Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dream: Soap Dish Salad

I'm in a medical clinic, in an exam room, waiting for a doctor.  I am not sick, but I am a subject in a survey waiting for a brief exam.

There is a mixed green salad on a thin metal soap dish that protrudes from the blue wall.  (The walls appear in color and pattern like a paper hospital gown.)  I am eating the salad with my right hand.  It is dry, with iceberg lettuce, carrots chopped in matchstick shapes, onion, radish slices and perhaps diced red pepper, so it takes me a while to chew and swallow each bit.  I am painfully aware that eating the salad in this manner (using my unwashed hands and taking it from a fixture that's been exposed to all sorts of hospital germs) is very unsanitary, but I do it anyway.

Since the door is open I can tell how far along the doctor is on his rounds.  As he enters the nearest neighboring exam room, I know that I will be next.  I want to finish the salad before he arrives, so I shove the last handful into my mouth.  While I'm chewing that, I go into the adjacent bathroom to gather all my belongings so I can leave right after the exam.  I grab that nearly unused bar of vegan lavender soap and put it in my bag, glad that I spotted it.

I open the door to go back into the exam room, but it hits an obstacle.  There is another doctor in the room bent over and attending to something.  She has long thick dark brown hair and is wearing a frumpy white lab coat.  She's unaware of me, and I wait quietly and patiently for her to finish what she's doing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121227

I'm off from work this week, so the timing of this weigh-in is different. I had eaten breakfast and then spent two-and-a-half hours shoveling snow from the driveway. Then I peeled off all my clothes that were soaked with sweat and weighed myself. So the measurement is lower than it should be, probably by two pounds, due to the lost sweat.

Waist = 36.75"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Parkinson's Disease and Christmas

A few months ago yet another family member was diagnosed with a neurological disorder.  My cousin Joe has joined the 1 percent of folks over 60 years old who have Parkinson's Disease.  His sister already had been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years.

The latest issue of Neurology Now features an article on Parkinson's Disease (PD): Not Just Tremor: Recognizing depression and other non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease.  And as I read it during the Christmas season, I was especially drawn to this single paragraph:
People with PD even have a tendency to lose their interest in religion—a change more readily considered philosophical than pathological. According to research by Patrick McNamara, Ph.D., of Boston University School of Medicine, people with PD report significantly lower levels of interest in religion. Brain scans show that this lack of interest coincides with changes in the prefrontal cortex but does not correlate with depression, age, education, intelligence, or medication.
 I pondered this all throughout the Christmas religious service.  And I also thought about why I quit the church choir -- mainly it was the hypocrisy of singing about that which I no longer really believed in, particularly at Christmas time when the verse proclaimed the miracle of virgin birth.  (And it should be noted that hypochondria is one of my "pastimes.")  So (feeling empty myself) I wondered if this is how someone who has lost religion feels at Christmas?  Are ministers aware of this aspect of Parkinson's?  What if this happens to a minister with Parkinson's Disease?

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121219

This is the first weigh-in that's lower than 154lb. What's been different lately? Well, I've stopped exercising. I've cut out the half-hour lunch time walk in order to take holiday lunches and get some extra work done. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? But what if you consider that my body senses this inactivity and reduces my appetite so that I eat less?

Waist = 36.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Quotes from "Why We Get Fat"

Because the insulin level in the bloodstream is determined primarily by the carbohydrates that are consumed ... it's those carbohydrates that ultimately determine how much fat we accumulate.  Here's the chain of events:
  1. You think about eating a meal containing carbohydrates.
  2. You begin secreting insulin.
  3. The insulin signals the fat cells to shut down the release of fatty acids (by inhibiting HSL) and take up more fatty acids (via LPL) from the circulation.
  4. You start to get hungry, or hungrier.
  5. You begin eating.
  6. You secrete more insulin.
  7. The carbohydrates are digested and enter the circulation as glucose, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
  8. You secrete still more insulin.
  9. Fat from the diet is stored as triglycerides in the fat cells, as are some of the carbohydrates that are converted into fat in the liver.
  10. The fat cells get fatter, and so do you.
  11. The fat stays in the fat cells until the insulin level drops.
If you're wondering whether any other hormones [besides insulin] make us fat, the answer is effectively no....
- Gary Taubes, "Why We Get Fat," page 122

...cortisol makes us store fat both directly (through LPL) and indirectly (through insulin).  But then it works to release fat from our fat cells, primarily by stimulating HSL, just like other hormones.  So cortisol can makes us fatter still when insulin is elevated, but it can also make us leaner, just like every other hormone, when insulin levels are low.  And this may explain why some people get fatter when they get stressed, anxious, or depressed and eat more, and some people do the opposite.

The bottom line is something that's been known (and mostly ignored) for over forty years.  The one thing we absolutely have to do if we want to get leaner -- if we want to get fat out of our fat tissue and burn it -- is to lower our insulin levels and to secrete less insulin to begin with.
- ibid, page 124

...when you eat sugar, according to research by Bartley Hoebel of Princeton University, it triggers a response in the ... part of the brain ... known as the reward center ... that is targeted by cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and other addictive substances.  All food does this to some extent, because that's what the reward system apparently evolved to do: reinforce behaviors (eating and sex) that benefit the species.  But sugar seems to hijack the signal to an unnatural degree, just as cocaine and nicotine do.
- ibid, page 142

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sleep Study

I had complained to my doctor about sleepiness at my previous wellness exam.  He recommended a sleep study for sleep apnea.  I declined.  I would have to stay overnight at the city hospital.  But at the next visit when we discussed the topic, I decided to go through with it.

Even before the doctor mentioned sleep apnea, I was pretty sure I had it.  Ever since I could remember, I would wake up groggy and somewhat out of breath.  I've had a few dreams in which I was holding my breath underwater and then I'd wake up gasping for air.  And my wife would wake me to complain that I was snoring very loudly and "snort like a gunshot."

And I remember that when I was on pain meds after sinus surgery, I would realize I had stopped breathing while drifting off to sleep.  When I mentioned this to the ENT surgeon at a followup visit, he dismissed my complaint as just a vivid imagination.

But I declined the initial sleep study referral because the only solution is either surgery, an oral appliance, or a machine that forces air into your nose (a CPAP machine).  None of these options appealed to me.  But I reconsidered because the study itself wouldn't cost anything, and the solution would be partially covered.  The main reason I reconsidered was because my wife made me do it.

I had a private room at the hospital with its own bathroom.  I changed into my PJs.  The technician suggested that I relax a bit and watch some TV.  Then when I was ready to go to bed, I should let him know so that he could attach electrodes to my body.

I don't watch TV.  I usually read before I go to bed, but I had forgotten to bring a book.  But I did find a TV channel that played relaxing music.  It didn't really matter because at that point in my life I was so thoroughly tired all the time that I could fall asleep quickly nearly anywhere, even standing in a line at a bank.  I went through the motions of a pre-bedtime ritual only for appearances sake -- I felt that the technician expected me to watch TV before going to bed.

After a short while, I was in bed, and the technician was attaching electrodes to my scalp, wrists and ankles, and attached a pulse oximeter to my finger.  He explained that the doctor ordered a "split" sleep study.  In this type of study, the first half would include just a monitoring phase.  If during this phase I should stop breathing, the technician would wake me and attach a CPAP machine to me.

I fell asleep right away, despite all the wires attached to me.  And then right away, inexplicably, the technician woke me up.  "What's going on?  Why'd you wake me up?" I asked a bit crossly.

"You have the worst sleep apena I've ever seen.  You really surprised me.  When you first walked in, I didn't think you'd have it.  Most of the folks who have sleep apnea are very overweight.  Boy was I wrong!"

He placed a special mask over my nose and explained that it would keep my airway open using air pressure, which he'd adjust remotely.  He'd be able to determine an optimum pressure that would be programmed into my own machine once I got it.

The next time I woke up, it was morning.  I actually felt refreshed.  It was amazing!  It was still early as I drove home.  Traffic was light, and I had the whole day ahead of me.  I had the euphoric sense that infinite possibilities were within reach.

The story continues here with My CPAP Breathing Machine.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121212

It's not often that my weight drops below 155lb and my waist size below 37". Yet that's where I find myself today. With my nasal congestion, I can't smell or taste anything. Perhaps smell triggers more eating. And taste provides the enjoyment that might prolong eating. Well, the other thing that's going on is that I've cut back on carbs. I've reduced or completely eliminated the starchy side dish of rice that comes with many meals (including those that my wife makes).

Waist = 36.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121207

I've been battling persistent nasal congestion. Up until today, it felt as though someone forced cement into my nose. Even Sudafed offered little relief. I'll be happy once we get a few inches of snow on the ground. That will seal off the mold that I'm reacting to.

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo Wrap-up

Well, it's December 1.  The November NaBloPoMo is over, and I rocked it -- 36 posts in 30 days!  Woot!

I probably could post every day for a full year, but I have so many other interests (plus a full time job) that my other projects would languish.  So I'll quit while ahead and focus on: Reiki, Dog Training, Feng Shui, photography, exercise, finances, family, food, reading, work and whatever else looks fun and interesting!

Dream: Spirit Entity in Closet

I'm staying as a guest in a large mansion.  I'm standing near the front entrance on the inside.  There is a closet to the left of the huge, double-door entrance.  The mansion owners have locked a nice spirit entity in the closet, and now she is knocking and calling to be let out.  I would like to release her, but I don't want to displease the owners.  They are not in the room with me, but they would know that I released the spirit.  There are other people who are also staying as guests.  They are very kind like me.

The others arrive. In the hubbub of their entering, I open the closet, and the spirit emerges.  In appearance she is a lovely blonde woman, radiant and warm and happy.

It's later.  All of us are getting ready to embark on an outing in the countryside.  I'm standing behind two golf carts.  The friendly folks are in the golf cart on the left, which seats four.  The owner and his cronies are in the cart on the right.  It has a few empty seats, so I decide to ride with them, reluctantly.  But they start to speed away.  I guess I'll walk, partly relieved.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Weigh-In 48 Month Graphical Summary

My Five Year Graphical Summary Can be Found Here:

I'm past the 4 year mark and have the graphical data to show it!

The main reason I publish this is to demonstrate that weight is not constant. It's important to weigh yourself regularly and not take any one reading too seriously. That goes for both low readings and high ones. So if you've been trying to lose weight and get a reading that's at or below your goal, you can celebrate briefly and perhaps switch to a maintenance plan. But then remember to keep checking your weight and revert back to the weight loss plan if the weight is consistently higher.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Petition -- Include Naturopathic Physicians Under Obamacare

Licensed naturopathic physicians should play an integral part in patient access to alternative medicine within the Federal Healthcare Law (Obamacare) as they serve as primary care physicians within the complementary health care field.
If you agree, then consider signing the petition to "Include Licensed Naturopathic Physicians as primary care providers in the Federal Healthcare Law (Obamacare)."

Note, the petition is open for signatures until December 07, 2012, after which the above URL may be inaccessible.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121128

Apparently I gained three pounds since the previous weigh-in.

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is It Selfish To Choose A Life Without Prescribed Medications?

This is in response to the post on Blogher, "Is It Selfish To Choose A Life Without Prescribed Medications?" as well as some of the comments that follow it.

Consider the following scenario:
An individual with a history of allergies, including cat dander, has been prescribed two different inhalers to control asthma.  The patient has also reported effects from eating certain foods, but the allergist refuses to test for food-related allergens.  The patient pays attention to the effects of foods on his own.  After a few years of conscientiously using the inhalers, the patient finds out about a Naturopathic Doctor who has been able to "cure" patients of their allergies.  After consulting with this new doctor, the patient undergoes the recommended diet plan and supplement schedule.  After only one week, the allergy symptoms have improved remarkably.  About six months later, a cat is introduced into the household with no adverse effects.  A few years go by with good results except for some difficultly breathing in the fall when not adhering to the diet.  The patient now shares a home with four cats and one dog.  One fall day, the patient is working outside in the yard and inadvertently inhales a dense cloud of dust from a moldy pile of grass clippings.  Later that night, his breathing is labored even though he self-medicates with Benedryl and Sudafed.  Finding no over-the-counter rescue inhaler, he decides to go to the walk-in clinic for a breathing treatment.

Should the insurance company pay for the breathing treatment?  One could argue that if the patient had been taking the prescribed medication, the breathing treatment would be unnecessary.  Another could argue that by carefully seeking alternative treatment, including diet changes, the patient has saved the insurance company the cost of years of medication, which more than offsets the cost of this one treatment.  Who's right?

How about this:
At a wellness visit, a primary care physician advises his otherwise healthy 35-year-old patient of "dangerously" high cholesterol.  The patient says he will alter his diet in order to try to reduce it.  At the next visit, the doctor finds that the cholesterol has lowered several points but is still way above the upper limit of 200.  The patient agrees to take a statin drug to lower the number.  After three months, the patient's cholesterol has been lowered successfully, but liver enzymes are off, so the doctor adjusts the medication.  After one more adjustment, the blood tests indicate an acceptable level of both cholesterol and liver enzymes.  After a few years, the patient seeks the advice of a Naturopathic Doctor for fatigue, brain fog, weight gain and increased appetite.  The doctor implicates metabolic syndrome (the patient does have a family history of diabetes) and suggests that the patient discontinue the statin medication, which can result in insulin resistance as well as  weak and damaged muscles (including the heart muscle) even though blood tests do not show the damage.  The patient goes on a special lo-carb, anti-inflammatory diet as advised by the doctor.  The diet is intended to address the fatigue and brain fog, but because it will promote a much lower insulin response, it should also prevent arteriosclerosis.  After one week, the patient notices remarkable improvement.  The brain fog is gone, and he's quickly gaining strength at the gym.  Further along, he notices that he awakens refreshed in the mornings, his elbow and knee pain is gone and he has almost no allergy symptoms.  However at his recheck he finds that his cholesterol has returned to its "dangerously" high level.  The new doctor says not to worry about this.  The LDL is high, but other risk factors, such as triglycerides, HDL, C-reactive Protein, are all good, and there are no symptoms of heart disease.  Besides, high cholesterol on its own isn't correlated with heart attack, and statins are remarkably ineffective at preventing heart attack while they promote diabetes.

If this individual should require a stent or bypass surgery, should the insurance company pay for it even though the patient ignored the advice of his PCP?  If the patient should die of something unrelated to a heart condition, can his life insurance company refuse payment on the grounds that the client changed his treatment plan?  Suppose the patient continued the statin and wound up with diabetes.  Can the patient sue his PCP, the AMA or the drug manufacturer?

Dream: Jigsaw Puzzle Vacation Brochure

I'm walking on the college campus.  It's a beautiful sunny day.  The glass on the buildings is gleaming in the sunlight, and the bleached whiteness of the sidewalk contrasts smartly against the rich deep green of the grass.  I'm walking toward the entrance, planning to sign up for my last engineering class.

I enter the building and look both ways down the hallway.  I see a guy who was in a class with me.  He walks by and says hi.  We chat, and I tell him what class I'm signing up for.  He says that he's signing up for that class, too.

I'm seated at a table in a room with a registration form.  It's confusing, and I'm not sure where to enter the information about what class I want to take.  As I turn the pages, the form starts to resemble a vacation travel brochure.  And the pages are cut up as if they are jigsaw puzzles.  There are also puzzle pieces on the table top, so I take great care with the form to avoid dislodging a piece from a page and getting it mixed up with the real puzzle pieces.

The theme of the travel brochure is Worldwide Winter Getaways.  A summary page shows about 25 thumbnails of places in a 5 x 5 array (or 36 in a 6x6).  Each thumbnail is a puzzle piece.  I am astonished to see Windsor, Connecticut included in this array, along with Swiss Alps and other renowned locations.  The Windsor thumbnail location is row one, column three.  Windsor?  Really?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dream: Energy Ball at Karate Studio

I'm at a karate studio.  A Sensei is standing next to me at a desk.  He wants me to sign a contract for lessons.  He's filling out the form.  He wants to write my credit card number on the contract.  But I refuse to give it to him.  He hasn't even said how much it will cost!  I tell him this, and I also tell him that it better be an awesomely cheap deal, otherwise I won't sign up.  He's also hiding the form from me, shielding it with his body, so I push him aside.  He lets me do that, and I remark that he's not much of a black belt if he can let someone like me push him like that.

Now I'm sampling a karate class.  I'm with a few other people in a room that's carpeted with bluish-green outdoor carpet (just like our three season porch).  We're arranged in a circle, and we're playing "energy ball," which involves tossing a ball to each other.  The thing that makes this special is that the ball is energy.  Right now as I hold it, it is about the size of a volleyball although not perfectly spherical.  But sometimes it falls on the ground, and it becomes invisible.  Once it came to rest about four feet in front of me, but all I see is a flat dark spot on the carpet, like a fresh water stain.  I let the person across from me retrieve it, even though I'm closer to it.  Another time, it flew past the person on my left, and I go to get it.  I'm having trouble finding it amoung the brown fallen leaves and the twigs and dead vines and undergrowth.  Then I realize that I might be able to feel it even if I can't see it, so I flap my hand just above the leaves hoping to hit it.  I feel it and pick it up.  I still can't see it, but I can feel that it's now the size of a tennis ball.  As I hold it, I use my personal energy to make the ball larger.  I feel the heat and vibration of the energy, and I also feel the size of the ball restored to its original size.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From Whence I Blog

I have two answers to "Where is your favorite place to blog?"

My first answer is rather superficial, and it assumes that blogging is the act of typing content into an editor and then uploading it to the blog.  I have no smart phone or tablet.  I blog at a computer.  The computer in my home office is the one I use most often, but I might also use the computer at work or occasionally the one at the library.  So my superficial answer is "My favorite place to blog is in my home office."

But that's not my final answer.  My final answer is more complicated.  I believe the idea for a blog post is just as important as the act of typing it.  My ideas come to me almost everywhere, usually when I'm doing a tedious chore.  I could compose content while preparing breakfast, or folding laundry or driving.  But for some reason, when I scoop the four litterboxes, I do not form ideas for blog entries.  Instead, I think about the "Karate Kid" movies.  So my final answer is "My favorite place to blog is everywhere."

I could end this post at two paragraphs.  But I'd like to mention that I thought about the previous post while brushing my teeth this morning, and I typed it in at the library computer while my daughter was at her karate lesson.

While I was using that library computer, I became aware of four very attractive teenage girls (or perhaps they were young adult women) looking in my direction and having a lively discussion that involved laughter.  I forced myself to remember that I'm nearly 50 years old and that I look much older.  Otherwise I'd lapse into reliving my high school fantasies.

It wasn't until I got up and left that computer that I realized what their commotion was all about.  They walked over to the area I'd just left and started to take photos.  I guess the seat I was in afforded them an ideal vantage point for their shots.  And their discussion was over which of the four was going to get stuck with asking me to move.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

False Advertising from the Cyber Mall

Earlier this week, on Tuesday in fact, two online retailers sent me special offers, which they later rescinded.

The e-mail from iHerb announced a "Complimentary $20 Credit."  All I had to do was shop as usual and the $20 would be deducted at checkout.  But just three hours later, I received another e-mail from them with the subject, "Please disregard last message and save 10% on your next order."  How dare they!

The other retailer was Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS).  Their e-mail offered 15% off all full price items as a thank you for joining their rewards program.  This was puzzling to me because I already received and took advantage of an identical offer in September.  Sure enough, later that day, EMS sent a second e-mail with the subject, "Our Mistake is Your Holiday Bonus" that apologized for any confusion the first e-mail might've caused.  It offered me 15% off all full price items.  Well, at least EMS was decent enough to replace the erroneous e-mail offer with an equivalent offer.

Who knows how many more screw up offers I've been sent?  EMS and iHerb sell products that my family and I always need.  At EMS I scope out outdoor gear, hiking socks, gadgets, while iHerb stocks tea, supplements and some grocery items.  So I paid attention to those e-mail offers.  Yet I routinely ignore many other retailers' offers.

How are you faring at the Cyber Mall?  Are you getting false advertisements from your favorite retailers?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dream: Boy in the Mirror With Makeup

I'm standing in front of a large mirror next to a boy. I can see the boy as well as myself in the mirror.  There's cool hip music playing.  The boy is trying to change his hair style so that it's as cool as his air.  Then he sprays some light-colored spots of foam on his forhead.

I feel glad that he is able to express himself so freely and weirdly with me present.

I decide to change my look, too.  I put on an outlandish wig with large tufts of white, orange and red sticking straight up into the air.  It's shiny too.  A real eye-catcher.  I reposition the tufts so that they lay down, pointing backward.

Dream: Special Kids on Trikes

I'm standing in front of the main entrance of a school.  Two Little Ones ride up to me on small bikes or trikes and stop.  They are costumed, so I can't see the riders.  All I see is a white cardboard cutout of a shape that resembles the letter "O" above the letter "A."  I wave cheerfully.

I deduce that the riders are special needs children.  I can tell from their size that they're young, which makes them children.  And something about the uncoordinated way they handle their bikes / trikes leads me to believe they are handicapped or challenged in some way.

Dream: Helicopter Attack

I'm outside walking uphill toward some rebel front line.  Someone else is walking with me.  The terrain is mostly very dry dirt, uneven and rocky with some scattered clumps of grass.

Ahead of us in the distance we see a green helicopter coming toward us.  We stop and look around for a place to hide.

As the helicopter comes level with us on our left, gun fire spurts out aimed at us.  We find trees to hide behind.  At first the helicopter continues to move forward slowly.  But then it backs up and comes level with us again and fires some more.

Dream: Revenge Prank at Work

I'm at work, but it's a new office building.  There's no one around.  My office (a cubicle, really) is missing stuff.  The telephone and monitor are gone.  I assume that they're missing because another coworker took them to get back at me for something I've done to them.  I walk around trying to find a telephone, but the ones I find are new and aren't working yet.  I walk more, but then become afraid that I'll get lost, so I don't go too far.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Like a Hoo Ha on my Face

"All I have left to do is shave," I announced, crossing the penultimate item off my Thanksgiving to-do list.

"Dad, you should totally grow your beard," my teenage daughter impored, not for the first time.

"Not today.  But I'll let it grow on my week off between Christmas and New Years."

"Don't do that.  It looks disgusting," my wife chimed in, with a little too much emphasis on "disgusting."

"Dad, men with beards look totally sexy," my daughter insisted.

I sighed and tried a different way of explaining to her why a beard isn't good for me.  "Did you ever look at your Hoo Ha in the mirror?" I asked her.

"Dad, use the proper term."

"Va-J-J," my wife corrected me.

"Okay.  Pubic hair.  That's what my beard looks like.  It's like I have a Hoo Ha on my face.  It's just not good."

"I don't know why you guys can't use the proper words for things.  You say 'pee-pee' and 'Va-J-J' and 'Hoo Ha.'  That's not what they're called.  They're called Penis and Va..."

"Because we don't like the proper names.  They're disgusting," my wife interrupted firmly, while I wondered whether there's a test they could give our daughter for Tourette's.

"Well, I'm off to shave!"  I announced cheerily.  I hurried off to the bathroom to shave in peace, thankful for a valid excuse to escape.

Thanks to Ron Mattocks, blogger at Clark Kent's Lunchbox for his inspiring "Hoo Ha" story.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121122

Happy Thanksgiving! Here are my pre-gluttony numbers...

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Morning Routine Takes More Than Four Hours

This post's title sounds like a headline!

Anyway, I don't pay much attention to time, unless I have an appointment or I need to get to a store that closes early.

But I have noticed that I've been getting to work later and later.  I'm on "flex-time," which generally means I can come and go whenever I want (and even work from home) as long as I work 40 hours each week.  Generally I try to work eight hours every week day.  The later I arrive, the later I leave.  I've had to leave later and later, too.

These were my arrival times for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:

Monday 10:45am
Tuesday 10:15am
Wednesday 10:30am

It takes me only about 20 minutes to drive to work, so I've been leaving at around 10am each day.  And I get up at 5:30am or earlier.  So that means I spend four and a half hours doing "stuff" before work.  Doing what?  I'm not sure.

Well, Monday I was on track to leave by 9am.  But my wife made a 9:30am vet appointment for one of our cats to get his booster shots.  But she was sick and couldn't get up, so I ended up taking him to the vet instead.  There was a bit of a problem with this -- he disappeared just before it was time to go.  This cat is the one we have to tranquilize in order to put him in the carrier.

But on a typical work day, this is my "routine":

5:30 Get up, turn off the alarm, put on some clothes, go to the bathroom, yawn several times.
5:40 Feed the four cats and the dog.  Put out fresh water for them.  Drink water.  Listen to the weather report.
6:00 Take the dog outside.
6:10 Prepare and serve daughter's breakfast
6:20 Clean the spilled food that the feeding cats made and round up the left overs for later.
6:25 Snack on a banana while daughter has breakfast to keep her company.
6:35 Prepare daughter's lunch.
6:45 Open garage door and say bye to daughter.
6:50 Tidy up and set up for my breakfast.  Verify that the bus picks up daughter.
6:55 Take dog outside again and play several grueling rounds of "Fetch" so that he's not a hyper, slobbering beast that follows you around all day with a slimy tennis ball in his mouth.
7:30 Prepare breakfast.  This can take some time.
8:00 Eat breakfast.  Read newspaper.  Fend off the hungry cat.  Take all my pills.
8:30 Brush teeth.  Go to the bathroom.  Shave and/or shower.
9:00 Put on fresh clothes.
9:10 Make my lunch while giving small bits of roast beef to begging animals.
9:20 Get distracted by a cute pet that I need to take a picture of, or a withered plant that needs watering, or a "quick" chore that my wife gives me, or an idea for a blog post.
9:35 Fill the water bottle and put it in my work bag.  Put the lunch in my bag.  Find my wedding ring and watch and put them on.  Put on shoes.  Check all my pockets for  keys and wallet.  Walk around the house looking for my wallet.  Put on jacket.  Move the dog aside (he's barring the door) and go into the garage.  Notice a bag of garbage or cat litter scoopings by the door and carry it to the garbage can.  Pick up the newspaper that was left in the driveway.
9:50 Start the car.  Back the car out of the garage.  Close the garage door.  Fix the flag that has gotten wrapped around the flag pole.  Turn the car around.
9:55 Enter roadway and begin commute.

I wonder if anyone is still reading this post?  Does my routine make you feel tired?  It made me tired just thinking about it!  But that's my morning.

And then after I arrive at work, I don't even get started working until I've gone to the bathroom, gotten some coffee, put my lunch in the 'fridge, set my outgoing voice message to my "day message," and log onto the computer.


What's your typical morning like?  How long does it take to get yourself ready?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty is the New Twenty

Yes, the title is "Fifty is the New Twenty," but this isn't about age.  It's about money, as in $50 is the new $20.

The ATM I use offers both $10 bills and $20 bills.  It will let you withdraw just $10 if you needed to buy just a couple of cheap greeting cards and a box of mints at the drug store.  But if you want to buy just 3/4 of a tank of gas, you'll want at least $50.

So why does this particular bank still offer tens and twenties when twenties and fifties would be more appropriate for today's cost of living?  And why is the limit on total withdrawal somewhere under $400 when you can spend $350 just at the grocery store?  And why am I asking you this?

An ATM stuffed with $20 and $50 dollar bills would impose a minimum withdrawal of $50, but it would still allow for ten-dollar increments.

Of course this would require paying programmers to update the ATM software.  What incentive would a bank have to do this?  Maybe the bank could demonstrate that it's a forward-thinking, quick-on-its-feet, innovative institution.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Breakfast, Paleo-Style

When switching to a Paleo diet, breakfast is the hardest aspect of the transition.  All those traditional breakfast foods -- cereal, bagels, toast, pancakes, waffles, Danish -- are off limits.  Sure you can buy special (expensive) flour and try to make these products yourself, but why not eat simply meat and vegetables?

Here's what I had for breakfast about an hour ago -- sausage and zucchini.

The sausage is store-bought, Applegate Farms Chicken & Sage (although I also make my own occasionally).  I fried the zucchini in ghee with red pepper flakes to give it some flavor.

A breakfast like this keeps me satisfied for six hours.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Kooky Karacters

The Thanksgiving reminiscence of the Allan Incident that I posted two days ago brought up memories of two other strange coworkers from that time period.  And oddly, both memories involve coffee mugs.

The first was Leonard.  He was foreign and spoke with a heavy eastern European accent.  His black hair matched a very tan, deeply creased face that sported a constant scowl.  If had we decided to make a movie involving a terrorist, he'd be the terrorist.  The thing that burned itself into my memory was his preference for using my coffee mug.

Yes, that's right, Leonard drank his coffee from my coffee mug.  I have no idea why he did this.  Perhaps it was because I bought a company mug, and he figured that since it had the company logo on it, and because he worked for that company, he was entitled to use it.  I guess he didn't notice that my name was hand written on it.

The first two or three times he did this, I would retrieve my cup and ask him to use another one instead of mine.  I was young and still had the possessiveness of a three year old who hates to share even the most boring of toys.  And I was a bit obsessive-compulsive, too -- that mug belonged to me and no one else should touch it.

But then I felt a change come over me.  I decided to "release the mug," to let it go.  Besides, I'd stopped drinking coffee because something about the way it was made gave me diarhea.  So I really had no need of the mug anyway.

So one day I approached him and extended my coffee mug to him with both hands.  "Here Len.  I want you to have my cup.  I no longer need it."

"No, no!" he protested.

"Really, I want you to have it.  Take it."

"No No NO," he replied, almost with belligerence.  "I will stop using it."  And he smiled.

And he never again took the cup.

The other guy was Conrad.  He seemed normal looking enough, even though he preferred wearing turtle neck shirts with his tweed sports jacket.  He had light blue eyes, transparent almost.  They gave the impression that he was looking through you instead of at you.  Although that was merely unnerving, it wasn't what made him "off."    Once you got into a conversation with him, you soon realized you were dealing with yet another escapee from the asylum.

His conversation was littered with asides and non-sequitors, which he'd deliver with ever-increasing frequency.  And his non-sequitors themselves would have asides, with each tangent getting quieter and quieter until he was mumbling with himself.  We went through a few conversations like this before we realized we could just walk away and let him keep talking quietly to himself.  Before this realization, we had a system in place to page Conrad any time one of our team members was stuck into conversation with him.  Once, when I paged him, I requested that he dial the extension of the phone that he was nearest.  Upon getting the busy signal and realizing that he had been duped, he slammed the phone down so hard I thought it would crack in half.

Many years later, I ran into someone who knew him fairly well.  When I described his manner of conversation, the other person explained that Conrad would purposely digress in his annoying fashion ironically in order to get rid of the other person.

But there was more to his weirdness than this.  He would use other people's coffee mugs as ash trays.  And he smoked cigars.

His office didn't need a "Conrad" name tag for anyone to know it was his.  We'd just wander around the cubicles until we found the one with a dozen or more coffee mugs half-filled with brown liquid and cigar butts floating like logs in them.  Miraculously (and thankfully), my mug never ended up there. 

There are perhaps lessons to learn from these experiences.  Leonard taught me that you have to be willing and prepared to lose something in order to gain it.  Perhaps in trying to give away the mug, I made it appear valueless to Leonard, so he no longer wanted it.  Or perhaps he was too embarrassed about his behavior.

If it is true that Conrad felt just as stuck in a deadend conversation with us as we were with him, the lesson there is to realize that we all have essentially the same needs and desires, no matter how bizarre we go aobut expressing them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Twinkie Crisis

Hostess Brands, maker of the Twinkie, threatens to close all operations.  It's understandable that fans of this iconic American dessert treat are worried and upset.  But I have a feeling that it will all work out.

First, I'm pretty sure we'll see Congressional action into the matter.  Lawmakers are already drawing up legislation that would impose emergency rationing. 

Then, right after they avert the Fiscal Cliff, Congress will move with bipartisan support to get the striking workers back into those plants.  That's if Obama doesn't act first with an Executive Order.

Congress also has the option of tapping into the country's Strategic Reserves.  They may decide to release 100,000 barrels of Twinkies each day to avert catastrophe.

Remember, too, that we have a large supply of Twinkies in thousands of long-forgotten bomb shelters.  They may have been made in the mid-fifties, but those Twinkies will still be as delicious as those that came off the assembly line just before the strike started.  According to a well-known study, the Twinkie is virtually indestructible1 -- the ideal food for a bomb shelter.

Finally, there's the hidden stash of Twinkies that Paula Poundstone hoards.  I'm sure we can convince her to relinquish the supply, which is expected to provide for our nation's demand for Twinkies up to 2052.  This will require intense negotiations, of course.  Officials have commented that it will probably require a swap of three boxes of Poptarts for every Twinkie.  Kellogg Corp has already begun hiring extra workers to prepare for a ramp up in Poptart production necessary to meet this need.

1 See .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stay in Balance

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, I recall the "Allan incident."

Allan was someone I worked with more than twenty years ago.  He was the ultimate miser, the one for whom the "gluing a coin to the floor" practical joke was intended.  Allan would pry the coin off the floor. He would run out of gas going out of his way to find the cheapest gas station.

I didn't actually work with him, though.  He and I worked for the same small company, and he was in a different department.  At the time of the incident, the company was growing and starting to prosper.  One November it wanted to reward us for the hard work we did in earlier years when we were working overtime without pay and sometimes dealing with bounced paychecks.  So the company bought and distributed frozen turkeys to all of us.

It was a nice gesture, and even though I was vegetarian at the time, I accepted it and gave it to my brother and sister-in-law.  Allan, on the other hand, was indignant and refused the turkey because it wasn't kosher.  To mollify him, the company gave him $15 in exchange for the turkey.

John the machinist heard about this, and he knew how cheap Allan was.  So he decided to have some fun at his expense.

"Hey Allan," John called.  "I heard you don't want your turkey.  I'll give you twenty bucks for it."

Allan's eyes lit up at the thought of making a profit on the formerly disagreeable turkey.  I didn't witness the outcome, but I heard he tried to buy back his turkey in order to flip it to gain $5.

This is a true story even if the main character is larger than life.  And there are distasteful aspects of humanity demonstrated here: Allan's ingratitude and greed.  And John was reprehensible too, although perhaps he thought he would teach Allan a lesson.  It's certainly not a nice story for the season.  But hopefully at least one Allan-like person might read this and be motivated to improve.  After all, John easily manipulated Allan, pushed him off balance.

Do all of us, in fact, have a little bit of Allan inside?  Maybe it's not money that motivates us.  Maybe it's food, fame, love (or sex), or an overwhelming need to help someone.  Whatever it is, know that the Johns of the world can use it to push us off balance.

Stay in Balance

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dream: With, But Not In, the Choir

I'm at the Church, attending the choir rehearsal.  There is only one other man here, Roy.  I'm not planning to be at the performance, and I feel bad that Roy will be the only male there.

Now I'm at the Church on Sunday, the day of the performance.  This is not our Church but one we are visiting.  I'm walking with the choir during its processional hymn.  However, I'm not wearing one of the choir gowns.  I decide to continue walking with them.  This is a Church that I haven't been in before, and I see that the choir is headed toward stairs that lead to a balcony.  Furthermore, it appears as though the men will take the stairs on the right while the women will take the stairs on the left.  I'm on the left with the women, so I guess I'll end up with the women, unless I can get over.  I suppose I can sort things out after I get upstairs.

Now I'm upstairs, and I see that it's a simple matter to just walk across the balcony to sit with the men.  And it turns out there are other men, not just Roy, but men who regularly attend this Church.  I realize that I could've skipped this event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121113

I have no dream to report today, even though I remember snippets of a very complicated dream. One problem was that the dog was making noise. In fact he was doing that vigorous type of shaking that dogs do after they come out of the water. Repeatedly. Even though he had no collar on, the slapping of his ears made a huge racket at 1am. So I got up and grumpily escorted him to his crate where he stayed until morning.

Sleep and weight gain are inter-related by way of energy. When I don't sleep well, my energy level drops, and I'm tempted to "use" coffee and high-carb foods as stimulation. Note the use of the term "use" -- the same word that's sometimes followed by the word "drugs" when referring to recreational or addictive abuse of a substance.

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dream: A Screen Window Around the World

I look out the window as I always do every morning.  But this time I see something amazing.  All around there is a giant fence, like a screen window around the world.  But it's on a huge scale so that the wire in the mesh is the size of a girder.  However the fence extends only twelve feet high, and many pieces are missing.

I go get my camera, and I go out to find a good vantage point from which to take a photo.  After all, this is the evidence I've been looking for to show that there is a Supreme Being or Life Force or Something.

I'm at the entrance to the mall.  It's as crowded as a Christmas shopping day.  Cars are at a standstill just trying to gain entry to the parking lot.  Maybe people realize that Armageddon may be upon us.

Two young women are walking together.  They are dressed in the same style of uniform and work at the mall.  The shorter one reminds the taller one to stay at her post.  But the taller one would rather walk around and see the chaos and panic.

[I woke up at 1am remembering this dream, and I started to write it down immediately.  I fell asleep many times while trying to write it, and I didn't finish recording it until 2am.]

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dream: Draining the Dishwasher

I'm in the kitchen in front of the open dishwasher.  It's already loaded with dirty dishes and ready to start.  I've poured a lot of dirty water into the bottom.  It's nearly overflowing.

I close the door and start.  Instead of draining, the dishwasher begins to add water.  It's not supposed to do that!  Alarmed, I stop it right away and open the door expecting water to pour out onto the floor.  But that doesn't happen.

I suppose that the floats are stuck in the down position.  I pull up on them, and immediately the water starts to drain.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dream: Energy Audit

I'm in the bathroom in the house I grew up in.  But I am the present day version of me.  I suddenly notice the time.  The clock reads 12:30pm, but it's an hour fast because I didn't set it back for the end of Daylight Savings Time.

Someone was supposed to come here to do an energy audit at 10:00am.  But I did not hear the doorbell.

I pull up my pants quickly.  Now they are askew, but I have no time to straighten them out.  As I rush to the front door, I notice a car in the driveway through the front window.  I open the door.  There are four old people sitting in two very small convertibles, which are parked right outside the front door, as if the stoop isn't there.  I look at one of them, an old lady who's looking up at me through large, plastic-rimmed glasses.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dream: The Shallow Wooden Cookie Bowl

I'm in a hotel in another city with a group of people from work.  We are in the room that we were using for training.  Now the training is over.  We are cleaning up, per our agreement with the hotel.  Karen is shampooing the light brown carpet.  I find on a small table a shallow wooden bowl with soggy cookies, which I scrape away with a napkin.  I see members of our team taking away the local weekly newspapers.  I think they should leave those newspapers for the next group, but I say nothing about this.

It's raining outside, but I'm deciding to wear my slippers.  I don't expect to venture outside, so I think it will be okay.  I force open the elevator doors to get my stuff.  (The elevator is centrally located right in the room, and I'm using it like a closet.)  However, when I get the doors open and look inside, I see that it's empty.  My stuff is not there.  Karen points out that I have to wait for the elevator to reach our floor before I open the doors.

I'm expecting to do battle with a government agency like the CIA.  I'm looking down into a shallow rectangular case that's filled with 9 inch long thin rods that are weapons.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not a Restaurant, But a Kitchen

Ever try to explain "Gluten Free" to a Chinese restaurant?  Neither have I, not when just getting a simple order called in correctly is a challenge.

It's at times like these -- when language barriers clash with dietary impeccability -- that I just want to push my way into the kitchen and prepare my own food.

Chinese food is the best fast food choice for Paleo dieters.  But it's not perfect, even if you avoid rice, noodles and the "crispy" (breaded) selections.  It's the sauce that will trip you up.  Even plain old soy sauce is a combination of soy (albeit fermented) and grain (wheat).  But Chinese sauces are the Marvel Mystery Oil of the culinary world.  Aside from soy sauce and fish sauce, they contain dyes to impart special color, plus even more starch for extra gloppiness.

I am blessed with a Chinese restaurant that offers steamed entrees, and when I feel the need to adhere strictly to my diet, I'll choose the steamed chicken and broccoli.  But I long for the variety that comes with ordering from a full menu.

Indian food would be a great choice, too.  But the one near my workplace is, first of all, expensive.  Their entrees cost twice as much as those from the Chinese restaurant.  On the other hand, many include lamb.  Unfortunately, they also include peas or chickpeas.  The former taste gross; the latter, induce gas.  And Indian chefs can't seem to make anything that doesn't include either potato, cauliflower or dairy (cheese or yogurt), all of which I'd rather avoid.  And of course their sauces are even starchier than their Chinese counterparts.  With all that lamb in their kitchen, I'd love to strongarm my way in and cook up something decent.

Then there's the Greek-owned pizza joint.  Greek is good because it means they have gyros, and that means they have lamb.  But everything on the menu is served in bread or on crust.  A few years ago I asked the guy for a gyro "without bread."  He was flummoxed to say the least.  It wasn't so much that he couldn't figure out how to make it.  His problem was that he couldn't conceive of someone not eating bread.  It was as if I asked him to suck out all the air from the restaurant so I could eat in a vacuum.  But then a dim bulb flickered on in the back of his mind, and he recalled another customer who can't eat wheat and brings his own bread.  "You could bring your own bread," he suggests.  "Oh, good idea," I say aloud with minimal enthusiasm, inwardly shouting, "I don't want any bread -- just meat and vegetables!"  Every six months or so he makes a breadless gyro for me, telling me about his other customer who brings his own bread.  Meanwhile my eyes wander longingly to that kitchen space 10 yards behind him, where a big glistening hunk of lamb spins slowly under the intense red glow of the grill.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dream: The Minister's Many Mistresses

My wife, daughter and I are in the office of a minister.  My wife and the minister are discussing whether he could quickly conduct a marriage.  He says yes.  However each one has a different idea of what "quickly" means.  My wife is wondering if he could marry someone later today or tomorrow.  The minister is thinking next Wednesday would be quick.  So my wife gets disappointed and frustrated and impatient and says, "So you really can't do a quick wedding, then."  To which the minister explains that it is in fact quick for a wedding because it would take place as soon as the marriage license gets approved.

I'm bored.  I'm halfway into my own world because   I'm also a bit sleepy, so I close my eyes briefly to rest them.  I discover that I can see with my eyes closed.

Now I'm alert, and I open my eyes.  This is cool, fun and interesting!  I close my eyes again and study what I can see.  It's as if my eyes are not closed, except I lack much peripheral vision.

Whatever it was they were talking about is over, so I open my eyes again.  The minister invites his wife into the room to meet us.  Meanwhile the room has morphed into a dining room, with a large dark wooden table between us and the minister.  The wife has short straight perky shiny blonde hair and has the same doughy appearance as the minister.  She flashes us a warm, friendly smile as she goes to the minister's right side.  Then she delivers him the most sensual open-mouth kiss I've ever seen in real life, albeit brief.  It's breathtaking.

The minister exudes pride for his wife and, apparently for several other women who also walk in.  All of them are his other wives, or mistresses.  And they are also very sensual.  But they do not kiss the minister.  Instead the first two or three intimately kiss and touch the first wife.  Others show my wife and daughter attention, but they do not make contact.  The lesbian overtones are very strong.  None of the women pay any attention to me.  At first I'm miffed, but then again, I don't find any one of them the slightest bit attractive, so the arrangement suits me.  Except that my daughter is intrigued and aroused and appears to welcome any intimacy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121107

It's hard to believe, but I've been weighing myself every week for the past four years, and posting the results, too! So after the next weigh-in, I'll have enough data to create a 48-month graphical summary.

I suppose the reason my weight is a bit higher than the previous few readings is because I took a one week break from the diet. I'm referring to my periodic diet vacation that I start right after a blood test. Then I resume the diet the day after I consult with my Naturopathic Doctor. The other thing that's going on is the end of Daylight Savings Time and NaBloPoMo, which both require an energy boost.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election -- Just the Beginning

For citizens of USA, today's election is really just the beginning of a new cycle of democracy.

It's not enough to vote at each election.  The real democracy happens when you contact your elected officials and let them know what you're concerned about.

While it's true that letters and e-mails are handled by staffers or interns of members of Congress, it takes only about seven letters about a particular topic to attract a law maker's attention.  It's a lot more effective for a law maker to earn your re-election vote by addressing your concern than by making robo-calls, mailing postcards and advertising on TV and radio.

Here are some links to get you started....

Monday, November 5, 2012

One Sentence

One truly original sentence is better than an entire post of generic cliches. If you only have fifteen minutes, go for the one sentence, seriously! Then post it all by itself.
- from

Okay then, here's my sentence:

How come you can get a traffic ticket for not stopping when the light turns red, but the guy in front of you won't get one for not going when the light turns green?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are You Gonna Talk or Eat?

Most folks seem to regard a lunch outing as a social occasion or a way to do business.  A clique of workers might go out and gossip about the boss over lunch.  Or a vendor might take a customer out to lunch to discuss new products or services.  The food is more an embellishment than the main focus.

But for a hungry hypoglycemic, lunch is for resuscitation.  It's a time to eat.  Period.  All that schmoozing is just background bullshit.  When I sit down, I want to order right away and get the food as quickly as possible.  And Eat It.

One vendor who takes me out to lunch is most absentminded when it comes to ordering.  The hostess will seat us and place menus right in front of each of us.  This is his cue to start taking about new developments in the industry.  Since I know the restaurant very well ( I often check the online menu ahead of time) I might open the menu just to check on the soup of the day or to see what special entrees are being offered.  Mostly I open the menu in the hope that the vendor will do the same.

After a few minutes of alternately glancing at the menu and nodding at the vendor, I'll realize that Mr. Vendor won't be derailed from his monologue until the waitress comes over.  So I'll close my menu, take a large gulp of water, and wait.

This is what happens when the waitress sidles to our table and says brightly, "Are you ready to order?"   Mr. Vendor will suddenly realize that the book-like object in front of him is actually a menu and open it.  If I'm lucky, he'll say, "You go first," and then, "I'll have what he's having," after I've ordered.  If I'm unlucky, his response will be, "I need a few minutes to decide."  Fortunately that rarely happens.

After placing our orders, I can pay more attention to the conversation.  Until the food arrives.  Then, the conversation recedes as if it's coming from a storm drain.  The food is most prominent to my senses.  The talking is drowned out by the texture of my food; the sensation of it moving into my stomach, quelling its ache; my body's weak shakiness slowly being dispelled.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dream: Helping the Ski-Jump Penguin in the House

I'm in a house, in a small hallway at the bottom of half a flight of stairs.  There is snow on both the floor and the stairs, and it slopes up the wall that opposes the stairs.  Cut into this wall is a rectangular hole, about the size of a piece of paper, and it's positioned very high up.

A penguin slides down the stairs and tries to launch himself up into the hole like a ski jump Olympian.  He tries again and again, but he cannot get himself high enough.  Some other animals are here to witness this.

I offer to find a way to help him.  Then I immediately regret making the offer.  I cannot lift him high enough myself.  I am neither tall enough to reach the hole nor am I strong enough to lift the penguin.  So instead I must find another creature that can lift him.

I know of a grey, hairy ogre in the house who is tall enough to reach that hole even when he's hunched over, which he usually is.  The trick is to find him.  It should be easy given that he's so big.  But the house is big, with many meandering hallways and rooms.  He could be anywhere.

I walk through the angular hallways looking this way and that.  Then I come upon the large yellow room in which the old and venerable Queen Witch, Esmerelda, sits.  I decide to ask her for help.  I know she is not tall and cannot lift the penguin any better than I, but she is very wise and might come up with a solution.  I approach her with reverence and a bit of trepidation.  She is fair, but she is extremely busy and a bit impatient.

I explain the situation, and I draw the rectangular hole with a pencil on a yellow legal pad.  Before I realize what I'm doing, I've drawn the lever of an electrical switch.  I even drew a sign the for the switch.  The sign reads, "Nuclear Weapon."  I apologize to the Queen Witch as I erase the unnecessary detail.

She says that it's significant that I have labeled the switch in this way, and she asks me why I did so, just as a mental health professional would ask.  Without thinking, I simply blurt out that it probably describes my explosive state of mind.  Then I thank her for asking about this.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Letter to My Nine-Year-Old Self

Dear Square:

You don't know me.  But I know you.

It's wonderful that you're already thinking about what you want to be when you grow up.  Myself, I still can't decide.  And I'm a grown up!

But you have such enthusiasm for your future!  No matter that you've changed your mind three times already.  They are all noble professions: priest, fireman, policeman and now astronaut.  And you will change your mind some more.  I know this for sure.  Because the job you'll end up with is one you've never heard of before.  It might not even exist yet!  Do you think Neil Armstrong knew what an astronaut was when he was eight years old?  No, there was no such thing in his day.

Your interest in science and good math ability are important to your future.  Your father is right.  School is important.  Learn as much as you can.  When you're grown up, you will pay to go to school.  I'm not kidding.  Might as well get as much as you can now while it's free.  Besides, the more you learn, the more likely you'll be ready for that job that doesn't exist yet.

You really can do anything you want as long as you have passion.  People with passion attract others with a similar passion, and together, they do great things.  Focus on your passions.

Your mom is going to hate me for writing this, but most of the food you eat is not good for you.  All the spaghetti, noodles, cereal and bread you love to eat is weakening and dulling you.  And all the sweets are destroying the beta cells in your pancreas and distorting your sense of taste.  Eat what mom makes for you, though, because she works hard to make a good home for you, your brother and your sister.  (Think of how you'd feel if you worked hard to do something for someone but that someone didn't appreciate it.  Then imagine if that happened every day.)  But when you have the opportunity to choose your own food, choose fresh meat, poultry (chicken or turkey) or fish, a little rice or potato (or none), and a lot of fresh vegetables.  Yes, I know you hate vegetables, but you're eating processed overcooked vegetables from a can.  When fresh vegetables are prepared properly, they can be really good.  Okay, they can be not so icky.

Now let me tell you one more thing that will amaze you.  Or scare you.  Or both.

I am from the future.  A future in which there is an actual Space Station in Earth's orbit, and a satellite with a giant telescope to explore space, and little unmanned space ships that have flown past other planets in our Solar System and are approaching its outer limits, and robotic vehicles exploring Mars.  It is truly amazing.  What's more amazing is that this letter isn't written on a typewriter.  I am typing this into a Computer.  A computer is a machine that can be programmed to format and print letters, to help you draw pictures, to control an autonomous robot, to (almost) predict the weather.  Remember what I wrote about how the job you might end up with is one that doesn't exist yet?  Many of these jobs will involve a computer in some way.  The world will be very different, but you'll be ready for it.

The first sentence of this letter isn't entirely true.  You do, in fact, know me, at least a little bit.  I am the grown up version of you, from 40 years in the future!  Do me a big favor, please.  Dive in to Life, make a Big Splash, and have Fun!

- Square Peg Guy, November 2, 2012

(Based on and inspired by the Sacha Chua post "A letter to my 8-year-old self")

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaTYLoCaToWoDa 2012

Today is National Take Your Leftover Candy to Work Day, hence the acronym NaTYLoCaToWoDa.  I figured since my first NaBloPoMo post featured the NaBloPoMo acronym, why not follow up with another?

Anyway, this is a difficult day for dieters of many persuasions: diabetics; vegans; lo-carbers; those with allergies; those seeking to lose weight.  We might follow our diets only by keeping forbidden foods out of our homes.  But then we succumb to our cravings in the work place.

Here's my plea.  If you need to unload edible crud, please just throw it in the garbage.

NaBloPoMo 2012

November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).   It's also the month for spinoff projects such as National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo).  If you're a blogger and want to commit to writing one blog post every day in November, sign up here:

I couldn't participate last year due to a freak late-October snow storm that made us lose power for a full seven days.  This year Hurricane Sandy cut us off from power for two days.  But we have it back now in time for the blog posts to flow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121031

Under the Blood Type Diet, people with Type O blood should avoid coffee. We tend to produce more stomach acid, and coffee can compound that into a problem. One good reason to eat meat then is to give the acid something to work on. And when I break the no-coffee rule, I do so right after a filling meal that contains a serving of animal protein.

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Resources for "Your Brain at Work"

Here are links to online resources that are cited in "Your Brain at Work," by David Rock.

For research behind the book:

Neuroscience of leadership:

Information on brain-based coaching programs:

School for children K - 5:

Online tests and training exercises:

Author's website:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121024

My appetite is back, and I'm getting close to my normal weight. Lately I've been craving solid chunks of red meat. It soothes my stomach.

Waist = 36.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121017

I'm getting my appetite back, and I'm no longer too fearful about eating dairy again. So even though I've increased my calorie count, I weigh even less this week than last week!

Waist = 36.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121011

Was sick since Sunday with asthma and body aches. Maybe I had mild flu compounded with an allergic reaction to moldy hay. Anyway I had/have no appetite. I actually ate just the vegan food we had for our daughter. Also many folks at work are out sick.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

More Thoughts on Diet Cheats

This is a follow-on post to Is This Treat Worth Going Off My Diet For?

First, I did not succumb to eating the ice cream.

Mainly, though, I forgot to describe the correct way to cheat on a diet.  The previous post described a mindful thought process you can use to decide whether to cheat.  But then there's the actual cheat itself.  The way you eat or drink that treat is important.  If you just grab that container of cookies or ice cream and absent-mindedly shovel stuff into your mouth, you've wasted the encounter.

Instead, pretend that the treat is a dear friend who lives far away.  You haven't seen her in a long time and have only a short amount of time to spend with her.  The two of you sit together in a quiet spot.  Cell phones, TV, radio and computer are all turned off.  The answering machine is on to handle any calls that might come in on the land line.  The dog is in the kennel, and the cats are all asleep.  All of this is so that you and your friend can give each other the undivided attention the friendship deserves.

This is how you cheat -- mindfully and respectfully.

Dream: The Tailored Brown Suit

I'm at the shop to pick up my suit.  One of the women hands me a package wrapped in clear plastic.  I need to pay.  I open my wallet, but the credit cards are missing.  I realize that another woman had taken my wallet, went through it, and took out the cards.

I decide to open the package to check out the suit.  I pull it out of the wrapping and marvel at how the tailor transformed the thin brown woolen cloth I brought in several days ago.  But I'm also quickly dismayed to see that it's incomplete -- the right sleeve isn't sown on.  In fact, the needle and thread are still dangling off.

I bring it over to yet another woman who is seated at a wooden desk, which has an ink blotter on the surface.  I show her the defect.  She takes the suit and lays it on the desk in front of her.  She puts on her glasses.  As she looks down on the suit, I stare pointedly at the back of her head.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Is This Treat Worth Going Off My Diet For?

It's that five second interval between seeing that desirous but forbidden food and putting it in ones mouth that's critical.  It's important to be mindful at this time. But what should one's thought process be?

The authors of "It Starts With Food" have an answer.  They call it "Guide to Nutritional Off-Roading," and they offer it to their readers for free.  You can find it here:

Right now my stomach is full, but there is an abundance of ice cream in the freezer.  Sigh.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20121003

I scooped out an avocado yesterday the way the beautiful Mexican waitress does it when she makes the table-side guacamole for us at the restaurant. It got me thinking about how all waitresses always seem so beautiful to me. Maybe it's because they provide me with food!

Remember those peanut butter Snickers I mentioned last week? I actually didn't remember them until I came back to this blog to post this week's numbers. I guess it helped that my boss ran out of them and didn't buy any more. And all of ours are gone, and I haven't bothered to buy more. Nice and easy!

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120927

My boss got me addicted to Peanut Butter Snickers. And all he had to do was leave an open bag of them in his In Basket where we leave our timesheets. I took one, and then went back for two more. And then I bought two bags at the supermarket to snack on late in the work day.

This must change. But how, exactly?

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sign From the Angels

Caller ID showed that the new call was from my wife's cell phone.  I answered quickly, a little alarmed.  She usually uses that phone only for emergencies, like when the car battery died several weeks ago.

"Hello?"  (If I answer "Hi Honey," she gets confused -- she's still not accustomed to caller ID.)

"Hi Square.  Are you busy?"

I can usually tell what kind of call it's going to be right after "Hi Square."  But  this was a New Call.  It wasn't the call in which "The car's running really rough and the check engine light is flashing;" or, "Where are all the peppers I bought?  Don't tell me you ate them all!  [You idiot!]  I was going to make PEPPERS AND ONIONS TONIGHT!" or, "Simba knocked your favorite plant over and then he crapped in the dirt.  And then dog came over and ate all the dirt & cat poop and then he threw up in the middle of the living room carpet!"

No, this sounded like it was going to be an Exciting Discovery, a winning lottery ticket, perhaps.  Not a measly five dollar teaser, either.  Here's what she said.

"You're not going to believe this, but I was at the store and then I came out to put the groceries in the trunk.  When I opened the trunk, I found two boxes of Angel Hair pasta!"

"What, you mean 'pasta?'  Tinkyada rice pasta?"  We don't buy wheat pasta because of the gluten.

"No, this is regular Prince Angel Hair pasta in the blue box!  How did this get here?  Did someone think this was their car and put it in?  Do you think this is a sign from an angel?  It's Angel Hair pasta!"
"Maybe you had a bag of food to donate and it spilled out?"

"Square, I know my trunk.  There's no way this Angel Hair pasta should be here!  Could this really be a sign from an angel?"

"Wow, yes, it sure sounds like it!

"Oooohhh, wait a minute.  I know where this is from!  I gave the twins a ride to school this morning, and they were talking about a non-perishable food drive.  It must've fallen out of their bags.  Ooooohhhh!"

"Well, it's still a Sign from the Angels, though."


Have you had any Signs from the Angels, lately?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120919

This week's lower weight is a result of emotional upheaval. Whereas some folks overeat when stressed, I tend to get sick to my stomach and eat little.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: Why Can't I Change?

The book "Why Can't I Change? How to Conquer Your Self-Destructive Patterns" serves as three books in one.  First, as the title suggests, it's a self-help guide.  Second, it's a book on parenting.  Third, it's a book on interpersonal relationships.

The self-help aspect of the book describes attachment theory.  It uses this theory to draw a connection between how we react to stress and emotional situations today and how accessible and responsive to us our earliest caregivers were in the past.  This connection brings us insight into our behavior.  Once aware of our needs, we can circumvent misunderstandings and bring resolution to conflicts.

The aforementioned connection to our caregivers is what also makes this a helpful parenting book.  Those of us who don't want our kids to turn out as screwed up as we are can benefit from knowing how to respond to displays of emotion.  (Hint, not with, "Oh you'll get over it;" rather, "It's upsetting that the boy dumped you.")  The author gives us hope -- we can repair neglectful parenting fairly easily.

And because everyone we deal with, (boss, coworker, spouse, classmate, teacher, etc.) may not have had the most ideal parenting, we gain a bit more understanding, tolerance and perhaps even compassion when dealing with difficult people.

One concern I had is that the author doesn't discuss neurological disorders.  Her description of the "avoidant attachment" type could also describe someone with mild autism.  We are left to ponder whether autism is the result of avoidant mothers ("refrigerator mothers.")  A brief statement explaining that attachment theory applies only to neurotypical individuals should be included.

Overall the book is easy to read.  The author deftly combines theory with anecdotes from her own life and that of her patients.  Exercises for self-discovery and behavior modification are included.  Spelling and grammar are very good with only two minor errors.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Creativity Quotes from "Imagine"

Don Lee on inventing the bacon-infused old-fashioned:
"Basically I experimented with fat-washing because I was bored and nobody told me not to," Don says.  "I'm sure most bartenders would have told me it was a terrible idea, that it would never sell, that I was wasting perfectly good bourbon.  But the laws of chemistry told me that it should work, so why not try it?  I guess my only secret was that I didn't know any better."
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 117

So it's not such a far-fetched thing to add ghee or extra virgin olive oil to hot tea, then, as I do!

The outsider problem affects everyone....

This is one of the central challenges of writing.  A writer has to read his sentences again and again. (Such are the inefficiencies of editing.)  The problem with this process is that he very quickly loses the ability to see his prose as a reader and not as the writer.  He knows exactly what he's trying to say, but that's because he's the one saying it.  In order to construct a clear sentence or a coherent narrative, he needs to edit as if he knows nothing, as if he's never seen these words before.

This is an outsider problem -- the writer must become an outsider to his own work.  When he escapes from the privileged position of the author, he can suddenly see all those imprecise clauses and unnecessary flourishes; he can feel the weak parts of the story and the slow spots in the prose.  That's why the novelist Zadie Smith, in an essay on the craft of writing, stresses the importance of putting aside one's prose and allowing the passage of time to work its amnesiac magic.
When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second -- put it in a drawer.  For as long as you can manage.  A year or more is ideal -- but even three months will do . . .  You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it's not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who's read it in twelve different versions.  It's the head of a smart stranger, who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read.  ou need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow.  You need to forget you ever wrote that book.
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 132 - 133

I'd love to write fiction, but I can't tell if I would get my story across the way I play it out in my head.  I think this outsider problem is part of it.  But I think I also get too caught up in the detail of specific scenes and pay little attention to the overall flow, cadence, pace of the story.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Long-Term Benefits of High School English

At our daughter's Open House, the English teacher presented us parents with an Assignment: What was your favorite poem, short story, book from high shcool English?  Describe how English helped you in real life.

(Can you imagine a similar assignment from an algebra teacher -- how much bullshit that would have generated?)

We were limited to only ten minutes, and I had to listen to the teacher's open house spiel while thinking and writing, and I had to wait for a pencil to become available.  At first I couldn't even remember anything that I read in High School -- I'm such an avid reader on my own I wasn't sure if anything noteworthy was assigned by a teacher.

So I wrote simply that I built a large vocabulary, and that I learned the difference between "affect" and "effect" and "lay" and "lie."

Then I remembered having to present William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow," so I mentioned that.  And then I remembered more.  I remembered reading Grendel, which was wonderful.  So I mentioned that.  I also wrote that my 12th grade English teacher was an actual  comedian who would perform at comedy clubs in the evenings.

Ultimately, I had trouble ascribing any benefits to the English I studied in High School.  I feel that it was my natural inclinations toward writing and reading that built my vocabulary and established my (above average among engineers) facility with writing.

Did the subject of High School English benefit you at all?  Did any subject?  How?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dream: Encounter with the Sorcerer

I am on the property of a very powerful and dangerous sorcerer.  A woman is with me.  We enter the house.

It is inevitable that the woman and I will be attacked in some way.  I search the house.

I am facing the sorcerer's chief minion, another very dangerous being.  I know that he will attempt to destroy me.  I have been trained as a healer and a shaman, but I've never prepared for an encounter like this.  I'm not sure what I should do.

The creature raises its left arm with its green, skeletal hand extended out ominously toward me.  I stand tall, relaxed, centered in my power.  Green, thick, fuzzy beams of powerful electrical energy shoot from the hand and zig-zag toward me.  How do I defend against this, I wonder?  I simply hold up my hands as if to block the beams.  And then I find within my heart Peace and Love.  Love is my defense.  I surround myself with it.  I direct Love toward the creature

The beams have no effect on me.  I counter with two successive "Tiger Claw" strikes at its face, first right-hand then left-hand.

The creature collapses into a ball, so I pick him up and put him down somewhere else.

I still have the main sorcerer to contend with.  He is present, but he may be disguised even as an inanimate object, so I look around carefully for anything that seems out-of-place.  Then I see on the floor in front of me a pair of yellow vinyl or plastic objects, each about the size of a hand.  This is the sorcerer, and I am surprised that this form is the best he could come up with.  I stomp on the objects to crush and destroy them.

What I thought would be an easy victory turns out to be a bit of a sticky situation, literally.  The objects ooze a great deal of thick, sticky, viscous fluid, like RTV or rubber cement.  It's on my shoes and lower pant legs.  I stand near the garbage can and scrape the stuff off with paper towels and pieces of scrap paper.

[I woke up with a heavy feeling in my chest, which, seven hours later, still bothers me.]