Sunday, September 24, 2006

Choose your candy wisely

As we get closer to flipping the calendar to October, we start seeing a whole lot of orange popping up around stores. Candy is everywhere. They entice you with sales and huge bins full of sweet, sugary goodness. I know I eat a lot more candy around this time of year, it's hard not to. But that doesn't stop me from checking the ingredient labels first.

A coworker brought some candy to the office today and everyone gleefully dove into them like vultures. I waited until after the rush of bodies, then wandered over to read the labels before grabbing my share. As I suspected, some of them were evil. Whoppers has partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in it. Crap, trans fats. I used to loooove Whoppers. But here on the package it was listed as the second ingredient, right after sugar. Dammit. I can love Whoppers no more.

Enjoy the candy folks, the season calls for it. But choose wisely.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thinking about advanced degrees

When I graduated from college, I was so happy. Not because of any sense of accomplishment -- there was never any doubt in my mind that I would finish -- but more from relief. It was more of a "thank god that's over with" kind of feeling. I was just so sick of school. I'd been studying since I was 5!

At my last job, as things were starting to go stale and I was starting to sniff around for another job, I started thinking about getting a more advanced degree. I didn't really want to, but I wondered if it would make me more valuable. Or maybe there was a different career path I could take. It was a period of questioning, but I knew I didn't want to go back to school. Just having to go to the campus all the time would be a pain in the ass. This got me thinking about "distance learning". Maybe I could get an MBA online. There are some places that specialize in that, like Capella University, which offers 76 graduate and undergraduate specializations. Maybe if I got a master's degree in something I could get a better job, and I wouldn't have to go anywhere near a campus!

Lucky for me, after 6 months of interviewing, I finally landed my current job. I really wasn't looking forward to going back to studying. It was bad enough when I only worked part time! I can't imagine having to give up all my free time. No way. I treasure it too much.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Chocolate was meant to be enjoyed

Chocolate makes the world go 'round, wouldn't you say? Well at least it feels that way sometimes. You might have heard about some studies that claim chocolate has health benefits. Well it's true. Cocoa contains certain compounds, such as flavanoids, that help reduce blood clots and improve your cardiovascular health. Chocolate has also been demonstrated to act as an anti-depressant by stimulating endorphin production and providing seratonin.

But wait, before you run off to Costco to buy a barrel of Hershey's, read on. The health benefits you receive depend greatly upon the kind of chocolate you buy. The antioxidants and other helpful compounds are found in cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate studies. Most of the cheap chocolate you find in stores contain very little actual cocoa. For example, look at the ingredient list for a Hershey bar. Sugar is first, followed by cocoa butter and other stuff. Make no mistake, cocoa butter is fat. It's what gives chocolate that smooth creamy texture.

The ingredient you want to see listed higher in the list is either "chocolate liquor" or "cocoa mass" (the imported chocolates tend to use the phrase "cocoa mass"). This is where the good stuff is. Dark chocolate has higher cocoa content than milk chocolate. Milk chocolate contains more sugar than its dark counterpart. This is why dark chocolate is more bitter. Healthy stuff comes in bitter packages I guess.

My recommendation is to buy dark chocolate with nuts in it. That way you'll be getting more good stuff, plus you'll get some protein to help balance out the sugar you'll be consuming with the chocolate. And put the guilt away. Chocolate was meant to be enjoyed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The latest Google development

I love Google, but not because I'm a bandwagon joiner. On the contrary, I actually resisted using it when I first heard of it. I was comfortable with what I was using and didn't jump onto the Google wagon when a fellow sysadmin at the time introduced it to me.

Silly me. When I finally gave it a try, I was amazed at how much more relavant the search results were. After a few uses, I was hooked. Imagine that, a search engine that actually gives you the results you are looking for! Not only that, they are constantly working to improve themselves. They don't follow trends, they set them.

Take their latest development. It's still in beta, but they now have something called "Accessible Search". At first I was like "yeah whatever, I can see just fine." I was imagining the search results being in huge letters. Not so. It turns out the search results are different here. Sites with cleaner code get ranked higher. No more sloppy websites. A lot of garbage will get cleaned out of the results. I can well imagine a lot of sites scrambling for search engine optimization in order to fix their rankings. The field of search engines is ever changing and morphing into different creatures. I just hope it's for the better.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Weddings are annoying

Weddings annoy me. I hate 'em. I don't care who's wedding it is, they are all annoying. If it's anything more than a civil ceremony in front of a judge, it's too much. Any event that has you blow thousands of dollars on one day is a waste. Yes it's a happy occasion, but with so much going on, there's just so much that can go wrong. Kids going nuts, bad weather, flowers wilting, caterers charging you different from the agreed-upon amount, guests getting lost, the list goes on and on. It's ridiculous. How can you be happy on your happy occasion when you're too busy stressing out?

Then there's all the crap with the gifts. Guests have to give the bride and groom gifts, then there's the bridesmaid gifts, and probably several others I don't even know about. Obligatory gifts suck. Gifts should be from the heart, not because you have to. But in the end, if the food is good and the ceremony short, I'm usually able to sit through the whole thing.