I’m Convinced All Product Designers Are in Their 20s With Perfect Vision

Posted by Kathy on September 14th, 2015

Huge rant on the way. Buckle up.

A couple weeks ago I turned 50 and as a sort of gag gift/serious gift, my sister Marlene gave me a magnifying glass.

Har har. You’re old and blind as a bat. But you know what? I am and the gift is extremely helpful. I used it twice at work the following week and then again today.


Because people who design product packaging all have perfect vision and I’m fed up with how hard it is to read anything.

Ingredients on food, instructions on medicine bottles, expiration dates and product codes. How is anyone over my age supposed to read important information without a magnifying glass?

By the way, isn’t it pretty?


I used it last week to get serial numbers from the backs of computers and today to read an expiration date on a cup of yogurt.


Why on God’s green earth is it helpful to make everything tiny? On the Dell computer product label, they save, what? One one-hundredth of a cent on ink and making the label smaller?

On the yogurt label, the designers print the expiration date in blue on purple background. Black on white, people. Black on white.

I want to be invited to a focus group on how to make packaging easier on the eyes of older people. But nobody cares about us. No one thinks how they can develop and produce things with universal design in mind so that everyone can use a product or device, disability or not, with ease. What’s the harm in doing so?

The reason I had to determine whether my yogurt was expired was because I opened the container and it was all liquidy and weird.

Next time, if I can’t read the label, I’ll just eat it anyway, get sick and wind up in the ER, where I’ll be given prescriptions when I leave that I also won’t be able to read. How do the elderly get their meds straight if they have to read them? OMG!!!!! Someone fix the problem!!

[/rant over] Carry on.

The Kathy Weight Loss FAQ

Posted by Kathy on July 9th, 2015

32 poundsGreetings, peeps! The Junk Drawer may be on life support, but we ain’t dead yet!

I thought I would write a bit about my recent weight loss because people are noticing it and peppering me with questions about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

I’m all about lazy, so the next time someone asks me, I can just send them the link to this post.

So, what’s been going on? Well, I was fat and now I’m not so fat anymore. I’m down 32lbs (14.5kg/2.3 stone) since getting my crap together and taking weight management seriously. I have been at it for 15 weeks. I’m halfway to my goal.

I thought I’d approach this post as an FAQ, since I get asked the same kinds of questions repeatedly. So here we go.

How are you doing this?

I am mainly counting calories, using a product called My Fitness Pal. They have a website, as well as an app. For my age, height and starting weight, MFP determined that to lose 2lb/week I should limit my calories to 1,200 per day.

My Fitness Pal boasts the world’s largest food database. I simply enter the things I eat and it does all the calculations for calories and nutrients. I also enter exercise type/minutes there. When I’m finished entering my daily foods, I submit my entry and that’s that. No more eating.

The program works for me because it holds me accountable to everything that I shove down my gullet. It also makes me hyper-aware of how many calories are in everything. That’s the key takeaway: Awareness of calories encourages you to budget carefully and make better food decisions.

Are you also exercising?

Yes. I do 60-90 minutes of something every day of the week. Typically a combination of 30 min. cardio (using hand weights) coupled with about an hour of walking. I have two walking buddies – my sister Ann and my friend Leslie. We walk 2-4 miles, every day.

I also have a virtual buddy in my hair stylist. We have a pact where we message each other right after we’ve exercised to keep each other committed. Having a support system like this is extremely helpful.

Are you cutting out certain things like carbs or sugar?

Yes and no. I don’t believe in diets that have a name, like the South Beach Diet, which limits carbs. For me, that’s simply not sustainable. I want to eat in a well-rounded way and I want to eat normal foods, just a lot less of it.

I have a decent amount of carbs per day, but my added sugar intake is almost nil. I’m getting sugars only from fruit and whatever is in things like cereal or vegetables.

I was a committed sugar junkie for years. That is, until I discovered during Week 5 of this process that suddenly I didn’t crave it anymore. This surprised me because I wasn’t even trying to cut sugar.

But when you eat cleaner and better, the cravings subside. At the start, I used to peruse the bakery aisle, pick things up, put things down. Later, I’d glance at the bakery, asking myself if I could get away with it. Now, I don’t even look at the bakery. No desire.

I do have an occasional sweet, like French macarons. But only once a month and it’s enough.

Don’t you just lose your mind sometimes and want to eat a half gallon of ice cream because you’ve had a crappy day? I mean, come on!

Nope. What I’m discovering as a former stress eater is this – I will have stress every day of my life and eating ice cream does nothing to make the stress go away. If anything, eating it creates more stress because it makes me fatter. Vicious cycle, right?

And I’m working on such a relatively low calorie count, that I’ve become an expert at making the calories I have count. You don’t want to blow a whole day’s worth on ice cream because it won’t fill you enough and that sugar spike isn’t good either.

Are you worried about regain?

No, but it’s scary to think about the statistics on long-term weight loss. It’s estimated that nearly 80% of the people who lose a lot of weight gain it all back (and sometimes more) within two years.

What’s different about my effort is that I’m treating weight management like a disease, as my mother had to do with her Type 1 diabetes. My mother had to micromanage every single thing she ate. She had to test her blood glucose multiple times per day and take insulin shots.

When I think of how hard her life was having this burden, I think of how easy calorie counting is by comparison. I’m reminded of Mom’s struggle as I do this and it makes me stronger, more mindful and more dedicated.

I often read that people who reach their goal weight stop counting calories because they got too confident and then the weight crept back on.

The people who keep the weight off most successfully are the ones who keep tabs on their weight. They weigh themselves daily and react quickly at the sign of even a small gain. I plan to calorie count the rest of my life. I don’t consider it an imposition or burden.

Aren’t there days when you lose your willpower?

No. I like to put it this way. Most people think you have to maintain willpower to make weight loss work. But willpower is a fair weather friend and there’s only a finite amount of it before you cave.

What I’m doing is using discipline to manage my calories and exercise. Discipline and willpower are two different things. Discipline kicks in when willpower lets you down.

Don’t feel like working out today? Tough. Come on discipline, help me out here.

Want that 800 calorie take-out meal? Not happening. Discipline comes to the rescue.

Someone offers you treats and says “Come on, you deserve it!” Nope. Discipline keeps me focused and on track. I don’t need the extra food. I do need that extra exercise. Discipline gets me there. Willpower can suck it.

What would you tell someone who wants to lose weight?

Calorie count! Know the numbers. It’s said that weight loss starts in the kitchen, fitness begins in the gym. About 80% of weight loss comes from reducing calories, only 20% comes from exercise. So even if someone can’t exercise, their chances of losing are as good as they are for someone doing both diet and exercise.

I exercise because it feels great, reduces stress, builds muscle and offers a host of other benefits I want. But if I was injured or couldn’t exercise for some reason, I can still lose due to the reduction in calories (only a little slower).

So that’s my story. If you have questions, ask away!

p.s. I want to give a special shoutout to all those who’ve managed their weight wisely or who have maintained after weight loss. You have my admiration and respect. Give yourselves a high five!

“Hi, Guy Who Got the Weirdest Malware I’ve Ever Seen!”

Posted by Kathy on May 9th, 2015

[ File # csp3833279, License # 2257132 ]
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(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / RTimagesI’ve never been good at remembering names. Faces, yes. If I met you only once before, I can usually remember the context of the meeting. I’d probably even remember a lot about you if we spoke at length – where you work, what you do, your kids, places you vacationed. Whatever.

But even if you gave me your name and I repeated it aloud during the conversation, it never seems to make its way to long term memory. You might as well ask me to remember pi to the 107th digit. Ain’t gonna happen.

I had an exercise in name mortification this week at work.

The problem with providing technical support for people is that I generally remember the nature of the computer problem I resolved more than the name of the person who brought it to me.

On Thursday, an adjunct professor knocked on my office door. I opened it and welcomed her in. I totally remembered that the first time we met was during a troubleshooting session that lasted over two hours, as she had a host of issues that took a while to complete.

I knew what she teaches, I knew I installed Microsoft Office, antivirus and Chrome, and fixed a problem with a statistical software package she used. I remembered where she lived and that on the day of our meeting she was late because of a traffic jam.

I just didn’t remember her name.

She came in needing me to install two network printers, which was all well and good until it wasn’t.

Because one of the printers requires an accounting code before you can print to it, I had to get her code from her department administrator.

So I called her.

Me: “Patti? I have someone here who needs to print to your restricted printer.”

Patti: “No problem. I’ll get you the code. Who is it?”

Me: {{crickets}}

Patti: “I can check the code if you just tell me who it’s for.”

Me: {{more crickets}}

Patti: “Kathy?”

Kathy: {{ever more crickets}}

Now Patti’s cricketing and wondering why the hell I won’t answer her.

The adjunct is sitting inches from me. I can’t very well ask her what her name is because she knows we met for such a long time before, and have corresponded by email many times since.

How the hell am I going to get her name without actually asking for it and looking like a complete doofus?

I decided to pretend that I needed her User ID in order to get her code, so I asked her for it.


Except not.

When I gave the User ID to Patti, she pretty much had it with me being so inexplicably secretive.

Patti: “That’s the User ID, but can you just give me the name?”

Me: {{All the crickets in all the world}}

I’m thinking “Please Patti, figure out that I don’t know her name. Look up the ID and find it yourself! LOOK. UP. THE. ID!”

Finally, finally, we have liftoff.

Patti: “OK, I’ll just look her up. It’s Jane Smith. Got it. Here’s her printer code.”

A wave of relief came over me, I took care of the printer installation, rushed Jane off and then promptly emailed Patti to explain that I’m a dumbass and to thank her for receiving my telepathic request to look up the woman’s name.

So if you work with me and pass me in the hallway, don’t be offended if I just nod and wave.

You’re not getting a “Hi, Mike” or a “Hi, Nancy” or a “Hi, Dan.”

Because I’ll be thinking instead:

“Hi, guy who couldn’t install a second monitor because he installed remoting software that created a virtual graphics card that interfered with the on-board card and until I uninstalled the remote software couldn’t attach the second monitor and communicate with the on-board!”

— OR —

“Hi, lady whose files mysteriously get deleted from your network drive every time you reboot!”

— OR —

“Hi, man with the stats program that only works with the MS-Access 64-bit version that took me three hours to research for that one in a million scenario!”

Because it’s not you, it’s me. Oy.


Any statisticians in the house?

Posted by Kathy on December 29th, 2014

While out on my walk today I noticed a lot of obvious Christmas gift boxes and related paraphernalia on my neighbors’ curbs ready for trash pickup.

You had the usual flat screen TV boxes, a Keurig box, some toy boxes and a host of plain shipping boxes.

Also pizza boxes. My neighbors live on pizza apparently.

But then.

Then there was this:


I laughed, of course. Someone either had a really good Christmas, or a really bad one.

I kept on with my walk and about ten houses down the street, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?


Can someone who knows stats tell me what the chances are for this happening?

Toilets for Christmas. It’s a thing now. Take note.

I hope y’all had a nice holiday, and I wish you a blessed and happy 2015. Complete with your own American Standard beige toilet, if that’s what your heart desires.

Memory Burn

Posted by Kathy on November 18th, 2014

Mo and BabsMany of you know my husband Dave and I took a vacation to England in September. It was our second trip there in a 16-month period, lucky ducks we are.

Whenever I get back from a whirlwind vacation, I think of blogging about it, but it just feels like too much work. Too much to document and I always wonder if I’ll remember everything or bore everyone, or both. So I decide not to write about it at all.

But today I wanted to talk about the little moments of this vacation that pop into my head when my life is spinning, when people are getting on my last nerve, when I need to fling myself back there. Back there to those moments when I was completely content. Back there when I wasn’t thinking of the hundreds of emails that were invading my Inbox. Back there where time stood still. Where the memory is savored and burned. Burned into my memory so I can pull it out whenever I need to save myself from whatever crisis is whirling around me.

I escape to a few moments, a few simple moments.

The first happened the morning I woke up after our friends’ wedding. Mo and Babs (pictured above) were married on September 20th and we celebrated with them at Babs’ brother’s house in the countryside. They graciously hosted us for the night in their home and when I awoke to pure silence, I glanced out the bedroom window and saw a weather vane turning slowly in a gentle breeze.

I watched it turn for perhaps ten minutes, thinking “I’m so unbelievably relaxed and happy. I want to stay here forever. I want to pull up stakes and move over here. I want this life.”

After Dave and I rustled ourselves awake and headed downstairs for breakfast, our hosts made me a cup of coffee and I went outside to enjoy some fresh morning air. The last time we’d been to England, it was classically cold, rainy and miserable. But not this time.

It was sunny and dry and warm and lovely. And my view was stunning. It was still and quiet, save for a few crows screaming through the sky.

Me and my English coffee, in the sun on a rock wall. A few minutes of escape. Burn it in, Kathy. Burn it in.

English coffee

The other moment I still relish is from a visit we made to Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield, where Babs’ brother and wife live.

It’s a small park packed with miniature estates, shops, docks and bridges. The Queen used to go there as a child, don’t ya know. Cutest little place, perfect for strolling with old friends and new. We spent a couple hours here.

At one point, I stopped on a bridge to watch tiny boats full of tiny people pass under me. The sun felt so warm. So enriching. So filling. Drink it up, Kathy. Drink it up.


My husband came over and asked “What’cha thinkin’ about?” I told him “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” I was in some kind of happy bubble that enveloped me, where no bad thoughts could enter. No stress. No worries. Just sun and warmth and glee.

“I don’t want this to end,” I said. “I need this for later when we go back. For when we work again, pay bills again, clean cat litter boxes again and I can’t stand it.”

And so I use it whenever I need to. Every other day now. I tap into my memory burn and recall how happy that trip made me, the trip with our good friends, where everything went right this time.

Stress pounds rudely on the door these days, sure. But I don’t answer. Get out, you fool! You don’t belong here! And I think of the weather vane, turning slow slow slow while I crept out of sleep. The coffee I sipped in the morning sun with an impossibly perfect view. And the little village that got me to let it go. Let it all go, if only for a moment.

Yes, we saw all the touristy things in London, ate well, played well, vacationed well. But it wasn’t what we saw that remains with us. It’s what we felt. We packed it all up in our suitcase brains and unpack it whenever the need for it calls.

Kathy, remember? Do you remember the little things?

Yes, yes I do.

So what’s in your memory burn?