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19Feb/123

F.lux

I've never been one of those people who falls asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. For as long as I can remember -- yes, even as a little kid -- I've needed about 30 to 45 minutes, on average, to fall asleep. And I don't mean "reading in bed for half an hour" and then drifting off to sleep, either; I mean, from the moment I stop reading or watching TV or using the computer or whatever it is I was doing, turning the lights off, closing my eyes and deciding to go to sleep -- from that moment onward, it's always taken me about 30-45 minutes to actually get to sleep.

It's not as if I'm worrying or stressing out about stuff either, as people sometimes suspect. No, my mind isn't a complete blank either -- I figure that'd be pretty hard to accomplish unless you're an expert at meditation -- but my nighttime thoughts are neutral to pleasant, I allow them to wander freely instead of actively trying to work stuff out while trying to fall asleep, etc. So I'm pretty sure that isn't it.

In fact, for quite a while now, I've suspected my body simply doesn't produce melatonin as easily as the average person (that is, those who generally fall asleep in under 5 minutes. I honestly have no idea if those even are the average ones :P). Melatonin is that hormone that makes you feel sleepy at night, and is induced by the absence of light. Now, I have even more trouble falling asleep if I leave any lights on at night, and I think the last time I successfully took a nap in the middle of the day (with bright sunlight out) was literally when I was about four years old. (Seriously. I seem to be completely incapable of taking naps. Even if I'm super tired and/or ill, and close the blinds and lie there with my eyes closed... it just doesn't happen.) So, given those things, combined with always taking quite a while to fall asleep, I figured my body is all like "any lights = no melatonin for you!"

And, you know what, I've always been fine with that. Well, I mean, I hardly even know any better. Sure, I occasionally feel a slight pang of envy at those people who just drift off instantly, but taking about half an hour, on average, to fall asleep has never really bothered me. But over the years, that time gradually increased. It went from "about half an hour on average, to occasionally some 45 minutes" as a kid/in my early teens, to about 45-60 minutes in my late teens, to "about an hour on average" in my early twenties... and over the past year or so, I'd pretty much gotten used to falling asleep in under an hour being a rare occasion, and needing 1h15 to an hour and a half to fall asleep really not being such a rarity at all. With those kinds of delays, it does start getting a bit annoying. Not even so much the lying awake part -- I still didn't mind that much, most nights -- but the "needing to lie in bed for 9.5+ hours just to make sure you'll get your 8 hours of sleep" part. I.e., I'd know I needed to be up at 7 so I'd go to bed all nice and early at 10.45-11pm or so... only to not fall asleep until about 0.30am, and still only get 6.5hrs of sleep.

And then I saw someone, on some forum, recommend f.lux. This is a tiny and free application that really only does one thing: at the time of sunset (in your timezone/country), it automatically adjusts your computer monitor's colour temperature/brightness. See, what your monitor does all day is emit very bright blueish light, that is actually specifically designed to imitate daylight in terms of colour and intensity. So, if you're using your computer until just before you go to bed, you're basically staring into the sun at 11pm, which isn't exactly natural. F.lux automatically adjusts your settings so your screen emits a nice soft orangey light instead, and then turns them back to default by sunrise next morning.

Now, I have to admit I was pretty skeptical this would actually do anything. Sure, the colour is a bit nicer to look at, at nighttime, but you're still staring into a pretty bright lightbulb and all. But still, it couldn't hurt to try, right? No harm, no foul, and all that. So I've been using it for the past couple weeks... and I'm suddenly falling asleep within 30-45 minutes again. Okay, maybe not every night, but on average, yeah, I think it's pretty close. Also, apparently the colour temperature of the light may be even more important for melatonin production than its brightness/the actual amount of light (see here and here for instance). So there's definitely some logic behind the functioning of this f.lux program. And, well, it's free, anyway! So if you use your computer a lot in the evening, I would definitely suggest trying it out.

Filed under: Misc, Personal life 3 Comments
9Feb/121

10 in 2012 goals

I know, I know, this is ridiculously late to be doing a "new year's resolutions" type post. But I kinda wanted to do 12 goals, to stick with the theme after last year's "11 in 2011", and I only came up with about 6 of them initially. :P I've been slowly expanding the list since, but I'm still only at 10 of them, and I really can't think of any more at the moment, so I figured I might as well post them now. So, here they are; some have been copied from last year's list, while others are all new.

  • Reduce weight to 62kg or less
    • Seeing as how I failed miserably at this last year, and am therefore still at least 20 pounds heavier than I want to be, it seemed like a good idea to keep this one on the list.
  • Do a workout at least 100 times
    • Rather than specifying various types of workouts like last year, I figured I'd just add "roughly 2 workouts of any kind per week" to the list. :P
  • Write at least 25 blog posts
    • I actually made this goal, last year, but that doesn't mean I suddenly want to stop blogging now! Haha.
  • Read at least 6 books (not counting school textbooks)
    • I only read a single book all last year, which is kind of pathetic. This year, I definitely want to free up more time for reading. (In fact, at the time of writing, I've already finished 2 books! And it's only February. So I'm quite well on track for this one.)
  • Finish at least 3 video games
    • I have this habit of buying/starting video games and then never actually finishing them. I own dozens of games and I've probably completed less than half of them! This is another thing I want to devote some more free/fun time to.
  • Travel outside of the country at least once
    • There are still a ton of places I haven't seen yet! I actually really really want to try and go to California this summer, but as that's kinda ridiculously expensive I have no idea if I'll end up getting there, yet. Failing that, there's lots of other fun places I'm considering: Scotland, Rome, Berlin, etc.
  • Complete Danish language course
    • So I kinda have my mind set on this Master's degree that partially takes place in Denmark. That's still a year and a half away, but if I do end up going there, I'd like to have at least a conversational grip on their language. If I don't, well, speaking another language never hurts, right? So I asked for, and received, a Danish language course for Christmas. I want to try and finish it by the end of the year.
  • Pass second year classes
    • Well. I don't think I really need to explain how this would be a good thing, right?
  • Pick third year classes
    • Up until now, I've never had to pick out my own class schedule. This probably sounds rather bizarre to the Americans reading this, seeing as you guys can go undeclared for years and just select "random" classes if you want to, but over here you actually declare your major before you even start at college/university. Then, I suppose the exact amount of compulsory classes kinda varies per major, but in my case it meant my entire first two years of classes were automatically selected. There's about 22 courses, which are all given at specific periods and time slots, so basically your whole schedule for those two years is already fixed. The only "choice" you have is to not enroll in a course, but that's fairly pointless since these are all compulsory subjects, and you'll just have to take it the next year before you can move on in your education.
      So all in all, it can be kind of restricting (you basically have no choice to drop classes that you find terribly uninteresting or are especially bad at), but it's also very easy, since you don't have to give any thought to what courses you want to pick. And then suddenly in the third year, boom, no more compulsory classes (at all!), just pick 60 credits worth of courses of your own choosing.  Again, this probably seems perfectly normal to at least half the people reading this, but to me, right now, it kind of feels like a daunting task to pick the "right" things. So I figured I might as well put it up here on the goals list, even though there's not really any way I won't have completed this one by the end of the year. :P
  • Actually keep track of goal progress
    • Yeah, so remember how I tried to write a blog post on how I'd fared regarding my 2011 goals and it was nearly impossible? There's not much of a point in formulating your goals in such a way that they're easily measurable, and then not actually keeping track of them. So this year, one of my goals is to keep track of my goals. How much more meta can you get? :P
Filed under: Personal life, Uni 1 Comment
8Jan/122

11 in 2011 results

Remember how I did an "11 in 2011" New Year's resolutions type post, way back on 1/1/2011? Well, I guess I barely remembered this, because at some point fairly early on in the year, I completely stopped tracking my progress on any of these goals. So, I've been meaning to write a results post ever since 2012 started, but the main reason I've been putting it off is that half these "results" will be total guesstimates. Oh well. :P

Reduce weight to 62kg or less
Well, there we go. Just the first one on the list and it's already a total fail. Rather than losing about 15lbs like I intended to, I actually managed to gain some 10 pounds since the start of 2011. I now fit into even fewer of my clothes, instead of being able to use my entire wardrobe again, as per the goal. Whoops.

Try at least 12 new recipes
See, this is one of the goals where it would have been rather helpful if I'd actually kept track of it throughout the year. I do still have the document that I intended to use for tracking my goals, but it only has a single check mark for this one, and I know I've occasionally tried out a new recipe since, you know, February. :P Not that many, though. I would guess maybe 4 or 5 in total throughout the year?

Prepare at least 25 vegan dinners
Again, since I stopped counting after only a month or two, I'm going to have to guess... I'm pretty sure I didn't quite make it to 25, as that would mean cooking fully vegan at least once every other week, but I'm thinking probably 15 to 20 times? I did learn that a vegan lifestyle is just not really my thing; I probably could do all-vegan dinners, all the time, if I had to, but I love my bread too much to eat salads, soups etc. for breakfast and lunches all too often. Combined with the fact that I'm not a huge fan of sweet rather than savoury bread toppings (jams, etc) that leaves quite little choice in that department, instead of having a variety of meats, cheeses, eggs etc. to choose from.
For this same reason I can't even see myself going completely vegetarian; I would definitely miss the option of having sandwiches with ham, salami, bacon and all the other various deli meats. Again, dinner is a different matter, and I did actually cut back quite a bit on the amount of meat I use there. Over the past couple of months I've switched from using "whatever cheap kind of meat's available" to only buying certified organic meat. Yes, it's easily 2-3 times as expensive, but I'm simply using 2-3 times less in response, and find that my meals still taste fine. And occasionally, I've even left out the meat in my dinners completely, or added a bit of goat's cheese instead, etc.

Be able to run 5km or more
Yeahhhh. I think I've just fallen out of the running groove completely, or something. I didn't work out nearly as much as I wanted, in general, but then even when I did, it was P90X or yoga or Bodyrock or really just anything that wasn't running. Right now, out of those 5km, I'm probably able to run, like, 300m or something. Haha.

Do an ab workout at least 100 times
Umm. Out of all the goals, this is probably the toughest one to guesstimate if you haven't actually been keeping track. The goal is such a large number, and my workouts have been completely irregular, so it's not as if I can say "well, I did abs twice a week, for probably x weeks out of the year" or anything. It's more like I've had short periods where I worked out like 3-5 times per week, followed by weeks or months of doing nothing, so. Um. Maybe 40 times? But I guess it could just as easily have been 25 or 60. Definitely not the full 100, though.

Do a yoga workout at least 40 times
I didn't make this goal either, but I did come quite a bit closer than with the other workout goals. Probably around 30-35 times? Like I said before, I didn't work out nearly as often as I intended to... but when I did, it was some form of yoga more often than not. I like how it's more about flexibility and strength and balance than being some kind of fast-paced cardio workout, and I like how you all you need is a yoga mat and your own body weight and can workout in the comfort of your own home. (With the obvious risk that I'm doing all sorts of poses horribly wrong, I suppose, having never actually attended a real life yoga class. Shush.)

Publish at least 50 pages of RoA
Haha. HAHAHA. Do I even need to say anything else on this subject?

Write at least 25 blog posts
Oh my god it is a goal that I actually successfully completed. :O  More than that, even; I wrote exactly 50 blog posts in 2011. Twice the target amount, and nearly one post per week on average. :)

Read at least 6 books (not counting school textbooks)
Which means we quickly need to move on to another utter failure, of course. Discounting all the stuff I've had to read for school, I finished a grand total of one book over the course of 2011. During the summer, I started reading The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, but about halfway through, I left to go on holiday and forgot to take it with me. So while in Germany, I started on Heat Wave instead (yes, the tie-in novel to the Castle TV series), and read about half of that before we went back home... where I never actually finished either book.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed by Heat Wave; I liked it, but I did not love it as much as I expected. However, it's not like I deliberately quit halfway through because I was that unimpressed, or anything. And I quite liked The Drawing of the Three and want to know how it continues, I've just not actually bothered to read the rest of it. The one book I did finish, just before 2011 ended, was KanjerGuusje: mijn leven is van mij by Lowie van Gorp. I had already read the blog and was mostly buying its book form for the proceeds going to charity, if I'm completely honest, but then I ended up reading the entire book in two days straight when it arrived. I'm not even usually a fan of the "true story" genre, especially when you already know it's not going to have a happy ending, but there's just something really captivating about this one.

I do feel I should point out that while I may hardly have read any published novels at all, I did read an almost silly amount of fan fiction this year. I used to read a ton of fanfic as a teenager, but hadn't really read any for years. Over the course of 2011, however, I would guesstimate I've read at least a million words of fan fiction, which is actually about 3 to 8 novels' worth, depending on the size of the book. That might seem like a random and clearly overestimated amount, so let me explain. First, in January, I read Draco Veritas by Cassandra Claire, which is a roughly 500,000-word Harry Potter fanfic. Then, at some point, I got slightly obsessed with White Collar, which lead me to reading every piece of decent fanfic I could get my hands on over the summer holidays. I know that one author, whose entire archives I ended up reading, has written over 300,000 words of fanfic, and I must have read at least the same amount of fic by other authors combined. Hence my guesstimate of "a million words of fanfic", which I honestly suspect is actually on the low side. So, between school, work, the internet, and being a rabid fangirl, you can see how that leaves fairly little time for reading actual books. >.>

Travel outside of the country at least once
Reading tangent aside, let's move on to another goal that I managed to complete. I ended up going on three separate holidays this year! First a weekend in London in March, and then a week in Nuremberg and another week at the CCC camp near Berlin in August. I think I've already spent blog posts on each of these holidays, so I'll keep this one short and move on to the last goal.

Have a (professional) photo shoot done
Yeah. Well. As I already said when I originally wrote this, this one was heavily dependent on how well I'd do on the weight loss and workout goals. You know the results of those by now, so suffice to say this one never even crossed my mind during 2011. :P

Aaaand there you have it! A recap of all 11 goals, of which I managed to successfully complete... two. Well, unless you want to count the amount of fanfic read in book equivalents, in which case I guess I made three of them. Still not a great score. :P I suppose this ought to be the point where I tell you my 2012 goals... except I never actually made any! Maybe I will, maybe I won't. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Filed under: Misc, Personal life 2 Comments
31Aug/111

99 things meme

So it's been a while since I last posted. I ran out of inspiration, of ideas to write about for a while there. So when I came across this fun meme on Mascha's blog, I decided to steal it.

The idea is simple: copy the following list, and check the things that you have done at any point in your life by making them bold. I had a few that I felt sort of counted, so I decided to highlight those in italic, but that's really not part of the original meme. :P

 

Have you ever...

1. started your own blog?

2. slept under the stars?

3. played in a band?

4. visited Hawaii?

5. watched a meteor shower?

6. donated more to charity than you could afford?

7. visited Disneyland?

8. climbed a mountain?

9. held a praying mantis?

10. sung a solo part?

11. gone bungee jumping?

12. visited Paris?

13. watched a thunderstorm?

14. taught yourself any art from scratch?

15. adopted a child?

16. had food poisoning?

17. been at the top of the Statue of Liberty?

18. grown your own vegetables?

19. seen the Mona Lisa in France?

20. slept on an overnight train?

21. had a pillow fight?

22. hitchhiked?

23. called in sick despite feeling fine?

24. built a snow fort?

25. held a baby lamb?

26. gone skinny dipping?

27. run a marathon?

28. sailed on a Venetian gondola?

29. seen a full eclipse?

30. watched the sunrise or sunset?

31. hit a home run?

32. been on a cruise?

33. seen the Niagara Falls?

34. visited your ancestors' birthplace? (Parents, yes, older ancestors, no)

35. visited an Amish community?

36. taught yourself a second language?

37. had enough money to be fully content?

38. seen the leaning Tower of Pisa?

39. been rock climbing?

40. seen Michelangelo's David?

41. sung karaoke? (At home, yes, in a bar/in public, no... does that still count?)

42. seen a geiser erupt?

43. paid for a stranger's meal at a restaurant?

44. visited Africa?

45. walked down a moonlit beach?

46. been transported by ambulance?

47. had a portrait painted of yourself?

48. gone deep-sea fishing?

49. seen the Sistine Chapel?

50. been to the top of the Eiffel Tower?

51. gone diving or snorkling?

52. kissed someone in the rain?

53. played in the mud?

54. visited a drive-in cinema?

55. acted in a movie?

56. visited the Great Wall of China?

57. started your own company?

58. taken a martial arts class?

59. visited Russia?

60. served the homeless or otherwise less fortunate?

61. sold girl scout cookies?

62. been whale watching?

63. been given flowers for no specific reason?

64. donated blood, plasma or platelets?

65. been skydiving?

66. visited a Nazi concentration camp?

67. been unable to pay a direct debit charge due to insufficient funds?

68. flown in a helicopter?

69. held on to a favourite toy from your childhood?

70. visited the Lincoln Memorial?

71. eaten caviar?

72. made a quilt?

73. visited Times Square?

74. toured the Everglades?

75. gotten fired from a job?

76. seen the changing of the Guard in London?

77. broken a bone? (I'm almost certain I broke a toe, once, and also suspect I may have hairline-fractured my right cheekbone at one point after faceplanting into the asphalt rather spectacularly, but I've never bothered to get anything x-rayed, so I can neither confirm nor deny :P)

78. been a passenger on a motorcycle?

79. visited the Grand Canyon?

80. published a book?

81. visited the Vatican?

82. bought a brand new car?

83. walked in Jerusalem?

84. had your photo in a newspaper? (Well, not just mine specifically, it was my whole primary school class, but still)

85. kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year's Eve?

86. visited the White House?

87. killed, prepared and eaten an animal?

88. had chicken pox?

89. saved someone's life?

90. been on a jury?

91. met someone famous?

92. been in a book club?

93. gotten a tattoo?

94. had a baby?

95. seen the Alamo (Texas)?

96. swum in the Great Salt Lake (Utah)?

97. been involved in a legal case?

98. owned a cell phone?

99. been stung by a bee?

 

27 in all, not counting the cursive ones. Feel free to copy this to your own blog! (Mascha's blog linked up above has the Dutch original, if you need that.)

Filed under: Misc, Personal life 1 Comment
18Aug/111

Holiday in Germany, times two

I'm home! Actually, I've been home for almost three days now, I was just too preoccupied with beauty looks to post about my vacations. ;) But, here we go!

The first holiday I took was with my mum. We went to Nuremberg in Germany, to visit the city and its surroundings, as well as our friend Trixi. We left Thursday, July 28th, early in the morning, and arrived at our camp site in Nuremberg late in the afternoon. We set up our camp with two little tents, one for each of us, and then went over to Trixi who had prepared us a lovely dinner.

The next day, the three of us went sight-seeing together. We started out at the World War 2 tribunes at the Zeppelin field, where Hitler gave his speeches all those years ago. I had seen old black & white movies of it in history class, but it was quite impressive to see it in person!

Next, we went into the city centre, where we had lunch (real German bratwurst and sauerkraut), visited the St. Sebaldus church and had a nice iced coffee as the weather was quite nice that day. The next day, we went to Trixi's place for lunch first, and then visited the St. Lorenz church in the city, and went to the Bardentreffen music festival afterwards.

The next morning we visited a graveyard -- I guess this might seem like a bit of an odd thing to do on holiday, but they're often quite beautiful, decorated with statues and such, and very peaceful. When I was on holiday in Paris about a year and a half ago, my friend insisted we should visit one of the graveyards there, and none of us had any regrets about it afterwards. The St. Johannesfriendhof in Nuremberg was also quite a beautiful place, with lots of lovely roses and statues. Afterwards, we had lunch in a nearby park and drove around for a bit, and then we went back to the camp site. In the evening, my mum and I decided to take a short trip to the nearby city of Erlangen, where we had a look at the palace there. There was also an art exposition, but it was closed by the time we got there (about 6pm).

On Monday, we went out into the city again (just my mum and I this time), and visited the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) first. Then, we sat down at a cafe for some coffee and apple pie (complete with vanilla icecream and chocolate sauce!) as it was also my mum's birthday that day. Afterwards, we visited the city's castle and its gardens. It turned out to be quite extensive and we ended up spending most of the afternoon walking around there, making it back out just in time to reach the house of Albrecht Dürer (like a small museum) less than an hour before closing. In the evening, we had a nice BBQ at our camp site.

The next day, we first visited the city of Schwabach, where we walked around and shopped for a bit, and ate some nice strawberries fresh from the market. Then we drove around pretty much all afternoon, doing a tour of all the castles/manors in the surrounding area of Nuremberg, by simply using the TomTom's (satnav) POI feature and selecting everything that started with either "Schloss ..." or "Burg ..." in a row. ;)

Wednesday was already our second-to-last day, so we started packing up our things and getting some food for the ride home. Then we had coffee and cake at Trixi's place, to celebrate my mum's birthday a little belatedly, and also had dinner at her place afterwards. We returned to the camp site and finished packing, and went to bed a little early to get ready for the drive home the next day!

So, I got back home Thursday evening, spent all day Friday catching up on all of the internet things I'd missed (as I've mentioned in an earlier post), and then Saturday was spent doing laundry, getting groceries, and then packing my freshly-cleaned clothes right back up, because I left for my second holiday on Sunday morning!

(c) Andreas Buchholz -- click to enlarge

My next vacation took place at the Chaos Communication Camp in Finowfurt, a village near the German capital of Berlin. It was held at a former airfield (wait, does that term even apply if it's still used by small aircraft?), where 3000 hackers/nerds/security&IT experts/etc got together for a five-day conference. The actual event took place from Wednesday through Sunday, but we got there early (the Sunday before) to make sure we'd have plenty of time to set up. You see the really big red tent in the above picture, that kinda sticks out among all the others? Yeah, that was our lounge. I think it was something like 3000 sqft.

(c) lambda's -- click to enlarge

The lounge was quite a success -- it was completely filled with people every night, many of whom I didn't even know, but had simply strolled in because they liked the look of it. In front of the big lounge tent, we had three large grills that everyone was free to use (as long as they brought their own food), which I'm sure also helped.

(c) palimphread -- click to enlarge

There's really not that much I can tell you about the actual event, I suppose; I'm not really much of a hacker/other categories listed above myself, so truth be told, I didn't attend a single lecture or workshop for the entire five days. :P I just went there to hang out and have a good time with my friends, and that I definitely did. (Also, German booze is ridiculously cheap. ;)) We didn't even make it to Berlin to do any sight-seeing, though we spend a nice afternoon in the spa in Eberswalde, a nearby city.

I can tell you that everything was so pretty! An organisation called ArtEvent spent days decorating and adding lights, lasers etc. to the entire camp site/airfield, and as a result, the whole place just looked gorgeous, especially at night. It was a very fun week! The only thing that could've been better was the weather, I suppose. Between the rain and the strong gusts of wind that pretty much flattened out your tent (well, okay, and the drunken people having overly loud conversations right next to it... ;)) we were so knackered from lack-of-sleep halfway through the event, that a couple of us actually resorted to booking a nearby hotel for a night or two to catch up on some sleep, lol. But it was totally worth it ;)

Oh, and yes, I did end up watching the WhiCo midseason finale live on stream. In a windy, noisy tent (so I figured, since I was awake anyways... you know? ;)) at 3AM on a camp site over a shaky WiFi connection. Ha. You can't say I'm not dedicated. >.>

Oh, and there's more photos than just the ones up there! My CCC photos are up here (I literally spent maybe a single half-hour taking some pictures during the entire event... whoops) and you can find tons more by searching "cccamp11" on Flickr. I also have several more photos from my Nuremberg trip up here.