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My latest addiction

4 Sep

I have a problem. I am addicted to mobile live trivia games and it’s kinda sorta ruining my life.

It started innocently enough. My brother’s girlfriend introduced us to HQ Trivia. We were sitting around the kitchen table at my parents’ house a few months ago when her phone pinged at 2:58pm.

“Hey, it’s almost 3pm, we can play HQ Trivia!” she exclaimed.

We gathered around her phone as Scott Rogowsky asked us 12 multiple choice questions. The live aspect of it was appealing — playing against people all around the world in the moment. But the prospect of winning real live money was even more appealing. However many winners there are split the prize pot, which is usually $5,000 or £1,000, and on Sunday nights is $25,000 or £8,000.

After my brother and his girlfriend went home, both my parents and I downloaded the HQ app onto our phones. Because I have a UK phone number, I could only play the UK game. The US game (which apparently everyone in the world can play except for those in the UK) airs at 3pm and 9pm EST on weekdays and only 9pm on weekends, while the UK game has the same schedule only in BST. Which means when I was in the US I was playing 4 HQ games a day — the UK 3pm game at 10am EST, helping my mom with the US 3pm game on her phone, playing the UK 9pm game at 4pm EST, then at 9pm EST my parents and I would stop whatever we were doing to play HQ.

It was fun at first. It brought us together and gave us a chance to show off our random knowledge. On the Sunday night big prize games, UK players can play the US version, presuming they can stay awake until 2am, but it worked out well for me when I was in Kentucky. Each game each day brought a new thrill — maybe this time would be our Slumdog Millionaire moment, when each question relates to our own life experiences and expertise and we win big!

That’s part of why it started to become a problem. If any show could be my winning show, missing a show became difficult. I had to revolve my life around being on my phone at 10am, 3pm, 4pm, and 9pm. One night we thought about going to see a movie in the evening, but decided against it because we wouldn’t be able to play the special NBA Finals $400,000 prize game.

I thought things would be different once I got back to the UK and could only play twice a day. But then I discovered HQ isn’t the only mobile live trivia game. So I started playing Q Live at 1pm, HQ at 3pm, Q Live again at 8pm, Cash Show at 8:30pm, and HQ at 9pm. I had to plan my run or errands so they would fit between 1:15pm when Q Live ended and 3pm when HQ started.

“Maybe we’ll stop playing once we win,” my mom said a few weeks into our HQ obsession.

But then she and my dad both won on the same night — a whole 17 cents each. Because that’s the thing — if the questions are easy enough for you to win, they’re easy enough for a lot of people to win. The thrill of winning was sweet, but fleeting — we wanted to win a bigger prize.

I won my first UK game on August 1st. I was especially proud because the UK show is harder for me as an American — a lot of the questions are about UK history, football or TV shows I’m not familiar with. I won £2.65, which is $3.47. I was elated. But I didn’t stop playing.

HQ had a special 3-show night to celebrate its 1-year birthday on Sunday, August 26th. The first show started at 8pm EST, which was 1am BST, around my bedtime. But I stayed up to play. I got out on the 8th question, but my dad ended up winning — 40 cents! Then Scott said the next show would be at 8:30pm, 1:30am for me, but it was only 15 minutes away, so I decided to play. And I won! $7.22!

hq trivia win

There were questions about Chinese culture and ancient Greek language — it was my Slumdog Millionaire moment! I should have gone to bed after winning, but there was another show in 15 minutes, and with my adrenaline pumping there was no way I’d be able to go to sleep before 2am anyway. So I played and lost.

Since my big win I’ve been trying to ween myself off. But they recently added a new feature that rewards you with an extra life (an ability to rejoin the game if you get 1 question wrong) if you play 5 days in a row. Way to reel people in, HQ. Besides, if I don’t play, I can’t win, and who’s to say the next game won’t be my biggest win yet?

Send help. And extra lives.

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A look back on 2017

5 Jan

And just like that, it’s 2018. 2017 really flew by, so I figured I’d pull myself out of this jetlag fog to remember all the things I did last year.

-I became an expert in cholesterol and became obsessed with lowering mine, only to find its genetic and there’s not much I can do
-I got to meet Cherry, my parents’ new Chihuahua-corgi rescue, and promptly fell in love with her (The amount of photos of her butt alone that I have on my phone is probably cause for concern)
-I got to see my Chicago and Milwaukee friends twice
-I ran a 5K race in under 30 minutes and completely wiped out in a 10K race and still finished in under an hour
-I got to see my favorite band Over the Rhine twice, once at their farm and once in Over the Rhine
-I saw Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical twice from the front row
-I finally visited Greenwich
-Stephen and I had an epic holiday in Prague, Budapest and Tuscany
-We finally visited the Buckingham Palace state rooms
-I road a camel
-I got to meet my best friend’s daughter at the hospital a day after she was born
-I reached level 38 in Pokemon Go and still continue to play every day
-I saw Hamilton in Chicago
-I saw 16 West End shows, smashing previous years’ record of 9
-I became pescetarian in September and kept with it aside from a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving
-We rang in the New Year with new friends and a killer fireworks display in London

I don’t like to make formal New Year’s Resolutions, but there are some things I’d like to focus on in 2018. I’d like to continue my pescetarian diet at least until my next cholesterol test, just to see if it’s making any difference. Though to be honest, I don’t really miss meat that much. I think I’d also like to have another go at a half marathon this year, either the Flying Pig in Cincinnati or the Royal Parks Half in London (if I can manage to secure a ballot spot! Third time’s the charm, right?). On the hobby front, I’d like to pursue calligraphy and lettering more. I got into it a bit last year, but I got some nice pens and paper for my birthday this year that make me want to do it more. They say you should have at least 3 hobbies — one to keep you healthy, one that allows you to be creative, and one that makes you money. At least I’ve got the first two down! (Does writing and editing count as a money-making hobby if it’s your job?)

Here’s to a great 2018 — may I not spend the entirety of it jet lagged! (I’ve been back in London 6 days now and it’s starting to feel like I just might)

doug the pug new year

What does healthy eating even mean?

8 Nov

It’s hard to eat healthily. Not just because unhealthy things like cake, french fries and pizza are so delicious, but because it’s hard to define what actually is “healthy.”

Is “healthy” just about losing weight? If so, technically you should be able to eat whatever you want as long as you maintain a calorie deficit, as this nutrition profession’s junk food diet showed.

Is healthy about getting the most nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order to lower cholesterol, avoid disease and prolong life?

According to the popular paleo diet, eating healthily is emulating the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors — which means eating grass-fed meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. Grains, beans and legumes are a big no-no, as are processed foods and sugar — there were no Oreos or Doritos in paleolithic times, after all.

Celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich claims you can lose weight and eat as much as you want as long as you follow his NSNG philosophy — no sugar no grains. He also calls it being a “Carnivorous Vegan.” Load up on the eggs, red meat, full-fat dairy products and butter! Just as long as you stay away from the candy, bread and oatmeal. And watch the fruit, as he says your body does not know the difference between fructose from an apple or high fructose corn syrup. (Definitely no fruit juice, even if it’s fresh and “green.”)

The Netflix documentary What the Health says sugar is OK in moderation — it’s actually meat that’s increasing your risk of diabetes! According to the movie, if you want to reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease and be a super strong Ninja Warrior, you should follow a vegan, plant-based diet. No meat, fish, eggs or dairy (sorry, Vinnie!). Whole grains, beans and legumes are actually OK and encouraged (take that, paleo hunter-gather ancestors!).

And then there’s the Mediterranean diet, touted for its heart-healthy benefits. The Mediterranean diet, contrary to the pizza, pasta and gelato diet I followed in the Mediterranean, focuses on eating whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, plus healthy fats like fish, nuts and olive oil. Red meat should be kept to a minimum, but grains and beans are fair game.

It seems like the only thing every diet can agree on is that vegetables are good for you.

kevin broccoli gif.gif

But wait… I forgot to mention Tom Brady’s diet! The superstar quarterback’s diet consists of 80% organic veggies and whole grains like quinoa, millet and beans, then 20% grass-fed organic lean meats like steak, wild salmon, duck and chicken. Though he eats a lot of vegetables, he doesn’t eat nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms or eggplants, because they’re not anti-inflammatory.

So we can’t even agree that all vegetables are good for you?!

You can see why I’m struggling. All my favorite “healthy” food — oatmeal, salmon, chickpeas, edamame, mushrooms, eggplants — could be considered “bad” if I followed any of the above diets. The only one that doesn’t forbid any of those things is the Mediterranean diet. I’d say what I eat falls mostly into that diet, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. In fact, for the past six weeks now I’ve been pescatarian — basically a vegetarian who also eats fish, but no other meat. But I’m not sure I want to commit to the label or lifestyle either. Because as much as I want to “eat healthily,” I never want to be THAT person at a party or gathering — the “I can’t eat that” person. I may have severely cut back on my meat intake, but on Thanksgiving I’m going to have turkey. I’ve also cut out sugar, but I’m going to eat some Christmas cookies when I bake them, and on my birthday I’m going to have cake. And as much as I want to say I’ve given up processed foods, I can’t kick my Quest protein bar habit, especially now that they’ve released a birthday cake flavor!

Apparently there’s a term for this diet — flexitarianism, or as The Guardian describes it, “vegetarianism with cheating.” (“A solitary pack of bacon in a fridge full of beans and tofu.”) I eat what makes me feel good, which is usually whole, plant-based foods. But sometimes I want a birthday cake protein bar. Or actual birthday cake. Or meat. And that’s OK.

A look back on 2016

1 Jan

pug-new-year

 

 

Ah, 2016. Celebrities die every year, but the year that took away David Bowie, Prince and George Michael seemed particularly cruel. Then there was that little Brexit debacle and American election. But on a personal level, 2016 wasn’t all that bad. Dare I say it was actually quite good.

 

Here’s a little reflection of what went down over the past year:

-Stephen and I celebrated 10 years together
-I went to the Cadbury Creme Egg cafe
-I completed the Great Walk of London, which involved walking 16.35 miles around London solely for the Fitbit steps
-I got to be maid of hono[u]r in my best friend’s wedding in Milwaukee
-I spent Fourth of July in Chicago with good friends
-All the cousins on my dad’s side of the family were reunited for the first time in 9 years
-I started playing Pokemon Go, let it take over my life, completed my Pokedex and for some reason still continue to play
-I did gymnastics for the first time in 16 years with my other best friend and survived with only minor aches and injuries
-I traveled to China with Stephen — twice
-I complete my first half marathon
-I went to my first Cincinnati Bengals game, which happened to be in London
-I got to meet Meat Loaf, my musical idol since high school
-We bought a flat
-I saw 9 West End shows, somehow tying my record from 2015, 2014 and 2013 (maybe my 2017 resolution should be to see 10 shows!)
-I traveled to Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic with my parents and got to visit the house my great great grandfather built in Sweden in 1903 (link missing because I still need to make a blog post about this!)
-I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London for the first time. We watched the NYE fireworks from the roof of our building and it was beyond spectacular (the most spectacular part being we got to avoid the massive crowds)
-I got to eat at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Versailles for my 30th birthday. We had an amazing little last minute getaway, until we almost got stuck in Paris because all flights to London were grounded. Thank god for the Eurostar train!

Here’s to 2017! I haven’t made any resolutions, but I hope it is filled with good travel, theatre, food, running, friends and family.

The Fitbit superglue conundrum

10 Oct

The other day my Fitbit Charge HR fell to bits. It’s been hanging on by a thread for the past few months, but it finally said “enough!” when I tried to plug it in to charge it.

broken fitbit charge hr.png

I had planned to spend the afternoon working and was feeling particularly productive. But when I could not charge my Fitbit nor press the side button because it had fallen off, everything else took a backseat. One of my previous Fitbits had fallen apart before and I was able to salvage it with superglue. I rummaged through my cabinets, only to find the superglue had dried up. I switched my sweatpants for jeans and hurried next door to the little overpriced hardware store that had somehow replaced the always-crowded laundromat where I used to wash my duvet. I even took the lift down instead of the stairs, because why take the stairs and get exercise when your Fitbit isn’t counting it? I still swung my arm on the walk there out of habit though. Overpriced superglue in hand, I went back to finish my mission. I carefully practiced how I would place the tiny bits of plastic, then applied the glue. Mindful not to superglue my fingers together or to the plastic, I held the pieces in place for a few seconds. Success! I thought. I still need to buy a new Fitbit, but I could wait another month and have my parents bring me one from the US.

I placed my Charge HR back on my wrist, ready to get back to work, only to remember I got into this whole debacle because it needed to be charged. So I went back to my computer and tried to plug it in. The charging cable would not connect.

I had filled the charging hole with superglue.

I googled “how to remove superglue,” which was a purple link because I had obviously searched this before. The answer was acetone. So I got out my nail polish remover, some cotton buds, and a needle and frantically started scraping at the hole. Slowly bits of glue came off, but no matter how much I scraped, I couldn’t get the cable to connect. I had fixed my Fitbit, but it would only work for another day or so on low battery. After more time than I’d like to admit, I was able to get the cable to connect, but it would only charge if I held it in with both hands.

The next thing I googled: “Where to buy Charge 2 UK.”

charge hr charge 2.png

Fitbit Charge HR on the left, Fitbit Charge 2 on the right

The only thing good that came out of this time-wasting situation is that I got the cool new Fitbit Charge 2 the next day, and thanks to the falling value of the pound, I paid about the same as I would if I bought it in the US.

And I learned never to underestimate the watery nature of superglue.

Everybody wants you in Regents Park

30 Aug

The other day I was running in Regents Park. I use the term “running” loosely, as it was my one weekly Poke-run that I have allowed myself, in which I run while playing Pokemon Go, which usually translates to run for 20 seconds, stop to catch Pokemon, run for 5 seconds, stop to catch said escaped Pokemon, run to next Pokegym, stop to battle, etc. I had been playing for a good hour, my phone battery was on its last legs, as were my, well, legs. I was hot and irritable and Pokemon Go had randomly stopped working. I decided there was only one thing that could get me through the last mile: I had to listen to the song that had been playing nonstop in my head. There was just one problem: I didn’t know the song’s name or artist. I only knew one line, which I kept singing over and over again: “Everybody wants you.”

So I typed that into Spotify. Do you know how many songs are called Everybody Wants You? A lot. Usually when I don’t know the name of a song I just google some of the lyrics. But I didn’t know what line came before or after “Everybody wants you.” It was definitely an upbeat, older song. I tried googling “Everybody wants you 80s song,” but that only brought up Billy Squier, and that was not the song in my head. I wasn’t even sure how this song got in my head — was it playing at the restaurant I passed in the park? Does the restaurant in the park even play music? Was the heat making me delusional? Why was it so important that I listen to this song right now?

And then a girl approached me as I was sitting on the bench in Regents Park having this Pokemon and music crisis.

“How do I get to Regent Street?” she asked.

“Regent Street? The shopping street next to Oxford Street?” I replied.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just want to buy a tent. There’s a camping store on Regent Street.” I had so many questions — why did she need to buy a tent — was she planning on living in the park? Why did she not look at a map before she left, did she think Regent Street was in Regents Park? And what 20-something-year-old these days doesn’t have a phone with GPS maps? But I kept my questions to myself and opened up Google Maps.

“You can get on the Tube at Baker Street and get off at Piccadilly Circus,” I told her.

“I don’t want to take the Tube,” she said.

“Oh. Then you can take the bus 13.” I told her.

“Hmm. The bus might be hot,” she said. I agreed.

“You can walk 2 miles then. I do it all the time,” I told her.

“I don’t know if I want to walk that far.” She stood there contemplating her options. I stood there wondering if “Everybody Wants You” was even the name of the song, and since I spent a good 5 minutes giving travel advice to this girl, if it would be out of line to start singing and ask her if she knew the song. I snapped out of it, though, and the girl was still just standing there. Did she want me to walk the 2 miles with her? Her simple request for directions was almost turning into a stop and chat. Good thing I wasn’t timing this run.

“So basically you can take the tube, ride the bus or walk. Those are your options,” I said in a hint-hint PokemonGo is back up and running and I need to go manner.

“OK,” she said, and wandered off. I wonder if she ever got her tent or figured out that Regent Street and Regents Park are not the same thing. I did what I could to help, but I still had my own problem. As I walked I continued to search Spotify, playing every “Everybody Wants You” song one by one, but none of them were the one. I was getting way too frustrated. I remember when I was at university my basic how to build a website class visited the computer science lab. A team there was working on a program like Shazam that could identify a song just by you humming a few bars of it. This would have been the perfect moment for that service, I wonder if they ever got it off the ground.

I got home, took a shower, ate lunch and then played some SongPop 2, the other mobile game I am hopelessly addicted to. And there — in the Top Hits 1983 playlist selected by the Australian chick I’ve been playing for the past 3 weeks — was the answer to my musical conundrum and the answer to the round: Give It Up by KC and the Sunshine Band. I couldn’t find the song because it isn’t called Everybody Wants You — that’s just one of the lines — one of the lines that SongPop 2 frequently uses, which is likely where I first heard the song that caused it to get stuck in my head in the first place. Problem solved. I am still grossly underprepared for my half marathon in less than 3 weeks (!) and utterly addicted to PokemonGo, but…
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na / Baby give it up / Give it up / Baby give it up / Everybody wants you / Everybody wants your love….

kc sunshine band dance.gif

2 recent feats that should not be impressive

20 Jun

You’d think by now traveling between the US and UK would be old hat for me. I am traveling to Milwaukee for a friend’s wedding soon and have already lost sleep over packing. When Stephen packs for a big trip, he often does it the morning of, expertly folding clothes into his bag in 10 minutes. For me it takes days — sometimes even weeks — to decide what clothing and items to bring. This is always because I declare that I am going to get rid of a lot of my clothes, and by “get rid of” I mean leave them at my Kentucky home. I tell myself I will wear them when I am there and thus will not need to pack so much next time, but it never works that way. Each time I bring more and more back and end up buying more and more that I want to wear instead. Last week I sorted through my closet and piled a mound of “take back” clothes on the bed. “There is no way that is all going to fit in one sub-23kg suitcase,” I thought. So I did what I should have done years ago — I tried everything on. “If you would not walk out the door right now wearing this and feel confident, you are not going to wear this in Milwaukee or Kentucky, and thus it should not take up valuable suitcase space,” I told myself. And just like that half my “take home” pile went into the “donate” bag. I have a problem in which I get too sentimentally attached to inanimate objects, particularly clothing, so for me to get rid of a big pile of it was a big step. And now I can actually see what shirts are in my closet now, and hopefully my suitcase will not be overweight. Just once I would like to go to the airport without overweight bag anxiety — just once!

I accomplished another minor feat this weekend: I did not eat the last xiaolongbao. Let me back up a bit. We went out to lunch in Chinatown. As is customary in Chinatown (and China, for that matter), one must order at least twice as much food as the amount of people in your party should reasonably eat. Each dish we ordered could have been a shared meal in itself, and we ordered 4 of them. During the week I try to eat healthily and count calories, but on the weekend, everything is fair game. Ever since I was little I was taught to clear my plate — that not stuffing yourself after you’re full was someone rude to the cook and to the impoverished children of the world.

louis ck meal full.jpg

I ate way more than I should have at that Chinese restaurant this past weekend, but I still left food on my plate. There was one lone xiaolongbao left — I even went so far as to reach for it with my chopsticks, but I reminded myself that the food was already a sunk cost, and there was no need to make myself feel sick. Let’s face it, I probably should have stopped eating 3 xiaolongbao and 2 ribs earlier, but the fact that I didn’t completely gorge myself shows that I’m making progress. Maybe there’s a chance I won’t gain 5 pounds in America like I always do!