A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Author: fifteenkey (page 2 of 92)

So now sweet 16’s turned 31

Sometimes I come in there and have no idea what’s going to come out. Then the voice in my head speaks. It goes something like this:

Voice: “Megan turned 31 yesterday.”

Voice: “Hey, didn’t you start this blog on her birthday?”

Me: (Looks through the archive and discovers Sweet 16.)

Voice: “Isn’t there some song lyric that goes…”

Me: (Searches song with lyric turned 31)

And here we are. I did start this blog on Megan’s birthday in 2005. Fifteen years of Fifteenkey has produced 905 posts, though things have slowed since 2012-13 with not one post authored in 2014. I wonder what the fuck was going on then? Oh. Dr. Joe. Panic Attacks. Celexa. Yeah, good times.

Anyway, since then I discovered meditation and happiness. The practice has trained my mind to stop unproductive trains of thought as they try to tunnel down into darkness.  Actually, that shit never happens anymore. Huh. I guess a millimeter of improvement over a few years adds up.

Which brings me to my current muse, the weight-loss thing. Tomorrow is a weigh-in day and I’m hoping to be on my schedule of 5 pounds a month. It’s going to be close, and the superhero-sized piece of birthday cake I had last night won’t help. The good news is that the weight-loss is taking stress off of my arthritic hips so today’s workout was the first back-to-back workout days in years and I feel… (I just got up to walk around a bit) pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, good!  Maybe I’ll go for the trifecta tomorrow. The weigh-in will happen regardless.

Oh, and the birthday girl got engaged last night! Yep. You know that one line in the Bob Seger song that goes, “You better get yourself a partner?” Well, she did and he’s a wonderful human. Congratulations, my girl!

Cooley Off Period

I’m in one right now after a 2.62-mile spin on the elliptical. I’m making progress. That follows a 2.96-mile jaunt on Friday.  We’ll see how my hip responds.

Since I’m just cooling off, all I have are some random thoughts.

  • Why does everything have to be a “hack?” Diet hacks. Sex hacks (ouch). HR hacks. Productivity hacks… Enough of the laziness. Use your words. There are lots of them. Besides, many people aren’t as cool as you and don’t understand the connotation you’re attempting. They could think it’s going after their passwords and avoid your content altogether.
  • Bernie. The dude has now won Iowa, NH and yesterday Nevada – convincingly. Still, there’s palpable hate for the Democratic Socialist and no more apparent than on Twitter. What a shitshow that place is. Anyway, I think the Democratic “Establishment” and the mainstream media that supports it is beginning to realize the Bern could likely be the Democratic nominee, and if they want to defeat Cheeto Jesus they’re going to have to get behind his movement. The hatred between supporters of Sanders and supporters of the other Democrats concerns me. Bernie’s going to need all Democrats to beat the Orange Menace. Poking Democrats who don’t support him right now in the eye isn’t helpful.  In this Primary cycle, I’ve donated to both Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, but I’ll vote for whatever Democrat ends up winning the nomination. Still, I think Bernie v. Trump presents the starkest choice for voters and will show who we are.
  • Yeah, I’ll vote Blue no matter who, but what a smug dick Mike Bloomberg is. Mayor Pete isn’t far behind.
  • I’d like to ask President Obama, “if you knew your presidency would unleash the kind of hate that would result in the election of Donald Trump, would you have run in the first place?”
  • I don’t think the Houston Astros and the players who participated in the cheating have been punished nearly enough. And yeah, if it’s proven the Red Sox cheated in a similar way, they should be severely punished. I’m no Pete Rose fan, but he received a lifetime ban for betting on his own team.  This scandal is worse imo.
  • Oh, here’s another diet hack tip. When dining out for dinner, eat 1/2 your meal and bag the rest for a lunch. Trust me. You’ll be quite satiated and the lunch will be awesome and free.

I’m contemplating a 4-hour round-trip to see the Drive-By Truckers in Portland, ME on this school night. I’m feeling the need for thrashing guitars. They’d probably play this new Mike Cooley song, too.

Pie In The Sky

So yeah, losing sixty pounds in a year may have seemed a bit pie in the sky when I planted that flag to begin 2020, but I’m ahead of schedule and seven weeks in I’ve established some new habits that will help me keep lowering the bar.  This week was more stressful than most, yet I resisted stress-eating in all but one situation, and I paid for it.  On Thursday after a 2PM meeting to hear about the Kronos merger with Ultimate software, I walked by a table on our 12th floor “Oasis” covered with food left over from lunch in a nearby conference room.  Now there have been numerous times this year that I’ve walked by a similarly arranged table and kept on walking. Not on this day. I glided in and scanned the offerings… Rolls. Cookies. Some chocolate thingies. All of them would have been instantly inhaled by old me. This time I opted for a half a rollup with veggies and hummus. Yeah, I thought. “That’s a good boy.” While it looked like the best option, to keep on walking would have been much better as it turns out. You see the food probably arrived at 11:30 and it was now approaching 3:30 – that’s 4 hours. I contemplated that a bit during several trips to the bathroom between 9:30 and 10:30 Wednesday night. Sorry to dump that on you. Yeah. It could have been worse.

Anyway, the habits and other things working toward weight loss…

  • Portions – Just make them a little smaller and prioritize greens
  • Seconds – Sometimes they’re tempting so just take a bite or two, not another plate or two
  • Meat – For health and  animal compassion reasons, I’m greatly reducing it in my diet
  • Dairy – Same thing – Have I mentioned how awesome Oat Milk is? I use it in coffee and in oatmeal (worked in quiche, too). I did some research on non-dairy milk options and for a number of environmental, humanitarian and animal compassion reasons, Oat got my vote.  And it tastes great! Hemp milk was gross. Hump your hemp some other way. My favorite is Oatly Barista Edition followed closely by Califia Barista Blend.  It’s a little pricy, but it’s better for the planet, better for cows, and better for the near slave laborers harvesting coconuts. Last Sunday I was at Pie in the Sky Bakery and Cafe in Woods Hole where I ordered a latte. The guy taking my order asked, “what kind of milk do you want?” “What do you have?” “Whole, skim, almond, coconut, soy, uh… Oat.” “Yes, Oat!” I think Beth may have done a slight eye-roll, but it was the best latte I’ve ever had.
  • Sugar – The oat milk has allowed me to eliminate added sugar from my coffee. Doing a little math,  that should save me between 36,400 and 43,680 calories in a year – that’s equivalent to 10.4 to 12.5 pounds.
  • Oatmeal – A wonder food. Sure, it seems boring especially when you’re out for breakfast when it competes against eggs, toast, home fries, hollandaise sauce, and yeah, bacon, but add some raisins and walnuts and one tablespoon of maple syrup… I’ve been doing a single serving (1/4 cup dry) of the steel-cut stuff and it’s very satisfying. My grandson, Luca loves it, too.
  • Quiche – We’ve had one per week for a few weeks now. Yeah, eggs. I do buy the free-range “certified humane” eggs from a local farm, The Country Hen, but it’s not lost on me that I’m eating the unborn…

I mean, I just don’t think I can go “full Vegan,” but I’m trying to do better. My Auntie San put it best when she said, “Yeah, I can be a Vegan as long as I can have a cheeseburger once in a while.” Exactly. Thinking about it, I wonder how far can we possibly take it and still survive? What about “the food chain?” Does a lion consider animal compassion when it pounces on an antelope and rips its neck open for dinner? To take it even further, how do we know plants don’t suffer when we rip them out of the ground to make a Caesar Salad? There are some who believe all matter in the universe has some degree of consciousness. One day as I was contemplating this concept of panpsychism while weeding in my yard, I was momentarily horrified at the feel of tearing roots from the ground and ending the life of a weed. Yeah, I might have been high…

To make a long story short, the elevator continues its slow but steady descent and my aching hips are feeling a bit better.





Oh Boy Story

Yesterday Kyle and I were driving to get “Boys Regulars” when the subject of “Toy Story” came up. Fast forward to what blew me away – the film was released in 1995. Since it’s Sunday morning, some of you may not be doing math in your head right now, so…

2020 – 1995 = 25

It looks like “Interactive Woody” rises on command, too.

Twenty-five years? Where did they go? Oh, and Toy Story 3? You know, the one that made you cry when it looked like Buzz, Jessie, Slinky Dog, Rex, Hamm, the Potato Heads, and Woody were going to end the trilogy in an incinerator? Well, if you didn’t, you should have cried. Anyway, that one came out in 2010 and you’re on your own on the math. And speaking of Woody, Beth told me that earlier in her career, the company she worked for had some kind of a promotion with a toy called “Interactive Woody.” Let’s just say that had fun with that one.

What else happened in 1995?

  • 168 people were killed at a Federal building in Oklahoma City, including 8 Federal Marshals and 19 children. The act of domestic terrorism was led by an angry white guy, Timothy McVeigh. He considered government officials “fascist tyrants” and “storm troopers” and proclaimed, “ATF, all you tyrannical people will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution of the United States. Remember the Nuremberg War Trials.”
  • OJ Simpson, who was obviously guilty was found innocent.

The more things change…


No, that’s a typo. It’s eight, as in down eight pounds against a monthly goal of five toward sixty-one this year. It’s a good start but lots of people have good beginnings to a New Year’s resolution. February got off well, too. Yesterday I pushed through a sub-nine minute mile on the elliptical, but my left hip and knee ached through the night to thank me. Taking weight off those joints is a big part of this effort. Still, while exercise is good for cardiovascular, pulmonary, and muscular health, it’s a fairly small part of weight loss as my NordicTrack readout shows.  That 381 calories was replenished and then some in about the five minutes it took Beth and me to finish off an amazing Burratta appetizer at Dario’s, the best restaurant in the area – though we haven’t been to the new Brady’s yet. Dario’s has been at their River Street, Fitchburg location for years, but we didn’t check it out until a couple of months ago. O M G… I’ll do a review at some point – I want to do it justice. Sorry, this post is rambling, but it’s a blog, not Hemingway. Really, this one is just a weight loss check-in. Oh, and here’s another calorie-curbing tip: Don’t bring the 8″ Double Layer Variety Cake to your daughter’s after dinner. My small slice of carrot and chocolate = about 680 calories… Tip #2: When dining out, eat half your entree and bring the rest home for lunch or dinner later in the week. Really. You ate enough.

There is a moment…

There is a moment…” 

–Dr. Mann

This short scene from “Interstellar” reminds me of peering into the fridge between meals. There really is a moment as I’m staring into the abyss of unneeded calories that I must choose to step back — or push ahead, with food into my piehole. As Dr. Mann, played by Matt Damon instantaneously learned, pushing ahead can have disastrous consequences, and when at the modern icebox, it usually does. 
So how does one push back when at the brink of bulking? Well, I think the first thing, and we have but an instant to do it, is to be mindful that the moment is even occurring. Why am I at this fridge? Again. Sometimes just that split-second to pause and consider the imminent caloric explosion can lead to stepping back. Think about how many times these moments occur and how often we impulsively push ahead and indulge. There is a moment. Be mindful of it and you can save yourself.
I’ll need to do some research on “Why we eat?” but one thing’s for sure, aside from nourishing the body with the nutrients we need to survive, there is a primal and visceral pleasure in the act of gnashing food with our 8 Incisors, 4 Canines, 8 Premolars and 8 Molars that begins the digestive process, all while sensing the textures and extracting the flavors that make eating so enjoyable. Hell, overcoming all that is a genetically physical and mental mountain to climb.  
Any addiction is difficult to overcome, but we don’t need to look at our phones or drink that whiskey or smoke that cigarette or chase the dragon to physically survive as a human, but we must eat, and with 40,000 years of an evolving survival instinct in each of us, disciplining oneself to eat less is a bitch.  Just take it moment by moment. 

Baby Steps

Note: My reading of the scale yesterday must have been an early morning hallucination. Anyway, back at it.

In the 1991 comedy, “What About Bob?” Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray play a psychiatrist and patient. The movie works, of course, because the doctor is crazier than the patient and the two actors have great chemistry. One of the comic props in the film is the book, “Baby Steps,” written and shamelessly plugged by Dr. Leo Marvin, played with perfect smugness by Mr. Dreyfuss.

  • Baby Steps?
  • It means setting small reasonable goals for yourself one day at a time.
  • One tiny step at a time
  • Baby steps

Baby steps seem appropriate to describe the process for trying to lose weight. Here are some of the baby steps that I’ve learned from so far:

  • Baby steps a single serving of oatmeal will do…
  • Baby steps don’t stop at the bagel store…
  • Baby steps I don’t need a second helping…
  • Baby steps or a third…
  • Baby steps just one or two of Kyle’s fries will do…
  • Baby steps tonight I’ll have water instead of a beer…
  • Baby steps I don’t need to eat when I’m bored or as a distraction…
  • Baby steps eat what you want, just take a little less…

These baby steps have me down 7.8 4.8 pounds halfway through the month against a five-pound goal to 253.2 256.2 without a functioning NordicTrack… (That’s another story…)

If I can keep this going for the remaining 95.9% of the year that remains, I may be able to say, just like Mr. Murray’s Bob Wiley, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful… I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful… I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful…”

61* in ‘61

A guy I follow on LinkedIn and Instagram posted recently about “B2B marketers trying desperately to link 2020 (year) and 20/20 (vision) to help peddle their products…” Sure, it may be 20/20 hindsight by then, but I look forward to his “2020 Top 20” of simpleminded 2020 – 20/20 analogies toward the end of 2020.

Since it’s January 1, 2020 as I began to write this, let’s do a resolution post. I’m not a fan of them mostly since they don’t happen, but nonetheless…

I resolve to lose 61 pounds in 2020.

The awful truth on New Year’s Day 2020

Sure, it seems like a lot, but it’s only 5.083333333333333 LB’s a month. I’m pretty sure I can put that on in a weekend.  Hey, the odds (and the fans) were against Roger Maris in 1961, but on October 1st of that year, he belted home run #61. The baseball establishment then put a freakin’ asterisk next to it in the record books because he did it in a 162-game season when Yankee God, Babe Ruth swatted 60 in only 154 games.

So why go public?  Well, it’s not like people I know don’t know I’m fat.  Hell, I’ve been battling this since my mother traumatized me back in the 60’s in the “husky” pants section. And the last time I successfully lost tonnage was in a public contest at work, so I figure that if I don’t put it out there to my audience of 3 or 4 people, there’s even less chance of it happening because only I’ll know of my abject failure.

I could go on and on about this, but the new year is slipping away. I’ll update my progress or lack thereof here and share any insights I learn about what works for me and what doesn’t. Here’s a starter set:

  • Losing weight is about portion control – just eat less
  • Delicious and satisfying white carbs like pasta, rice, bread and sugar are your enemy
  • THINK about why you’re peering into the fridge before taking any action
  • Stress eating can be reduced by reducing stress in other ways – exercise, meditation

There’s my resolution. I wish you luck with yours.

Astra Ad

Beth and I watched “Ad Astra” Saturday night, and while it was no “Interstellar” or even “The Martian,” it was a decent mental escape for a couple of hours – an interesting but wobbly story woven around an emotionally inaccessible man longing for human connection – set in space. “Daddy Issues in Space,” if you will. Story aside, the film provided some gorgeous art direction of planets, space pirates, space monkeys, a Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand on the Moon, and Liv Tyler again playing the girlfriend of a dude that goes to space. The real drag on the movie was a consistent “oh, come on” factor -from a 79-day Mars – Neptune flight to body-surfing Neptune’s rings on a metal sheet to a space-boost from a nuclear explosion, I just knew the science wasn’t quite there. Oh, and even Brad Pitt’s getting old. 

The movie title did get me thinking about an old vintage 1980’s NEC mini-computer and how it helped me sustain a high-tech career for uh, let’s see… 35 years so far. See: the “getting old thing.” Anyway, early in my career, I was asked to take a report of hundreds of “green-bar” pages and reduce it to a short summary on 8 ½ x 11-inch paper. I had no freakin’ idea how I was going to do that, but I knew who might. Merrill Simons was considerably older than me then, but likely younger then than I am now. Back then he seemed ancient with more grey hair on his face than his head and an ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth. “Sure, I’ll give you the data on a floppy, and you can write the report in dBase,” Merrill barked in a “man, this guy has burned a lot of cigs” voice. “Uh, OK.” So off I went with an 8” floppy disk which then had to be copied to a brandy-new 5 ¼” floppy because my NEC APC (Advanced Personal Computer) had only a 5 ¼ inch drive. OK, now what? I went to see Dean, one of the top tech support guys to ask, “Hey, what’s dBase?”

Dean: “Oh, it’s a database program.”

Me: “I see. How do I use it?”

Dean: “Just type dbase at the C prompt.”

Me: (1 minute later) “There’s just a flashing dot at the bottom-left of the screen.”

Dean: “That’s the dot prompt.”

Me: “What am I supposed to do with it.”

Dean: “Oh, you need to type Do something or other.”

Dino got me started and introduced me to his son, Jeff, one of my best friends and a frequent character here on the blog. Eventually, I learned to create the database structure for the raw data Merrill gave me and then to write a program that would calculate the “billable utilization” of our field service technicians out servicing Astra computers, “Spinwriter” printers, and other NEC hardware like Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS). My bosses’ boss (who soon became my boss) had set a utilization target of 65%. That meant that in a 40-hour week, our techs were striving for 26/40 hours to be spent on billable work.  More on that later. I confirmed the numbers semi-manually using the SuperCalc spreadsheet program and then wrote a memo explaining it all in the word-processing software, Wordstar. The paper memo and report would be submitted to the boss weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. etc. etc…

With that display of some competency, my job responsibilities expanded and I spent time writing RFP responses with my other pal, Dave, eventually including Executive Summaries for our AFIS bids and creating slide presentations (on 35mm slides) using the programs GEM and Harvard Graphics for my boss to present at our annual User’s Conference. By the time I was doing presentations in the early 90’s, the mouse was still a new thing, and it took many more clicks than it does today to get things done. My right shoulder still has a knot from that first presentation back in 1991.

These skills acquired during the formative years of my career have been a huge part of my good fortune to have been gainfully employed for the past 3 ½ decades. They still serve me well today:

  1. Data analysis – Whether dBase or Access, Supercalc or Excel, the ability to work with data has grown in importance over the years
  2. Writing – I’ve always enjoyed writing and storytelling – it doesn’t matter what your data says if you can’t explain and make a case for it
  3. Public speaking – This takes courage, confidence, and creativity – About 75% of us are terrified by this, but having confidence in the information you’re presenting helps, and being creative about how you present (imagery, graphics, humor) helps the audience engage more with your content

By early 2000, it was decided that the AFIS division of NEC, located in Boxborough, MA would relocate to Sacramento, CA. For family reasons, I couldn’t make that move, but because Dino knew a guy from his PictureTel days (Pete), I got to interview with Kronos. My initial lunch interview with Pete went pretty well, although between the din in the room, Pete’s wild hand gestures, and me wondering if he was going to eat all of those fries resulted in little content retention by yours truly. The second round of interviews included the HR Manager for chit-chat, Pete’s boss, Joe, the Services Division VP for a cool discussion about Woodstock and construction work in sub-zero temperatures (him, not me), the guy I would replace for more chit-chat, and then the gauntlet, Ray Riley. Ray looked like… Well, there’s Ray. I recall the discussion as all business, and one question vividly, “What do you think the billable utilization should be for professional services employees?” Ray looked at me the way Nolan Ryan might have looked at a guy after buzzing him with a little chin-music, or Sandy Koufax after freezing a batter with a knee-buckling curveball. Oh yeah, Ray thought he had me. “Well Ray, I once wrote a program in dBase to calculate field service billable utilization from a dump of mini-computer data, and our target was 65%.”

I’ve been at Kronos ever since.

Trains of Thought

No, not a Downbound Train or Waitin on a Train, but trains do make good metaphors.

Meditation is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, yet I still suck at it. You can be awful at it and still derive benefits. The “practice” of focusing on the breath and bringing one’s focus back to the breath whenever random thoughts occur trains the mind to quell anxiety on demand (just breathe) and it’s a natural anti-depressant. Meditation advocate Dan Harris calls meditation “bicep curls for the mind.” Yessir. When I unknowingly board a negative train of thought I’m now able to more quickly jump off and wave it goodbye. Several years ago, I did pursue a more conventional route with a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I recall the SSRI created a mental “floor” that prevented burrowing into a self-destructive black hole of thought. That was mildly helpful, but I didn’t like the feeling and the side effects were significant. Being a Sixty Minute Man isn’t very cool after all.

One acceptable downside of practicing meditation for me is that trains of thought that used to explosively crash and create ideas for writing now run on gleaming parallel tracks. I still muster creativity on-demand at work, but these random thought collisions and creative clean-ups are rare now. Or it could be the absence of angst. That used to drive this bus, but it’s just fumes now.

I try to log interesting trains of thought in a “Blog Ideas” document for later cultivation and harvesting here. One is “Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3,” a post on LinkedIn. I reject the premise, and here’s why:

Work – This may be the key to it all. Sure, I’d be a Theoretical Physicist if I could, but the salary sucks and well, math. I’m still loving work and I appreciate the work-life balance to get my work done and have a life. Every Saturday and Sunday morning usually includes some work time, but if a family commitment occurs during a 9-5 “work-week,” I can make it, uh, work. Oh, one note on this. If you’re working say, at 10pm for whatever reason, don’t send emails or post on your companies chat area. You just look like a showboating jerk.

Sleep – I usually get a solid 8 every night, typically from 10pm-6am, although at my age, there are the occasional 3am contemplations of life and the universe. If you have any trouble sleeping, try CBD oil. The best I’ve found is Straight Hemp Full Spectrum Hemp Oil. Oh, and another benefit, I think, of the CBD oil is pain mitigation – more on that later.

Family – My priority since I’ve had children, and now with grand-children even more so. Every night, Beth and I have dinner with Kyle, and I make sure to be part of most family “stuff,” including school open houses, softball games, family gatherings, and Friday pizza night.

Fitness – Speaking of “pizza night,” I could slice that back a bit. At this point in life, tonnage maintenance is more about health than vanity, though the latter still carries weight. I mean one day, the crepey sag you used to see on older guys at the gym is hanging from your arm. Just a few years ago, I would scoff at the lament of men senior to me about the “aches and pains” of their existence. I was so impressed that the maladies had never crept into my flesh and bones. Until they did. While the New Year’s Eve triple toe loop splat of 2016 seared me with pain, I’m referring to more of a “creeping malaise” (thanks, Roger Waters) that’s crept into my hips these past couple years. Despite the pain and stiffness of arthritis, I stretch/yoga, lift a couple of dumbbells, and get cardio on my elliptical usually 2 times a week. A third session is warranted, so maybe I can get Beth and Kyle to participate one night during the week… Oh, and the meditation. Just do it.

Friends – With my focus on the areas above, this category suffers. I’m not great at keeping in touch with friends, but I have two I’m in contact with every day via group text. I’ve read how important it is for middle-aged (the middle is big) men to have social contact, so I’m lucky to have friends like Jeff and Dave.

I’m sorry that’s the best I could muster after a 10-month blogging hiatus. This is the last day of a 13-day vacation completely unplugged from work. I haven’t looked at a work email since around 5:30 on July 31st, and I have no idea how I’ll feel when I walk back into that office tomorrow. Different, I suppose, but I’m not going to spend any time on that train. There’s still batting cages with the grand-daughters, ice creams, and shark cages with a theater showing of “Jaws” before this 13th day ends.

Oh, one last thing. For any of you wanna-be Theoretical Physicists or purveyors of natural beauty, check out the Milky Way from Sand Beach in Maine’s Acadia National Park. That was a vacation highlight along with “New Jersey Lady Rest Stop in Maine,” and the beauty of Cape Cod, including the art of Mindy & Ronni Reasonover.

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