Robert's House of Hamsters

Somewhere between Sacramento, the Oregon border and that tingly feeling in your toes.


Half a hundred

Actually wrote this back in October, but I can't get another blog I want to put this into to work right, so it goes here for the moment:

I'm writing this a few days in advance of when I think this will happen, because if I don't, I'll probably chicken out.

But if you are reading this, it means I've lost 50 pounds since I started working on this whole weight-loss thing at the end of March.

When people find out you're losing weight, the two main questions you get asked are "What are you doing?" and "Why did you do it?" The first one's pretty straightforward: Watching what I eat a little closer and exercising. Well, the Readers' Digest version at least.

That second question's a little more complicated, and I've never really been able to give what I thought was a straightforward answer. My usual cop-out is "Something just kind of happened."

How insightful.

The more I've thought about what brought me to the point where something inside me, for lack of a better word, broke, the more convoluted it's become. I'm still not sure whether that's because I haven't thought about it enough, or overthought it. This probably isn't even the whole story, either, but it's what I'm comfortable sharing now, which is a whole hell of a lot more now that where there would have been a few months ago.

Let's go back to January. Or, maybe a better way to describe it, one of the absolute crappiest months of my life. There were a lot of little things that were grating on me, but two big events stand out.

First, my closest friend living here in Yuba-Sutter had just gotten a great job opportunity and was leaving. This was the fourth time in a span of two years the person I'd consider my closest friend here had left. Once you hit Time #4 on that, it really starts to grate on you. My personal attitude was basically, "Hey, been wanting to move out of the area? Start hanging out with me a lot, you'll be gone before you know it." Then, on a Saturday, I get a phone call from my mom: Three days prior, my grandma was recovering with flying colors from a heart operation. Now she was dead.

Put all that together, and I became a real miserable person to be around. Which isn't a good thing when you've decided to try to give dating a serious pursuit. The fact that I was 25, had never dated, or even been on a date (yes, that's singular), had become a real sore spot for me. That screamed "loser!" to me in my mind.

When you're in doldrums like those, you start to have clouded thoughts about your self-worth, sometimes based in real events, sometimes not.

One event in particular I kept circling back to: A weekend during the summer when I was going for a night out with friends after Second Saturday. One friend had another friend of hers from out-of-state visiting. This girl was absolutely gorgeous. Did I have a chance? No, but you still don't want to embarrass yourself.

Embarrassment step 1: Leave your button-down shirt behind. Embarrassment step 2: Have to stop at Target to get you a new shirt. Embarrassment step 3: Have everything be too small for you. At freakin' Target. So you have to make another stop at another store, and put everybody even more behind for Second Saturday.

I was also having these nightmares that all had the same arching theme: I'd be out in public someplace either with people I somehow knew or I would run into people I knew. But they wouldn't acknowledge they knew me, or even act as if I was there. Other times, I would have these George Bailey-meets-Clarence moments of "Would it really matter if I'd never been born?"

So, in March, I'm at a home group meeting, still in these doldrums. Go to use the bathroom. There's a scale in their bathroom. I think to myself, "What gigantic number would pop up if I stepped on there?" I go ahead and decide to feed that by actually weighing myself. My personal estimate beforehand was somewhere in the 290s.

The actual number: 268.

Something kind of hit me at that moment: My brain, or whatever was behind this crap mood, had been lying to me. There was concrete proof, in an LCD display, that this crap wasn't as bad as I was making it out to me.

So, if the number was already lower than I thought it was, why not try getting it even lower? Not like I had much pride left to lose.

It started with a mile walk. A website that offered calorie tracking. The mile walk started getting some running mixed in. After two months, I was down 20 pounds, and figured I was committed enough to plunk some cash down on a gym membership. And now, it's 6 1/2 months later. Pants are a 36 instead of a 42, and I could probably fit into 34s now if I wanted to. I get the same bagginess level in an XL shirt I used to get from 3XLs. And I figure I'm down to about 1.57 chins. Oh, and I went on a date. Wound up not ending as well as I thought it did, but maybe it won't take 10 months of trying before the next one.

50 pounds down, less than 20 to go to 200. All the health charts and whatever will still say that's too high, but for me, the last time I was that sort of weight was seventh grade. I'll take that, and once I get there I figure out what I'll do next.

This hasn't been the universal solution for me. I haven't had one of those nightmares for a while, but I still battle the "do I matter" moments more than I'd like to admit. I've learned there's still going to be some physical issues beyond weight, some of which can only be corrected with surgery that insurance won't cover and I can't afford on the insane riches you earn working in the newspaper business. But, at the very least, things gave gotten better.

At least, if I ever forget a button shirt again, I know I'll find something at Target- with a couple sizes to spare.


What to call the team?

So, for fun, I play an online rugby team management game called Blackout Rugby.

Yes, I'm a dork, I know.

Right now, it's the down week between seasons. This is the one week we get to change our team's name and nicknames if we want.

And I'm considering that. But I wanted to get some extra opinions on it. Why not?

Here's the options:

Currently, my team is called Jefferson Patrolmen RFC. The name is based off of the State of Jefferson movement back where I grew up. The nickname is obviously in the team name, but I also use "Patrolies." The team colors are yellow, gold and black, representing both the Gold Rush history of the area and the shield includes the Two X's emblem that was used in the state shield of a short-lived 1941 secession movement (It was supposed to be inside of a gold pan and symbolized that residents felt they were "double-crossed" by the California and Oregon state governments).

But, I'm thinking about switching the team name to Klamath River RFC. The name, obviously, references the Klamath River, also back where I grew up. Likely nickname would be "Ospreys" or "Fighting Ospreys." The team's colors would primarily be forest green and a light blue (thinking closest to a Dodger blue or Brandeis blue), with trim colors of lime green, white and black. The green represents the forest, the blue the river itself. The shield would include a rugby ball (primary reason: couldn't find a bird outline I liked).

So, what do you think? Jefferson Patrolmen RFC or Klamath River RFC?


An open question...

Feel free to chime in if you have a suggestion:

Where's the line between being able to openly discuss with friends any problems you might be having and being a whiner?



Option A: Start writing up stuff from the last four days at Berkeley.

Option B: Veg out.

Option C: Alternate back and forth between the two in a spastic manner.


Sorry, another Valentine's Day-related post quickly...

I just got back from four of the most amazing days my professional career at, I mean, the Knight Digital Media Center's Technology Tools Workshop.

But a lot more on that later. For now, just have to share a link to journalist-humor Valentines from a site called 10,000 Words I heard about down in Berkeley.

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Greatest Valentine EVER.

If whoever I give this to isn't able to laugh at this, it's a sign things probably wouldn't work out between us.


Funniest description of me this year...

As I recall you're mountainey and grow facial hair like a goat. you could have a trial beard in no time.

Classic, T-Sou. Classic.

Dating a Journalist: Good LOL'r

This was on a listserv for alumni of my college paper. Not all necessarily true, but most of it definitely is and I thought it was funny:

Five Things You Should Know Before Dating a Journalist

So, you've been eyeing that smart, attractive journalist you're lucky enough to know personally. You're intrigued. Your journalist is smart, funny, confident. Visions of Clark Kent taking off the glasses and ripping off his clothes to reveal a perfectly toned body in blue spandex coming to save you run through your head.

Who can blame you? Journalism is a sexy occupation.

But journalists aren't like the bimbos you usually pick up at the bar. Nor are they the assholes you ladies continually fall for. No, journalists are different beings (which is why you're attracted to them in the first place), and you should realize — before jumping in — that this isn't going to be a run-of-mill, boring, lame relationship you're used to.

Here's what you need to know:

1. We can figure things out. Understand, we're paid (crap money) to dig deep, find the secrets and wade through bullshit. We can pick up on subtleties, so what you think you are hiding from us won't be hidden for long. Sure, we'll act surprised when you eventually tell us you starred in German porn as a freshman in college — but we already knew.

We don't take shit from anyone, so don't lie to us or give a load of bullshit. We spend all day separating fact from fiction, listening to PR cronies and dealing with slimy politicians. If you make us do the same with you, you're just gonna piss us off. And don't think we'll be quiet about it. We'll respond with the vengeance of an Op-Ed page railing against society's injustices — and we'll enjoy doing it.

Just tell us the truth. We can handle it.

2. At some point, you will be a topic. Either through a feature story or an opinion column, something you do or say will be a subject. Get over it. Consider it a compliment, even if we're arguing against you in print.

Think about it: we live our lives writing about life. If you're a part of our life, we're going to write about you, your thoughts or a subject springing from one of the two.

Don't be upset when an argument against your adoration of Hillary Clinton turns up on page A4. We're not directing the writing at you, personally — your ignorance was just our inspiration (there, doesn't that make you feel better?).

3. Yes, we think we're smarter than you. In fact, we know it. Does that smack of ego? Absolutely — but that confidence is what makes your heart go pitter-patter.

We have a strong, working knowledge of how the world works. That makes us great in conversation. We can delve into the intricacies of zoning laws, local and national politics, where to find the good restaurants, what's happening with pop culture, where the good bands are playing and more.

But there are pitfalls.

Guaranteed, when you say "towards," we will automatically say "toward" — "towards" is not a word. We're not trying to call you dumb (even though you don't understand the English language), it's habit. The same will happen when you say "anxious" when you mean "eager" and when you answer "good" when someone asks how you are doing.

We carry ourselves with a certain arrogant air. Embrace it (that's what attracted you to us in the first place, after all). Don't be surprised if we're not impressed when you say, "I'm a writer, too." No, you are not. The fact that you sit in a coffee shop wearing black while scribbling in your journal does not make you a writer. Nor does the fact that you "wrote some poems in high school" or that one day you want to pen "the great American novel."

Look, we're paid to write. Everyday. (Case in point, in this instance "everyday" should actually be TWO WORDS.) What's more, our writing matters. It changes opinions, affects decisions and connects people with the world around them.

We're not spewing our angst or trying to fabricate an aura of creativity. We write about the real world — with real consequences.

Our words go through three or four cranky editors who make us rewrite before it's printed a few hundred thousand times and distributed all over town. You don't do that unless you're confident, even egotistical.

You may have some great journal entries, poems and rudimentary short stories — good for you. Just don't assume we'll accept that as on par with what we do (unless you're really hot, then hell, you're a better writer than I).

4. You're not less important than the job — the job is just more important than anything else. One doesn't become a journalist to sit in an office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

We do take our work home. If news is happening, we'll drop whatever we're doing — even if it's with you — to cover it. We're always looking for stories, so yes, we'll stop on the street to write something down, interview a passer-by or gather information for a lead.

On that same note, don't get upset if you call us on deadline suggesting some afternoon nookie and we say, "I've go to put the paper to bed first." That could mean hours from now, but we'll have plenty of time to put you in bed later.

5. You won't be disappointed. Journalists are intense, driven, passionate folk. We carry those same attributes into our relationships, making it an extremely fun ride well worth the price of admission. Our lives are never boring and each day is different.

If the pitfalls are scaring you away, consider this:

The fact that we're inquisitive means we'll listen to you. Even if it does seem like an interview, we're paying attention to what you have to say (see rule No. 1).

We'll write about you or your thoughts because you're an important part of our life and we care about you (see rule No. 2).

Our brains are a great resource. Ever go on a date with an attractive person and wind up wishing you hadn't because everything they say is just, well, stupid? That's not going to happen here (see rule No. 3).

Yes, it may seem that we put the job ahead of you, but we're driven. You're not with that loser whose life is going nowhere and who's completely content being mediocre (see rule No. 4).


Saying good-bye to an old friend

I bought a new stereo today.

To get technical, it's the Jensen JIMS-525A. It's an all-in-one system with an iPod dock, HD radio capable and a line-in feature if I still want to play a CD.

But the story here is what this snazzy little thing replaced. My old stereo.

My old stereo is an Aiwa system with a 3-cd changer and dual cassette tape decks. I received it as a Christmas present sometime in high school, but I don't remember which year. But I feel comfortable saying I've had this stereo for, at minimum, 9 years.

But 10 is more likely.

And as I broke the Aiwa down, it taking up about 90 percent of the top of a cabinet, to replace it with more recent technology that would deliver equal, if not better sound quality while taking up less than a quarter of the same space, I felt a twinge of something.

I actually felt a little bad I was doing this. Like I was giving up on the Aiwa.

I started thinking of all the places that stereo had gone with me. From my room in Happy Camp to the COS dorms, to University Village, to the house on Oak Park, to the apartments on East Lassen, to down here in Yuba City.

I remember my simple strategy for meeting new people every year college started was to just leave my door open and put on whatever CD I had recently bought (sophomore year was Linkin Park's Reanimation. It had just come out, OK?)

The speakers still had off-color stains. Those came from a party one night at the Oak Park house, either one of the Cowboy Parties or the Super Bowl. Some girls dropped a jar of picante, which somehow managed to explode with such force the picante shot all the way back up to the ceiling, and onto most everything else near the table. Such as the stereo.

Yes, the stereo produces memories.

But time had caught up with it. The guts work well, but speaker wires and receivers had pretty much worn out their life. A tinkerer could probably get it to work fine. And then there's the matter of modern technology. I'm pretty much all-iPod now. I very rarely listen to a music CD and can't even remember the last time I played a cassette.

Maybe I can find a good home for it.

So, thanks to you, Aiwa. I'll buy "Leave the Memories Alone" off iTunes or something to remember it all.

But please keep the picante sauce away from the new stereo, OK?

Two years gone isn't bad, right?

A more rapid update than the one I attempted back in 2007:

*Job switch. Same place, new role, liking much more.
*The whole "new car before the end of the decade" thing worked out. Meet the toaster oven on wheels. It has more than 6000 miles now:

* Happy ending: The Tercel is still in use, as the engine got an overhaul from my uncle and it is now in steadily use by a couple of my first cousins once removed.
* I've gone from being the UCW security guard with the cowboy hat to being Mr. Hoss Roberts. I also put together one Fueled (20-somethings) service a month.
* Same apartment, bigger mess.
* I'm drinking actual drip coffee now. In fact, that clunky old 4-cup brewer my mom left around for when she would come down finally broke down and I had to buy a swanky new Mr. Coffee with digital settings (same price as the click-button, so why not?) It's still a 4-cup, though.
* I decided to get a little bit more serious about dating. But no luck yet.