I transferred my website to a new host last spring, having piggybacked on a friend's server for enough years, thanks. There was some buggy stuff going on, probably the result of a couple of Wordpress installations and my lack of due diligence in scraping out spam and updating my plug-ins. It got a little wonky, and there wasn't much recourse with a free ride.

But because of some questions about infection, I couldn't archive my years of writing on the site. And there was a full decade of it, and it's me. There was a lot.

I found a utility to help back them up, sort of a spider thing that crawled around and copied. I ended up with a full backup, although to be honest I'm not sure where it's located. It's a weird thing I could figure out but I haven't, and so when I lost the link somehow (briefly) it made me nervous.

I'm old-fashioned about backups, I think. Or worrying is old-fashioned, something. It feels like overkill sometimes, the Backblaze and the Dropbox and the Google and the Amazon server spaces all holding onto scraps of my life, often the same scraps. If my computer blew up, I'd be up and running with a new one in a day. If I had to start over with the same equipment, wiped clean? Maybe 30 minutes. I'm the Archivist. I've got everything.

Just not that blogging stuff, which is accessible but not. Quite. Mine.


It's important stuff, too. Not the words as much; it'd be nice to preserve some occasionally nifty writing on my part, but one assumes it can be replicated, and if it's lost then I'd have to wonder how good it was, anyway. And I'll never re-read it to find out.

But the information, the numbers? That's what I want. That's the value, right there. Comments on the weather, on polls, on scores, on trivial details of my trivial life; I'd probably not check these, either, but it would be a lot easier to leech out data and slap it in a spreadsheet, if I were so inclined.

Because I'm a numbers guy. Now. I guess.


I do a manual quasi-QuickBooks every day, creating my own, elaborate Excel sheets to track granular details of our household, like how much we spend on vegetables, or milk. Anything. Starbucks.

And so on. The comfort this gives me is understandable, or I would think; it's about control in an uncertain world, and our lives are very uncertain and have been for a while now.

Ten years ago, when I decided my next project would be to tackle the roly-poly body I'd developed since my mid-30s, an ordinary, dismal, quixotic goal that we all eye at different times with low expectations, I decided it would be by the numbers.

So I have a ton of those spreadsheets, which I also won't look at. But they exist, day after day of stepping on the scale, trying to estimate what I've eaten, what I've burned off. Eventually numbers will become all that matters, in this kind of situation.

And it works with all sorts of things. Keeping an eye on credit card purchases is kind of important. Tracking gas mileage can give you good information. I've caught a couple of errors in utility bills, just knowing what I've been paying. Numbers work.


I was moving things around last year, and I broke the bathroom scale (it doesn't go in the bathroom in this house, but you know). It didn't crack or anything, but the numbers became irrational. Fun if you like to pretend you're 30 pounds lighter (damn, I could have sold that scale on eBay). Not if you like accuracy.

So I bought a Fitbit one, which connects via WiFi and automatically logs my weight. Technology is quite the assist for the borderline obsessive. Frees up a few seconds to obsess about other things.


I think this is a learned skill. I don't think I was born with a head for numbers, although I'm not sure what that means. I did OK in math, including advanced math, but nothing special. Some As and Bs, lower the higher I went, but that was high school. No one remembers quadratic equations.

And maybe it has something to do with the chaos that normally resides in my brain, and how I try to manage that.

But I do simple calculations constantly, reflexively. Ages of actors versus characters they play. Years since this, days until that, trivial anniversaries and wacky coinkydinks. I'm good with dates; I can tell you that the 30 Years' War lasted from 1618 until 1648, from its hidey-hole in my brain, no Wikipedia necessary, and I have very little interest in that subject. I can also tell you that during one particular 10-year period in American history (1840-1850), we had six presidents, and that's completely off the top of my head (Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Fillmore). All sorts of weird stuff up there.


None of these things occupy a lot of time. This fascination with digits is pretty mild, more of a feature than a bug if we're talking about mental health, or neurology. I might spend a minute gazing at a spreadsheet, wondering why we're eating out more often in the winter than the fall, but that's about it. Note it, log it, stop thinking about it.

But there are always answers in the numbers. Sometimes it takes that minute, is all.

I've written about going all in for Candyland this Christmas. As someone who has spent most of his life being careless about eating, and paying the price, I'm aware of the dangers of cookies. They're small, they come fully loaded with sugar and other calorie-dense ingredients, and they don't fill us up. Maybe a couple of dozen would, but by then we're in worse trouble. I'm very cautious about cookies.

Just not this Christmas. There are other, far more important aspects of this, which I'll get into at a later date, but it was a wise move on my part. I dove into the season, bulk butter, giant bags of flour, multiple trips to the sugar factory. It's difficult, maybe impossible, to track all the bits and pieces that made their way into my stomach, and we haven't got started on the cookie dough. Cookie dough never counts, and of course it does, but nothing was getting in the way of the fun this year.

Looking back, then, it appears that I started to gain some weight in November. It's a laughable amount, maybe 3 pounds, a rounding error, but it's unaccounted for except by just common sense. Lots of cookie dough will do that.

I didn't think about it much. I noted it, but I was on a mission to find me some joy, and if I needed a 350-degree oven and a boatload of sugar, that's what I was going to do. Not going to spend a second fussing about three pounds.


I'm also not fussing about the current situation, in which I stepped on the scale today and weighed nearly 10 pounds less than I did a month ago. That's not impossible but it would take a deliberate effort, and I made no such thing. I just backed off a bit on the sweet stuff. Scales are weird. And I've been wrestling with some cold symptoms that try to fool me into worrying about the flu, or The Flu, or THE FLU, depending. I read too many headlines.

So just less eating this week, feeling poorly, accounts for most of this. I'm not thinking anything, just aware of it.

I just wonder about people who aren't as neurotic about numbers. A person only sporadically stepping on a scale might see 175 in January, as I did, and then 164 today, as I did, and think something entirely different. Me, I got numbers. I know what's up.

Same thing with...actually, anything. Numbers really just represent information; that's all I'm talking about. Take politics (please). Liberals like to tax and spend, conservatives like to cut taxes and budgets. Not hard to understand the trope.

Numbers show us that, when Democrats have substantial control of government, at least the executive and one branch of Congress, deficits go down and the economy heats up. It's really clear. It just doesn't jibe with the trope. We never learn, either.

There are plenty of other examples, but this is sort of simplistic. Facts are important; more details are more important, and so on. We know this.

I just know it, now, from practicing. I count*, therefore I am.


*substitute cough as needed

Chuck SigarsComment