s chock full of nutrients. It has the added benefit of being a replacement for sweets. My wife has serious sugar cravings and the shake killed her cravings altogether. It’s also been a good way to eat vegetables I wouldn’t ordinarily enjoy.

Eating is half of the story. The other half is a daily workout program. For 21 days, it’s work and sweat and suffering but with noticeable results. I just finished Day 10 and I am already noticing differences in my body.

Granted, I started around 380 pounds (I say around because the scale couldn’t quite decide if I was more 385 or 383. Maybe 386). But I started very heavy so I had almost nowhere to go but up.

In the past week I’ve noticed my belly getting smaller. My arms are stronger. This change was punctuated by my wife saying the shirt I wore to a recent family dinner looked looser and better on me than it ever had before. What more motivation do I need than the woman I love telling me I look better?

She’s completed her 21 days and has moved on to another program and saw great results too. She’s lost weight, gotten stronger and feels better about herself.

I will be honest. She was my gauge for whether this program was worth it or not. There’s so many options out there and everyone wants to sell you a slimmer you. But it’s still up to me to put in the work to make it happen. I don’t want to buy all my food from a program. I don’t want to perform algebra at every meal. I wanted something simple an effective.

Seeing her lose weight and inches was exciting and I hoped with all the weight I have to lose I would see good results quickly too. There’s nothing worse than putting in work for a long process and not seeing any changes for a long time. That killed my motivation in the past. But this has been good for me.

So where am I after 21 days? Am I all talk and no action or have I seen some changes?

Today is Day 21. I am 15 pounds lighter and 3 inches less around the waist. My wife gasped in surprised when she hugged me Christmas Day after I had worked out. She could get her arms further around me than she could before. And that’s thrilling to me that not only am I seeing the changes, but she is seeing them too. It feels good and I want to keep that feeling going. Tomorrow I embark on my next month of working out and eating right.

If you’ve been looking for something easy to do at home and make a change in your life, won’t you join me?

Silo


My grandfather used to work in a missile silo. I know he never wanted to be the one to press that button and send death hurtling towards millions of people.
This is a chilling thing to think about and one powerful ad.

I don’t want these flying through the sky.
missile

From the Titan Missile Museum where my grandfather, Marvin Kelly was stationed. His hard hat is on display there. He was giving tours when they spent their winters out there. If you’re ever out there and want to put a human face and a reality to the threat of nuclear war, take a tour of the silo out there.

Android Switcher

Recently, my wife and I switched from AT&T to Google’s Project Fi. Part of the reason for the switch is AT&T’s signal has been terrible at home and at work lately. We also got tired of paying for data we weren’t using and high prices for a plan we didn’t need.

The last straw was when I went online to downgrade our data plan which appeared it would save us about $20 per month. Only to find out it actually increased our bill.

I called customer service and couldn’t understand how that was possible and neither the customer service rep nor the retention specialist could give me a good answer to that. But they offered to give me the extra data back at no additional cost. But I didn’t want to pay $170 for two iPhones and 20GB of data every month. We’re trying to save money. And there seemed to be no way to do that.

To drop below the plan we had would have been a 5GB plan which was slightly too small for what we needed. This is before reports of their new plans coming out, which apparently neither the customer service rep nor the retention specialist were aware of, or able to talk about when I called and spoke to them.

So we decided to try Google’s Project Fi which is a plan provided by Google where you can use a combination of T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular’s networks for unlimited talk and text. Data is $10 per 1GB. You can set a data budget a pre-pay for the data but if you need more, it’s $10/1GB. And if you use less, Fi will refund you the money.

With AT&T, if you have a 5GB plan and you go over, you’re paying $15 for that 6th GB whether you use the entire GB or just a portion of it. With Fi, you pay only for what you use. So if I use 5.2GB, I pay for 5.2GB.

I haven’t used Android since the Motorola Droid. So I was curious to see how Android had come since 2010. I’ve owned a series of iPhones (4, 5 and 6+) in the intervening years. So when a fresh Nexus 5X arrived at my door, I was ready.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about Android since the switch.

Unlock PIN

When I enter a 4-digit unlock code. Why do I then have to press the check mark? Granted with a fingerprint, this is mostly a non-issue. But with the iPhone, it wanted 4 numbers and when I entered them it accepted or rejected it.

Back Button

I like the back button. But I’m never sure if it’s going to take me back a screen in the app I’m using or back to the home screen.

No mute switch

I miss the mute switch. My phone was silent when I was at work or out in public. It vibrated to alert me, it didn’t make a sound. Android is not silent.

Android is chatty

Bing. Boop. Blip. Donk. Everything makes a sound. Everything makes the same sound. I’ve taken to saying every time the alert sound goes off, “Something is happening! What could it be?” As I look at phone to see if it’s Facebook Messenger, Email, SMS, Twitter, Tumblr or some other app notifying me of something.

Facebook Messenger’s Bubbles

Who ever thought it would be a good idea to let Facebook Messenger’s little bubble show up over every single app on the phone should be fired. From a cannon. I can’t stand it. It’s enough to make me want to quit using it altogether.

Notifications

Everything’s a bubble at the top of the screen now. Apps don’t have any visual identifiers that something is waiting for you. I really miss the little red badge on iPhone apps to let me know there’s a message waiting (SMS/Facebook Messenger/email). I forget to reply to people because I don’t remember there’s a new text waiting until I open the app.

Download speed

Audiobooks and song from Spotify fly down to the device. Audiobooks especially seemed to take longer on the iPhone. Even downloading from Spotify to the phone took more time. I assume it has to do with writing to a file system versus however the iPhone handled it, but it’s been a noticeable improvement.

Emoji

I love Apple’s emoji. They were big and beautiful. I texted them to my wife all the time and I loved using them in text. Google’s make me want to cry. They’re tiny and the people look like gelatinous Simpson characters.

Android is Linux

The phone requires tinkering. The phone slows way down sometimes. Pokémon Go fails to render animations without struggling at times. The scrolling is iffy. When I press the screen, I have to wait and see if the phone is struggling to fulfill my request or if it’s just sitting there like nothing happened.

Battery Life

The battery life of my Nexus 5X rivals that of my two-and-a-half year old iPhone 4. It’s terrible and I don’t believe in turning off every optional service to make a phone last through the day. A mobile device should have enough power to make it through the day.

Charger can’t keep up

When using Waze navigation in the car with a podcast or music playing, my phone’s battery still drains when connected to a charger. This reminds me of my original Droid from Verizon.