Saturday, December 28, 2013

What's in Your Water?

Residents of USA can query the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) National Drinking Water Database to find out what's in their water.  Results for homes that draw well water are not included in this database.

While browsing the EWG's website, be sure to check out the articles on Bottled Water.  Here's one page you can start with.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Santa Non-Believer

I have never believed in Santa.  I cannot remember a time when I ever believed in him.

When I was five years old, I was shrewd enough to realize that Mom wrapped all the presents.

First of all, she liked to save the wrapping paper and reuse it for next year.

Second, she bought and wrapped the gifts well ahead of time.  And then she stored them on a shelf near the ironing board, covered with a sheet.  The fact that the ironing board was in a scary part of the basement, near the smelly and grumbling furnace, did not deter me.

 There was also the fact that we had no fireplace.

As well, the top of the chimney was tiny.  And the bottom, well, that terminated above the furnace, ending up as an eight inch diameter metal flue with a metal flap over it.  There was no way that Santa could enter our house except through the door.

Supposedly, Santa would come to everyone's house at exactly midnight, at which time he'd fill stockings with trinkets, arrange the presents under the tree, and snack on cookies in milk (although we never left any for him).  Please, what am I, stupid?

My parents would allude to Santa, mostly as a form of coercion.  For example:
  • "You'd better behave if you want Santa to bring you anything."
  • "Santa doesn't bring presents to children who don't eat their vegetables."
  • "Hurry and go to bed, otherwise Santa won't come and bring your presents!"
That's what they'd say.  But what I'd hear was basically, "Do what we tell you to do, otherwise we won't give you anything."  And I'd comply, because I wanted toys.

The funny thing is my wife and I brainwashed our daughter about Santa.  I was very detailed about it, too.  We have a fireplace with glass doors, so before our daughter went to bed, I'd say out loud, "I'm opening the fireplace doors so that Santa can come in."  And later on I'd make footprints on the hearth with the ashes so that she'd see them in the morning.  I think one year I even went on the roof and disturbed the snow near the chimney to make it look like someone was up there.  Still, she now claims that she figured it out when she was ten.

Tell me about your Santa beliefs.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131219

I've been going to bed too late, getting up too early, and drinking too much coffee in between. The result is weight gain.

Waist = 39.0"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Energy-Saving Myth of LED Holiday Lights

If you use strands of lights for holiday decorating, you may be wondering whether you should trade in your sets of traditional incandescent lights for the new LED lights that have become popular.

The answer is no if:
  • Your incandescent light sets are in good condition.
  • You have (or know how to get) spare bulbs for your current lights.
  • You use the lights sparingly...
    • Only a few hours per day.
    • Only a few weeks per year.
  • You use the lights indoors only during cold weather days when you heat your home.
Understand that the incandescent lights you use now convert most of the electricity into heat.  So that any energy savings you might realize by switching to LED lights will mostly be offset by an increase in the energy you'll use to heat your home.  And if your home uses electric heat, you'll never re-coup your savings.

So by all means trade in your traditional incandescent lights for the new LED lights if:
  • You use the lights outdoors or in unheated areas.
  • You use the lights when the weather is warm.
  • You can't find replacement bulbs for your current set.
  • The wiring in your current set has cracked or missing insulation.
  • You use more lights than your house wiring can handle...
    • When you turn them on a fuse blows (or the breaker trips).
    • The outlet or extension cord feels very warm.
I continue to use two sets of incandescent lights that are rated at 75W each.  They use special C7 bulbs that are designed with an internal bimetallic strip.  When the light is on, the strip heats up and bends to interrupt the current flowing to the filament.  This enables each one to blink on and off randomly independent of the others.  It's a lovely effect, one I've not seen duplicated with LED sets.

Besides, the LED light sets that I've seen have an annoying flicker to them.  LEDs turn on only when current flows in one direction.  They remain dark for half the cycle unless a special "full-wave rectifier" has been included in the design.  Unfortunately, the packaging won't tell you anything about the design, so you have to take your chances.  Be sure to buy light sets at a store with a good return policy and save your receipt.

I hope this helps you in some way!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The "What Have I Done So Far" List

This is an exercise in Barbara Sher's "Refuse to Choose"  She writes, "Take out a sheet of paper or your Scanner Daybook and write a list...with as many experiences and accomplishments, big and small, as you can think of...."

As well, a post by "HappyMind" on the Barbara Sher message board inspired me to "put it into gear."  And long time reader Rummuser gave it the gas to go.

Well, here is my list, just whatever I could think of, which means I might've forgotten some things...
  • Music
    • Play bass guitar and sing in:
      • A Top 40 wedding band.
      • Orchestra pit for musicals.
      • Religious folk group.
      • Various improvisation groups playing rock or jazz.
    • Play tuba and Sousaphone in an orchestra and marching band.
    • Learn music theory.
    • Transcribe music.
    • Sing bass in a chorus / choir and a small solo part in a musical.
    • Write a song.
      • Set someone else's lyrics to music.
      • Set my own lyrics to music.
    •  Study other musical instruments
      • Piano, guitar, harmonica, penny whistle, plus ad-hoc sound-making objects.
    • Repair / modify bass guitar.
    • Select components for, and put together, a stereo system.
    • Build and organize a record / CD library.
    • Enjoy and discover new music with Pandora and Reverbnation.
  • Effect home repairs / maintenance.
    • Replace light switches.
    • Replace light fixtures & ballasts therein.
    • Replace bathroom sink faucet.
    • Clear drains.
    • Fix running toilet.
    • Interior painting (with light spackling).
    • Remove wallpaper.
    • Remove ceiling tile.
    • Bicycle maintenance, plus replace components for upgrade / customization.
    • Repair cassette tape and stereo receiver.
    • Repair various appliances.
    • Fix leaky faucet.
    • Replace shower head.
  • Automotive
    • Maintenance / Repair
      • Change engine oil & filter.
      • Replace coolant.
      • Replace fuel filter.
      • Replace spark plugs. 
      • Check tire pressure and re-inflate when necessary.
      • Check fluids and top off.
      • Clear drain plug of cabin A/C system.
      • Touch up chipped paint.
    • Operate passenger car.
  • Electrical Engineering
    • Earn B.S.E.E.
    • Research, Develop and Design new products.
  • Computer ...
    • Earn technician certificate.
    • Repair.
    • OS installation and setup.
    • Operate and customize a wide variety of programs. 
    • Set up network-wide anti-virus program and automate updates of virus definitions.
    • Programming.
      • Learn new programming languages (self-taught).
        • Assembly (x86 and 68xxx)
        • Pascal
        • C
        • Fortran
        • Basic, Visual Basic and Visual Basic Script
        • Perl
        • MS Office Automation (VBA)
        • Lisp
        • HTML
        • MS-DOS batch
      • Create and maintain DLLs.
      • Create and maintain software.
      • Tutor college students.
    • Create, maintain and contribute to blogs.
    • Learn...
      • TCP/IP fundamentals.
      • Administration of MS Exchange Server.
      • Network administration.
  • Draw and paint with media such as...
    • pencil, pastels or charcoal on paper.
    • pen and ink on paper and parchment.
    • paint on paper and canvas.
    • stratchboard
  • Woodworking, design and create....
    • CD / VHS tape / DVD rack.
    • Bookcase.
    • Frame for nature collage using tree branches.
    • Stand for a piece of cat furniture.
  • Writing of
    • Poetry.
    • Articles for magazines and newsletter.
    • Blog posts.
    • Business and cover letters that Get Results.
    • Book reviews.
    • Journal / Diary.
    • Lists of things that I've done so far.
  • Pet care
    • Up to four cats, feeding, litterboxes, trimming claws.
    • Rescue unfortunate mice from said cats.
    • Dog grooming, training.
  • Horticulture
    • Propagate, re-pot and care for houseplants.
    • Design, create and maintain outdoor vegetable garden.
    • Landscaping and tree pruning.
    • Create and maintain compost.
    • Foraging.
      • Wild mushrooms.
      • Herbs.
  • Crafts
    • Crochet.
    • Sew to repair / hem clothes and even make simple curtains.
    • Rock polishing (Lapidary)
      • Create and sell jewelry from polished, semi-precious gemstones.
    • Create ceremonial masks.
  • Sport / Recreation
    • Fresh water fishing with spinning reel and lure or live bait.
    • Crabbing.
    • Play soccer.
    • Play tennis.
    • Hiking.
    • Yoga.
    • Bicycling.
    • Swimming.
    • Canoeing. 
    • Karate (Green Belt)
  • Photography
    • Nature, mostly: insects, cats, dogs, sunsets, flora, wild animals.
    • Street / fair scenes.
    • Shadows.
    • Artwork (for electronic portfolios)
  • Health and Nutrition
    • Learn Reiki level I.
    • Explore various diet systems.
      • Anti-inflammatory.
      • Atkins.
      • Blood Type.
      • Paleo.
      • Vegan.
      • Gluten Free (with and without Casein Free).
      • Feingold.
      • Ideal Protein.
      • Genotype.
      • Weight Watchers.
      • Dean Ornish.
      • The ADA's evolving food pyramid.
      • SAD.
    •  Learn about
      • Autism / Asperger / PDD
      • Allergies
      • ALS
      • MS
      • Lupus
      • Sjögren's
      • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
      • Parkinson's 
      • Stenosis
      • Guillain–Barré
      • Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes
      • Glaucoma
      • High cholesterol
      • Drug - Food interactions
      • Sleep
      • Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder, specifically Hoarding.
  • Volunteer as Leader of a 3000-member professional organization.
  • Organize annual dinner meetings
  • Miscellaneous Learning
    • Feng Shui.
    • Religions.
    • Paranormal phenomenon.
    • Lucid dreaming.
    • Meditation.
    • The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131211

Fattening up for the hibernation that I'd love to settle in for but won't.

Waist = 38.75"
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 7, 2013

Topics of Future Posts

I've closed my Spigot of Creativity when I achieved my goal of posting daily for NaBloPoMo in November.  But the flow of ideas isn't so easy to stop.  Here are some of the other topics I'd thought of posting about in November:
I'm devoting less time now to blogging, so I'll let you choose what I should write about next.  What would you like to read about?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131205

On Tuesday, I enjoyed a huge holiday dinner with mixed greens salad, rack of lamb, grilled asparagus, and flourless chocolate cake, all washed down with two beers and then a coffee. And I snag many of the communal treats I see left out in the cafeteria.

Waist = 38.5"
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 2, 2013

Weigh-In Five Year Graphical Summary

I'm past the 5 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.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

NaBloPoMo 2013 Wrap-Up

Well, NaBloPoMo 2013 is over.  I achieved my goal of posting at least once each day in November.

The 30 posts totaled 19 pages (in MS Word 2000, Times New Roman 12 pt font, sans comments and dates), approximately 7,806 words and 35,322 non-space characters (43,331 including spaces).

The most viewed post was "Foodbook" with a whopping 157 page views!  This was followed by "Thanksgiving on the Blood Type Diet" with 13 and "Thanks For These Stats" with 12.  Total page views for the entire month came to 1,309.

I hope you enjoyed at least some of the daily posts.  I have more content in my head than I had time to write, and I'll post it at a relaxed pace in December.  Perhaps I'll post the topics or post titles of upcoming posts and let you decide which ones I should write first.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dream: Onion Pizza Slice

I'm hungry, so I decide to check out a nearby pizza place.  It's summer time and the folks at the pizza place are eating outside in a sunken patio.

In order to get into the shop, I need to go through the sunken patio, which is crowded with dinners.  Plus there are no stairs leading down to the patio, so I have to step on the wall and tables to climb down.  I say "excuse me" often as I jostle a few diners, and at one point I nearly step on a diner's hand.

I enter the shop and see that there are three individual slices of pizza available, all with onion topping.  I ask how much they are, and the Italian/Greek shopkeeper says, "Twelve-Three."  "Huh?"  I say.  I'm concerned because I have very little money to spend on food.  And twelve dollars is way too much for a single slice of pizza.  I'm willing to use a ten dollar bill, but I expect a lot of change back.

I ask again about the price.  I figure out that "Twelve-Three" means $1.23.  I point to a slice that was cut unevenly and therefore is the largest and ask for it.  The total cost turns out to be $3.13.  So I hand over the ten dollar bill, but then I say, "Hold on.  I have 13 cents," as I dig into my left front pants pocket.  There's so much change in the pocket that I can't pull it all out in one fistful because my hand won't come out of the pocket.

A diner comes up to me and offers me 13 cents.  He's one of the diners whom I inconvenienced earlier.  I thank him and say, "Oh that's okay, I have the money."  Nevertheless he drops the change into the blue "Take a penny; leave a penny" tray and says, "Take it if you need it" and walks away.

I'm sorting through the change in my hand looking for pennies and a dime.  Some pennies are silver-colored.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving on the Blood Type Diet

My wife and I hosted the Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed yesterday.  I filled my plate mostly with turkey and rutabaga, which are both "Superfoods" under my diet plan.  I boiled and then mashed the rutabaga myself and added sea salt and ghee, which are also superfoods.  Small amounts of homemade cranberry sauce (made with real cranberries and fresh grated ginger), onion salad and cucumber salad adorned my plate.  I had no room on the plate for mashed potatoes or stuffing, and I didn't bother with the gravy.

So even though I ate the entire heaping plateful of food, my stomach felt comfortably full, not painful or bloated.

But then dessert came along.  All the wheat in the desserts -- the cupcakes, the bourbon cake, the apple hand pie, and the pecan pie -- combined with the cream in my coffee and the ice cream to cause a painful distention of my gut.

My fattened belly fascinated others who swore it was flat before we started eating.  All I said was, "It's not fat; it's inflammation."

Yesterday I was thankful for food, family and friends.  Today I am thankful for the 30% off sale price on Deflect, a lectin-blocking supplement from North American Pharmacal.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks For These Stats

In the six-and-a-half years since this blog was started, it has gotten over twenty-thousand page views.  The top five most clicked-on posts have been:

Jan 19, 2010
Jan 9, 2009, 2 comments
Apr 20, 2010, 2 comments
Nov 22, 2008, 4 comments
Nov 15, 2010, 2 comments

Thank you for visiting, reading and commenting!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131127

I'm not at all concerned about gaining weight from a large Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. Usually when I load my plate with turkey and vegetables, and when I include only a heaping tablespoon of mashed potato and cranberry sauce, I'd lose a little weight. The things that I need to avoid are: gravy (because of the wheat, not the fat), stuffing, soda, all desserts.

Waist = 38.5"
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 26, 2013

Choosing a Career

When I was in high school I took a personality test that was designed to help me figure out what college to go to and what to major in.  The results suggested that I might enjoy going to a college in Oregon to study forestry.  I recall that I responded that I like the outdoors, hiking, trees and solitude, plus I was good in math and science.

But I did not follow the advice.  First, it sounded ludicrous.  Second, I didn't want to move from home.   Yet today, if I woke with a new life studying trees, I probably wouldn't mind.

Two of the books that I'm "currently reading" show up on the side bar of this blog.  They are really for my daughter, who is expected to graduate high school in about two and a half years.
  • "What Color Is Your Parachute? 2009: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers"
  • "Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams"
They're more for job hunters and career changers -- folks who are burned out and need to try something different. "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." in particular contains a great deal of information about job hunting -- writing resumes and cover letters, networking, that sort of thing.  But I thought they would be helpful in choosing a first career.  The 8-pedalled rose chapter in "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." alone is worth the price of the book to those who need career guidance.

One other resource mentioned in "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." is the "Self-Directed Search," or SDS.  This is an online assessment tool that helps you figure out what your Holland Code is.  The SDS is not free; the test and report cost $9.95.

There's also a free test that you can take here: In fact, I just took this test before I cleaned up the previous paragraph.  My results show that my Holland Code is IAS, meaning Thinking (I), Creating (A), Helper (S).  I got a little bar graph, too:

Knowing one's self is the first step in choosing a rewarding career.  I hope this information is helpful!

Monday, November 25, 2013


The newsfeed I receive from Facebook is so cluttered with pictures of food, I think of it now as Foodbook.

Enticing pictures of food -- cheerful, colorful and sweet-looking food.  Food porn for a horny addict.

I like my cousins, and I want to keep in touch with them.  So I long for a way to filter out images by subject matter.  Pictures of people: OK.  Pictures of food: NO.  Pictures of people eating food? Uh...

These are my cousins, who, I understand, have the same general set of genes as me, with the same predisposition to diabetes festering silently inside them, like me.  The only difference between us is that they haven't realized just how deadly the food is that they're raving about.  Or they don't care.

I dropped my first hint a few weeks ago.  I posted "I think Facebook is turning into the Food Network."  And I got two Likes from that.

I relish thinking of other rebellious counterattacks to food porn.

First, I thought I'd start posting pictures of other addictive substances, such as shot glasses and sultry bottles of Jack, warmly glowing lit cigarettes, maybe even lines of coke waiting to be snorted.  Of course I'd have to find the images on the Internet -- I don't drink, smoke or do drugs -- so it won't be authentic.

Then I thought it would be neat to upload pictures of my feces.  I'd proudly state, "I made this the morning after a big bowl of three-bean chili."  Or, "Tacos yesterday!  Check this one out!"  I really like this idea, actually.  I've never seen any images of poop on Facebook yet, so the idea stands out on the basis of originality.  I like the extreme anti-social nature a poop post would represent.  And it would convey the simple but important message, "As goes in, so goes out."  The problem, of course, is that folks would be so revolted that they'd probably shut it out of their heads before considering any message.

So that leaves directly responding to food porn posts:
  • "Love to eat that right before having my blood glucose tested."
  • "I bet I'd completely lose my night vision after eating that."
  • "That's the ticket to a wild blood sugar roller-coaster ride!"
Maybe I'll just start to de-friend the worst offenders and hope the others will fill in with the important goings ons of the family....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dream: Hard to Stop

A woman visits my family.  She's either a relative or friend.  She's a school bus driver, but she has the day off.  She offers to drive us to an event, like a wedding reception.

We're on the bus.  I'm sitting in the front seat, right behind the driver's seat, which, in fact, is empty.  The woman who is driving is sitting several seats behind me.  And she is driving, somehow.

At first I'm watching the road ahead passively, as if watching TV.  But as the streets get more crowded and narrower and confusing, I start to get anxious.  I lean forward to grasp the steering wheel to ensure we get properly centered in the lane at a traffic light.

Then, after we get moving again, I see that we're approaching another intersection in which people are crossing.  Now I'm sitting in the driver's seat, and I press the brake pedal hard, but it barely slows the bus down.  I press harder and harder to stop for a family that's crossing street, including a baby with huge bald head.  The bus finally stops abruptly just couple of yards from the baby who falls from the fright of our approach.  I watch the baby carefully, overwhelmed with concern, hoping it's alright.

The baby gets up and walks some more, but now it's so close to the bus I can no longer see it.  I keep my foot pressing hard on the brake pedal.  I dare not allow the bus to move at all.

Meanwhile, a woman with reddish hair boards the bus.  She is a figure of authority, like the Commissioner of Buses.  She reaches over and removes the key from the ignition.  Now I'm really nervous.  I have a driver's license, but I don't have the special license needed to drive a bus.  I'm concerned for my future.  What if I get thrown in jail?


I'm in a small shop in a seedy neighborhood.  I'd like to buy a pack of gum that costs $1.10.  I have only $2, plus credit cards, so I hand over the two dollar bills and get the gum and a handful of change.

I'm in my car with the engine idling. I'm aware that an idling car is suspicious to police,  so I decide to drive around.  The streets are slick with rain, and it's nighttime.   I'm driving downhill gaining speed as I approach a T-intersection.  The light is red, but I can't stop.  Fortunately the street's are empty and I go through.  I try to make a left turn because a right turn would be sharper.  There's no way I can make the turn going this fast.  I'm concerned for my future.  I only half-heartedly turn the wheel not wanting to spin out.

I expect that the car will end up on the sidewalk and maybe even sideswipe a store front. By some miracle I make the turn.

I'm back inside that same seedy store that I bought the gum at.  I'd like to buy a pack of gum again.  But now I have no cash except for the change from the first time.  And it's silly to buy a $1.10 pack of gum with a credit card.  So I look around the store for something else to buy that would justify the use of  the credit card.  I see bottles of cologne and other senseless toiletries, some of which are locked inside a glass cabinet.

There's a black guy there that I go to technical school with.  He wants to go somewhere but he doesn't have a car.  So I decide to drive him.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dream: Meager Lunch in the Cafeteria

I'm sitting at a table in a cafeteria-style restaurant.  I have a plate of plain iceberg lettuce salad, another plate with a buttered roll that's been torn into bite-sized pieces, and a small cylinder-shaped bowl of something that looks like baked macaroni and cheese.  I'm not only unimpressed with this food, I'm also very disappointed.  My back is to the food line.

I turn to look over my left shoulder and see a portable chalk board on a wooden frame with wheels.  A young woman is announcing an eating contest.  She has already visited several tables and a few diners have finished.  Apparently the idea is to finish eating quickly.

I could be finished already with such meager food as this.  But I refuse to eat the stuff in the bowl.  Initially, I decided against eating the buttered roll.  But I know that the lettuce will not fill me up and sustain me, so I reluctantly eat some pieces of the roll.

The first diner to finish is an attractive young lady with dark brown, shoulder-length hair.  The announcer is interviewing her.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Right to Drive

The mantra of the typical instructor of a driver's education class is, "Driving is a privilege, not a right."

While that may be true, it's a mistake.  The US constitution guarantees our right to "bear arms."  Yet it has no say in the matter of personal transportation.

Frankly, the fault lies with the men who wrote the Unites States constitution, those anarchists / terrorists, who were more concerned about defending themselves against an all-powerful government than with commuting back and forth to work every work day.

Today a typical American has less of a need to use a gun than to drive a car.  In 2009, 209 million Americans had a driver's license1, while in 2010 only 32 percent of the 115 million households (36.8 million) harbored at least one firearm2,3.

We've been driving for over a century.  It's time that the constitution caught up with us.

1U.S. Car Fleet Shrank by Four Million in 2009 - After a Century of Growth, U.S. Fleet Entering Era of Decline, by Lester R. Brown, January 06, 2010

2How Many People Own Guns in America? And Is Gun Ownership Actually Declining?, by Madeleine Morgenstern, March 19, 2013

3Total Number of U.S. Households, Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research Date: 10.27.2012

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dream: Break Up the Bullying

I'm walking around a high school.  I had said something that made a tall blonde girl sad, but she doesn't notice me in the hallway.

I go toward a more crowded area of the school.  A boy sees me and says they need my help.  I follow him a short way.  There are three other boys.  One says, "Help us stick this kid's head in the toilet," referring to the boy in the middle.   "No, break it up," I say.

We all walk a short distance further and come to a very crowded part of the hallway.  It's a line for the bathroom!  "It's a good thing I don't have to go.  I'd have to go in the woods!"  I say, difusing the situation.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131120

A sugary snack before bedtime helps me to gain weight. Avoiding the snack is a good way for me to lose weight. I can skip the snack if I go to bed early or have herbal tea instead.

Waist = 38.5"
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 19, 2013

Music Therapy -- Music For Living

When music is used to improve brain function in a clinical setting, it is called Music Therapy. Music Therapy is beneficial because it can improve memory, motor skills, social/interpersonal development, cognitive development, mood and self-awareness. It can even help ease muscle tension, lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

The type of music that's used depends on what effect is desired. For example, baroque classical music is very good for information retention, while loud or chaotic music can be disruptive. On the other hand, music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves that are in sync with the beat. The faster the beat the better the concentration.

I bought my first CD player along with a few classical music CDs back in the mid 1980s, specifically for the Calculus course I was taking part time.  It was easier for me to recall music than derivations, and somehow I was able to link them together.  When taking a test, I could replay the music in my head, and I could easily imagine myself back in my room studying.

Today I listen to music for different reasons.  I bring ear buds with me to the library just in case it gets noisy, in which case I fire up my "Operatic Metal" Pandora station.  Who would think that libraries would be noisy?  We were brought up to never talk in a library unless you needed to speak with a librarian, in which case you'd whisper.  But the librarians here seem to be hard of hearing, and so they speak louder than the typical DJ at a wedding reception.  And they occasionally talk to each other about anything, from the slow computers to the weather, in addition to speaking with patrons.

The right music helps me tolerate my drive to work.  The many red traffic lights bother me, so the music can help temper my mood.  But I must make sure the music isn't too emotional or intellectual otherwise I'll be lost in a daydream.  And when I daydream, I don't see what's in front of me!

Silence is best for writing, though.  I need to hear my internal dialog.  When I write, I actually speak in my head and then transcribe what I hear.  That can be tricky with music going on in the background.

How does music fit in with your life?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Measure of Time

We measure large expanses of time with milestones.  You might have the time Before Graduation and the time After Graduation.  If you're married, you'll have Before Marriage and After Marriage.  Some of us refer to the time When My Parents Were Alive.  A few might recall events Before the Accident or Illness.

This gives us an experiential basis for remembering events.  It's how our species must've remembered events before inventing a device to divide time into various (and arbitrary) periodic intervals.

I've started to use milestones for shorter intervals of time, too.  I buy cat food approximately once per month (for dry food) or once every three weeks (for canned wet food).  So I might wonder how old a package of cheese is based on how many cans of unopened cat food are left in the cabinet.  I perform other activities monthly, such as paying bills.  But bill paying lacks the total change of setting that buying the cat food has, so it's of little use as a frame of reference.

Weekends are great milestones.  They represent a time when I do not go to work.  But they tend to blur together, so there are only two meaningful weekend intervals for me: Before Last Weekend and Since Last Weekend.

I've grown fond of an elegant (and free) Android app called Bodhi Timer, which was designed as a timer for meditation.  The idea is that you set it so that it chimes nicely at the end of your meditation.  But it also has a "restartable mode" enabling it to chime at intervals, too.  I like to use the timer to keep track of time during my morning routine.  I'll set it to chime at intervals of ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes.  Shorter times are good for those mornings when I'm especially distracted.  When I hear the chime, I reassess what I'm doing.  If I'm getting ready for work, that's good.  If I standing still listening to a radio program, well....

And another app that I keep running constantly is called Chime Time, which chimes like a grandfather clock hourly and once every half hour, too.  I seem to respond much better to auditory prompts than to visual ones, so this method of marking time suits me.  Chime Time is also free, but you can purchase alternate clock sounds as add-ons.

What are some milestones that you use to measure time?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Not Too Young For AARP

I turned 50 this year.  Amid the few birthdays cards that I still get at my age was an "invitation" to join AARP1.

In case you're very young or not from the USA, essentially AARP is the group you join when you reach retirement age, which, nowadays, is when you're too old to work.  Of course, there's very little mention of the words "old" and "elderly," or even "retired" on the AARP About page.  The reason for not mentioning the words "old," "elderly" and "retired" is simple.  They don't want people to wait until they're old and/or retired to join.  Baby boomers are dying off, so in order to increase membership, AARP frankly needs to seek younger members.

Also, they don't want people to freak out when they receive their first invitation to join AARP, as I did.

"Join AARP?!  I'm not Old!" I exclaimed out loud to my wife.

"You're eligible to join when you reach 50," my wife patiently explained to me.

"Grumble," I grumbled.

She's three years younger than me, so I can't wait until she gets her invitation, so I can gleefully say the same thing back to her.

My wife has been borrowing back issues of the AARP Magazine from the library.  I'm perplexed about why she would find the publication interesting, unless it's to see who's on the cover.  Of course, you don't need to borrow the entire magazine to see who's on the cover.  You can just walk by the magazine rack and glance at it.  But then once you see who's on the cover, you might want to read about why they're on the cover.  Recent issues that graced our coffee table featured such hotties as Gloria Estefan, Sharon Stone, and my all-time favorite-to-die-for Valerie Bertinelli.

Those women aren't necessarily hotties today, but they certainly were hotties way back when I divided the world population into "Women Who Are Hot" and "Everyone Else."  So to see them on a magazine for old folks is shocking, which is probably why they're on the cover.  I expect any day to see Miley Cyrus featured very soon.

1 The acronym once stood for "American Association of Retired Persons," but they don't seem to refer to it any more.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Children With Empty Minds

A few years ago there was a blogger who called herself Azalea Faye, who just gave birth to a girl.  She was one of about 10 million mommy bloggers.

In one post1 she railed against Disney, vowing that she'd never let her daughter be exposed to the gaggle of Disney princesses.  The gist of it was that she wanted her daughter's mind to be empty rather than filled with ridiculous fairy tales.  I was intrigued by this idea.  My daughter was already five years old or so, and I wondered what she'd be like if her mind were empty.  And I was glad it wasn't.

Classic Disney movies such as "Cinderella" and "Snow White" expose children to many advanced themes such as jealousy and unfairness, providing a foundation for understanding moral issues.  They teach children patience and honesty.  The settings inspire wonder in the child, and the issues tend to be black and white, which make the stories better suited for a child's developmental level.

Unfortunately, that post, and the blog it was featured on, is no longer available.  But I wonder how that girl is faring.  By now she must've entered elementary school, and she's probably hearing about Disney princesses from her friends.  Or is she having trouble making friends, because she has less in common with the typical girl than her peers?

What do you think about Disney princesses?  What should you fill a child's mind with?

1 "Disney and My Opinion" whose URL once was

Friday, November 15, 2013

Exercises For Your Brain

As an engineer, I rely on my brain just as much as Aretha Franklin relies on her voice.  So it behooves me to not only keep my brain in good shape, but also to improve it if I can.

That's why I signed up for Lumosity.  The games on Lumosity are actually exercises designed to stimulate and improve one's brain.  To paraphrase from their website, the games on Lumosity "improve key abilities such as working memory, visual attention, and executive function in people of different ages and from different backgrounds."

Here are screenshots of my "Brain Performance Index" and "Training History"...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131114

Gosh I ate too much last night!

I was at a social gathering. It was at a classier joint where they serve you craft beer in very clean glasses instead of in bottles or grimy plastic mugs. As soon as I saw a waitress with a tray full of them, I asked for one for myself. And when it was empty, I smiled and nodded imploringly when she asked if I'd like another.

Then there were appetizers: chicken wings, mostly, but I tried the mussels and nachos, too. I was surprised when they let us order sandwiches. I knew I had enough, but I figured I would order a salad of mixed greens to balance myself out. And then coffee, but no dessert.

After I got home, I ripped into a bag of dark chocolate morsels while I applied software updates to the family laptop. Then I sent two e-mails that I promised to a fellow reveler.

Waist = 39.0"
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 13, 2013

Free Online Meditation Series

Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Deepak Chopra have again collaborated on another free, 21-day meditation series, which they call "Desire and Destiny."

The series started on Monday, November 11, but I think they make each daily meditation available a full five days after it first appears.

Here are two blurbs from the website:
In our interactive online program we invite you to meditate and journal with us each day to embrace your dreams and desires, expand your understanding of divine purpose, and experience the peace, joy and abundance of living your destiny.
The Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge® is made available by the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra. It is open to the worldwide public and is free to all who register.
You can access the meditation series here:  You'll be able to register and login with either Facebook or Google+, or you can create your own user name and password.  Please note that this link may be valid for the meditation series only during the 21-day promotional period.

BTW, I tried meditating on Day 1.  I awoke early in the morning, and I started it at about 5am.  But then the cat whom I call "Pee-meister" meowed at my closed bedroom door, wanting to use his private litterbox.  Luckily there's a pause button on the meditation page, so I clicked it in and then got up to let him in.  Then I resumed the meditation.  But not for long.  Pee-meister wanted to leave the room right after he was done1.  Either that, or he was hungry.  Anyway, it was obvious I'd have no peace that morning until the cats and dog were fed, by which time the daughter would need breakfast and a lunch packed for school.

I hope your meditation experience is better than mine!


1 Well, sure, who'd want to stick around after stinking up the room like he did!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cat Cravings

I was preparing my usual low-fuss breakfast this morning -- almond butter on spelt toast, which I then top with blueberries.  After the toast popped up, I placed it on the kitchen table on a plate.  Then I turned to prepare some tea.

Soon I heard "lap lap lap lap lap..."  I turned to look at the noise.  The cat was licking my toast.

I'll repeat that.  The Cat.  Was Licking.  My Toast.

My toast!  Not My Bacon, or My Breakfast Sausage, or my Egg-Crust-Pizza.  He was licking my toast, with his cat saliva tongue, which had just licked his own fur and whatever was clinging to it.

"No, please stop," I said gently.  Gently, because I know about food addiction.  I know he's not thinking, "Let's piss the human off by licking his toast."  He's thinking, "I really, really, Really, REALLY need to lick that."  (Perhaps the moist warmth exuded by the toast reminded him of a freshly decapitated mouse carcass.)

Gently, also, because he's a big cat -- 22 pounds -- and a formidable opponent.  I lose my balance whenever he rubs against my legs.  One time, hissing and spitting, he took a swipe at the dog's nose and missed.  He raked my kneecap instead.  I'm sure he shape-shifted briefly into a bobcat, too.

So I fended him off while I spread on the almond butter.  I guessed that the almond butter would mask whatever was attracting him to the toast.  Sure enough, he lost interest and strode away.

Wheat gluten is added to some cat food in order to provide taurine, an essential amino acid.  Could our cat food be deficient in taurine?  I always buy food that has added taurine and no wheat gluten, But maybe the pet food manufacturer is cutting back on the formula.

Do your pets occasionally show unusual preferences for human food?  What are they?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dream: Spider Web Scarf

I'm sitting at a table in a diner with my family, and the art teacher is sitting directly across from me.  She is talking to me.  I'm distracted by spider webs and other nature debris that's stuck to my left forearm.  I pull it off while trying to listen to the art teacher.  But she notices and says, "Don't you like that?  That's Nature!"  So I try to be discrete about removing it from my arm.  Finally we get up.  Now that I'm standing I grab a large string of it and pull it from around my neck as if removing a scarf.  I look for a place to hang it.  Eventually I just hang it off the edge of the table.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dream: Big Dog, Small Car

I'm driving west a on country road near my work place.  A very small black car cuts in front of me from a side street from the right.  The car is an open, one-seater, no bigger than a go-cart.  I recognize the driver as JG, whom I worked with at my first job at least 25 years ago.  But most noticeable is that there is a big black dog in the compartment behind the driver.

We come to a stop at the end of the road behind a line of other cars that are waiting to enter the intersection.  The dog lies down, but only its body fits in the compartment, so it rests its head on the driver's bald head.  I call out to him, "Hey JG, are you alright under there?"  The dog stands up and turns around, and JG turns his head halfway and responds, "I'm okay.  And you?"

I notice that his response doesn't include surprise at having met by chance after so long.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Invasive Plants

As a weekend gardener, I've long lamented how the most prized plants are those that are most difficult to grow and maintain.   And weeds, which grow prolifically, are considered a blight on the landscape.  I've wondered why this is so.  Perhaps there's a Great Conspiracy -- a conglomerate of companies that specialize in fertilizer, weed killer, pest control, fungicide and plant sourcing have joined forces to brainwash people into thinking that the easiest growing plants need to be eradicated to ensure brisk business.

It reminds me of the fashion industry.  Get people to despise their wide ties and bell bottom jeans in favor of straight-leg jeans and narrow ties.  After sales start to dwindle and people have gotten rid of their old clothes, reverse the trend and get everyone to buy the formerly despised products and ditch their newly out-of-favor clothes.  The only difference is that no one can thoroughly get rid of weeds -- they continue to spread or sow themselves year after year.

Recently I assessed the flora on our property and concluded that weeds are not our best-growing plants.  Did I celebrate?  No, because our best-growing plants now are actually "Invasive Plants."  These are plants that government agencies are actively trying to eradicate. There are laws in place to prohibit the spread of this class of plant.  No, I won't get fined or jailed for having the plants on our property.  But it is illegal to traffic and transport such plants.

The term "invasive" is applied to a non-native plant when it out-competes many other native plants and has no natural growth inhibitors.  Some plants actaully release a chemical that prohibits other plants from growing nearby.  You can find a really good description and explanation of the issue on the United States National Arboretum Invasive Plants page, so I won't try to repeat it here.

I believe there is a silver lining to this problem.  Scientists are starting to realize that some plants are actually edible and nutritious.  We might even discover new medicines from these plants.  Once we realize just how inexpensive it is to add invasive plants into our diets, the problem may dissolve and lead to the growth of new industry that specializes in harvesting wild-growing plants. And perhaps we can end world hunger, too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Raised To Be Suspicious

"Who would want to send a bomb to you? Why?" 

I started to answer in a comment to Reactions to a Mystery Gift.  Then I realized I was about to write another blog post.

The premise is that a package arrives for you unexpectedly.  What do you do?  Well, I already described what I'd do in that post that I linked to, above.  But why?

Ted Kaczynski, aka The Unabomber, targeted public technology figures.  When he was actively mailing bombs to people, I was an engineer at a high-tech company, and I sometimes made public appearances.  I felt that I fit the description well enough to be targeted.

One day I actually did receive an unsolicited package that had no recognizable return address.  So I walked up to a coworker with said package, handed it to him and asked him to open it.  It was mostly in fun.  He was a friend with a good sense of humor, and I think he appreciated how I stuck my fingers in my ears in case there was a loud popping sound.  I also said something to the effect that he was more expendable than me.  Whatever.

Well, the package of course did not blow up.  What was inside?  Promotional materials for a new website, TechRepublic, perhaps.

The criminal was caught more than 17 years ago, yet my first impulse upon receiving an unexpected package is to be suspicious.  When I wonder why, I realize that I was raised this way.  The bomb threats simply revived my train of thought on suspicion.

I was raised in New York.  Nothing's for free, especially in New York.  Free samples are used to entice you to buy a product, get you addicted, get you framed.  If someone walks up to you and hands you a can of spray paint, don't be surprised if, thirty seconds later, a cop shows up and puts cuffs on you for writing graffiti.

Street wise people know not to accept anything for free.  You don't pick up money on the sidewalk.  You don't go into a store that promises "Free Ice Cream."  You don't talk to the man offering the free lollipop.

Whoever said "The best things in life are free" did not live in New York.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wisteria Pod

Our first wisteria vine was already well established when we bought our home nearly 20 years ago.  It never flowered until two years ago when we got one cluster of flowers.

This summer we saw a few flower clusters.

Today, unexpectedly, I saw what appeared to be a pod.  So I looked it up.  Sure enough, the wisteria produces seeds in a pod, which explodes to disperse the seed.  Considering the way it spreads, you'd think it wouldn't bother with seeds.

Anyway, here's a picture of our pod:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131106

Everything I eat seems to be upsetting my stomach. I have no appetite, so I eat only to keep up strength.

Waist = 38.5"
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 5, 2013

No News is Bad News

I've given up on traditional news media as a source of news.  Sirens can be sounding on our town, but we rarely know why, even after scouring newspapers the following day.

It occurred to me that towns should create streams of their emergency band radio chatter so that citizens can listen to what's going on, without having to buy a scanner.

Then it occurred to me that this was already being done.  And that's when my Internet search led me to RadioReference.  And I was overjoyed to find a stream of my town's police and EMS radio traffic on that website.

One night soon after, a police car was driving slowly down our street.  The officer inside was using a hand held search light to inspect the neighborhood.  I was outside with our dog, and another dog was barking nearby.  I assumed that a bear or some wild animal was spotted.

I ran back inside and connected to my town's stream.  I soon found out that they were searching for two armed robbers.  I hurriedly closed and locked all our doors.  It would've been nice if we were officially notified, but we were not.

I didn't get the full story until I read it in the newspaper the next day.  Two men armed with handguns entered a home about a half mile from ours.  They tied up the occupants and robbed the home.  I'm not sure why the newspaper didn't use the term "home invasion" -- perhaps because such things aren't supposed to happen here.

RadioReference is now hosted on Broadcastify.  Check it out -- it could save your life one day.  Gotta go -- a fire code is airing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Panic of the Parent of the Soon-To-Be Fledgling

What do you call the shock that new parents experience when they realize their son or daughter will be moving away to college in less than three years?  Perhaps the term could be "Panic of the Parent of the Soon-To-Be Fledgling."  Hmmm, that's unwieldy.

Whatever it's called, that's what I got.  It's like you're hiking briskly on an easy trail, and then you look back and notice zombies lumbering along behind you, in relentless pursuit.  You suddenly turn a corner and see a steep, daunting, rocky ascent.  The weather turns cold, and dark storm clouds devour the sun.  And you suddenly realize that you didn't pack rain gear or a hearty snack.

This particular type of panic, of some fearful thing that looms in the future, is ideal for getting my heart racing -- much better than a jolt of "red-eye" coffee.  I can rouse myself out of bed with it in the morning to kick-start the day.

The panic started suddenly over the weekend while we attended our very first college fair with our grade ten daughter.  We joked with her to tell the representatives of far off colleges that the primary reason she's interested in their school is because she wants to move as far away as possible from her parents.

Usually panic arises when one is unprepared.  That's true in this case, too.  We haven't prepared our daughter to be self-sufficient.  We have about two-and-a-half years to encourage our daughter to:
  • Shop for her own groceries, supplies and toiletries.
  • Manage her own bank account and finances.
  • Do her own laundry.
  • Remind her about appointments.
  • Eat and drink and take supplements on a fixed schedule.
  • Get herself ready for the day.
On top of that, I'm the one she turns to for night-before-the-big-scary-test help sessions in math and science.

But the worst part is we haven't put any money into a college savings account.  I've put any extra money into the 401(k) plan that my employer manages.  We also didn't count on my wife becoming partly disabled, so not only does my wife not earn money, we spend money on her multiple doctors and medication.

Well, that's the good thing about panic -- it gives you the energy to prepare.  And if my wife and I are clever about it, we'll have our daughter soon doing the laundry.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dream: Recent Snippets

I've experienced a flurry of dreams recently, too many to write detailed accounts of.  So here are two snippets:

I glance out the window that overlooks the backyard.  I see two moose and a black bear capering about.

My wife and I are in line at the grocery store with a cart full of items.  The cashier doesn't ring up the purchase.  Instead, she motions for us to walk through and pay at the exit.  I reach the exit, but I don't see any way to pay.  My wife and I leave and walk to our car, which is parked behind the building, right next to the loading dock.  The spot next to our car is vacant and a car is attempting to pull in to the spot.  But I have the passenger side door open, preventing the driver from parking.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Minefield in the Cafeteria

My workplace is a minefield of diet booby traps.

Each month, the company brings in a large birthday cake to celebrate that month's birthdays.  The cake arrives at the cafeteria in time for the 10am break.  I can resist it at that time.  But if there's still some left at 4pm, it's difficult to ignore.

The cake isn't as bad as the various surprise treats that sometimes appear.  When I know the cake is there, I can prepare myself to resist it or avoid the cafeteria altogether if necessary.  But an unexpected box of donuts, French pastry or home made fudge all bypass the more evolved portion of my brain, stimulating the reptilian brain into reflex action.  My hand darts out like the sticky tongue of a frog1, and before I know it there's a morsel in my hand.

Coffee is like that, too.  Coffee causes fluctuations in my blood sugar, and it increases stomach acid, so I need to avoid it.  But it's in the cafeteria, too, just eying me in the sultry way of a temptress who knows the secrets of pleasure.  Even when I go to the cafeteria to get hot water for tea, I'll change my mind and take coffee instead if it's strong and freshly made.

An increasing number of employees are playing the hospitality game.  They display dishes of candies in their offices or on a central table in their departments.  The sales people are the worst -- they're so darned people-oriented.  Which is why I like to stay in the engineering department.  Food doesn't move,  or make a cool noise, or feature flashing lights, so it doesn't adorn our department.

Actually I tried maintaining a candy dish.  The hard candies were so unpopular, they started to undergo desication, so I had to discard them.  But the chocolate is both popular and tempting.  Unless my coworkers beat me to it, I'll finish it off myself after a few days.  It got to be expensive after several weeks, especially since I buy the higher-end stuff -- individually wrapped pieces from Dove or Hershey Bliss.  Even Hershey Kisses would be too low-end for my dish.

Yesterday was the day after Halloween, so I expected candy to be everywhere.  But I was disappointed surprised to find very little candy.  What little there was was the incredibly cheap stuff, like the obligatory mints you might find in a bowl on the way out from low-end diner, except sour and wrapped in faded paper.  They come with a small axe and a sign that says, "Break open in case of low blood sugar."

Is there a point to this post?  Yes.  It is, in fact, a rant against a society that fails to recognize food addiction.  You won't find cigarettes, alcohol or opium in the work place.  They're not even advertised in newspapers.  Why?  Because they're addictive.  But nobody considers food and beverages to be addictive, so those of us who struggle with food addiction have no respite.

1 Yes, I know that frogs are not reptiles, thank you.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaBloPoMo 2013

November is National Blog Posting Month.  Once again, I'll be participating.  I'm registered as number 83 on the Blogher Blogroll, sandwiched between The Pitter Patter Diaries and  BOTTLESOUP.  All I have to do is post at least one blog entry each day during November.  And you can still join me if you register before November 5.

Not sure what I'll be writing about, but I never had trouble coming up with something before.  All the essay assignments I received when I was a boy paid off.  You know the ones I'm referring to -- the "punishment essays."  "Why I Should Not Chew Gum in Class" and "Laughing During the Pledge of Alliance is Disrespectful" are two that I recall specifically, but I'm sure there were at least a half dozen more, probably involving a few disgusting bodily functions, running, and bothering people.

Well, anyway, I hope you can join me in this fun writing assignment.  If not, perhaps you'll enjoy more reading than ever before.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131030

My quick and easy breakfast of almond butter on rye toast has been upsetting my stomach. I think I'm becoming intolerant of rye, now, because I've been feeling bloated after breakfast. Today, I tried almond butter on rice cakes and felt better.

I choose a brand of rye bread that has only rye flour, water, and salt, plus sourdough starter. There's gluten in it for sure, but no wheat. It used to work for me. I can switch to spelt bread next, or go back to my egg concoction.

Waist = 38.25"
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 24, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131024

Much cooler weather has settled in to our area. Earlier in the week, the temperature would reach the mid 60s. Yesterday and today, the highs were about 45F.

Waist = 38.5"
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 19, 2013

Reactions to a Mystery Gift

Cranky Fibro Girl related a funny story regarding her parents' reaction to a surprise gift that she sent to them through Amazon.  She described the conversation that took place between them, which you can read here.
If my wife and were to get a surprise gift in a similar manner, here's how our hypothetical conversation would play out:

Wife (calling me at work): The package you ordered arrived.
Me: What package?
Wife: I don't know.  It's from
Me: I didn't order anything from
Wife: Well you must have ordered and forgot about it.  You want me to open it?
Me: No. I didn't order anything.   We won't be able to send it back if it's opened.
Wife: Are you sure you didn't order something and then forgot about it?  You know how forgetful you are.
Me: I'm not the one who's forgetful!  You're the one who's always forgetting things.
Wife: Well, whatever, it's here.  I can open it if you want.
Me: No, I need to check my account and my charge card first.

Me: Well, I didn't order anything, and there's no charge on my credit card.  It might be a gift.  You can open it if you want.  [Then, thinking it might from one of my very weird Internet friends...]  Hmmm, maybe don't open it.  It could be hoax or a bomb.

How would you react to an unexpected package?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131017

Again I tried to eat a Chicken of the Woods mushroom. This time I simmered it for at least 30 minutes. Nevertheless, I was left with bloating and loose stools. So I'm really disappointed. I love foraging, and finding good stuff for free. But this particular item doesn't love me.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Road to College

The folks on NPR are interviewing guests to talk about their college experiences.  The guests are those who were the first in their families to attend college.  It made me recall how I eventually started to take college classes and ultimately finish.

I was the youngest of three, and both my brother and sister went to college right after high school.  Yet my path to college was not so straightforward.  That's because my brother was disillusioned with college.

He was seven years older than me, so he got his B.A. degree in education before I  started to think about college.  He really wanted to be an artist, but he didn't think it would be a good career.  So he majored in education.  It wasn't until he started student teaching that he realized he didn't want to be a teacher.

One problem was that the student teaching program involved both teaching and observing.  Each student was paired with another.  While one taught, the other observed.  The observer was also tasked with providing an evaluation of his student teacher partner.  Well, the evaluation that my brother wrote of his partner was honest and fair, which got the partner angry.  "I gave you a good evaluation, why didn't you give me a good one, too!" was the complaint.  Yet he finished the program.

He decided to pursue a career in commercial art, specifically drafting.  He attended a technical school for several months and got a job right away as a drafter.  He could have gotten the same job four years earlier had he skipped college and went to the technical school right after high school.

So that's what I did.  I had no desire to commit to any kind of career when I was close to completing high school. I put off going to college by instead enrolling in a nine-month technical school for certification as an electronic technician. This was 1981, when electronics was booming and demand for technicians was high.  I got a job right away as an engineering aide in the R&D department of an innovative medical device company.

We were doing very interesting "cutting edge" work, but I felt under utilized.  They had me "breadboarding" prototypes most of the time.  I'd fend off the tedium of that manual labor by understanding the designs I was building and sometimes noticing a mistake.  Occasionally I was allowed to design something.

The VP of the department encouraged me to take college classes part time to pursue an engineering degree.  I was ready, so I soaked up the Calculus and Physics courses with relish.  I tolerated the Chemistry courses.  I was still living at home with mom and dad, so I had plenty of time and money for school.

After I completed two full years' worth of college at the local state university, I left with an A.S. degree (Associates of Science) in engineering, and I transferred to a university that specialized in science and engineering. I enrolled as a full time student and received ample scholarship funds, too.  I completed the program in two years, and I worked over the summers as a designer of printed circuit boards.

The intensity of each school year wore me down, and I was glad to go back to an easy, slow-paced job in the summers.  (I took no vacation.)  But by the end of each summer, I'd be bored with the job and anxious to start school again.  So it worked out as a sort of perpetual, self-motivational cycle.

At the end of those two years, I had no clear idea of what to do next.  The US economy was in a downturn and engineers were in low demand (except for the foreign ones who could be hired on an H1-b visa).  Acting on the advice of a few professors, I took the GRE1 and applied to graduate school, just in case I got an offer I couldn't refuse.  But by this time, every topic in engineering seemed exceedingly dull -- I couldn't bear to even think about studying anything further.

So when a colleague of one of my professors invited me in for an interview at his (boring) company, I figured I'd go.  One thing led to another.  I relocated to take the job offer and I've been there (here) ever since.

So what was your educational experience like?

1 I did not study for the GRE.  I figured if I was meant to go to graduate school, I'd perform astoundingly well on the test regardless of any preparation.  As it turned out, my results were at about the 50th percentile for the engineering portion and within the top 10% for the English portion.  Most of my fellow test takers were Asian.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The clever blog post you were hoping to read has been postponed due to the shutdown of the U.S. federal government. 

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131009

What goes up must come down. Right? I said, "Right?"

But I'm not really worried. Weight gain is supposed to happen at this time of year here in the Northern Hemisphere of this beautiful, blue-green planet.
Waist = 39.5"
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 5, 2013

Dream: Black Honda Civic

After the blue bird flies off my finger I get the idea to ask Scott if he'd be interested in buying my car.  It's running really well, the "check engine" light has been off for a while, it's not leaking any fluids, and I just had bodywork done on the driver's side doors to repair the damage from a minor crash.  It's a great time to sell it.  The only problem is that I'd have to buy another car to replace it.  But I put that thought aside.

I ask TR whether he thinks Scott would want to buy it.  He says, "Maybe, why don't you ask him?"  He's nearby, so we walk toward him.  I start to detach the car key from the key ring thinking to offer to let him take it for a test drive.  (We're in the parking lot, and the car is nearby. )  But before we reach my car, we arrive at TR's new black Honda Civic.  He's eager to show off his car, so I accept his offer to show it to me.

He opens the car by some how lifting the entire body off the top, revealing two bucket seats.  He explains how storage space is limited to just the center console between the two seats, as well as compartments under the seats, which, at this point are small molded hard black plastic.

Dream: Blue Bird

I am standing outside with some guys from work.  During the conversation I notice a disturbance in the branches of a small nearby tree.  A large animal is moving.  It's a bird, large one.  Before I can call the other's attention to it, it leaves the tree and starts flying directly toward and over me.  And when it's directly overhead it stops and hovers.  It's pale blue.  I point to it, and then I withdraw my finger because everyone sees it.  But TR who's nearest to me encourages me to leave my finger up.  So I do.

Amazingly the bird descends and lands on my right index finger.  But at this point it's not much bigger than a large hummingbird.  It has a beak, and the top of its head and back are a more intense hue of blue.  I make gentle cooing baby sounds at it and say things like, "Hi cutie!"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131002

Not sure what the sudden weight gain and increase in waist size is due to. Two pounds and one inch is uncharacteristically extreme! Perhaps it was:
  • The package of bacon I ate on Sunday and Monday
  • The bowls of lentil soup I ate on Monday and Tuesday
  • The potato chips that I continue to eat after supper
  • The bag of Rice Chips I ate on Monday and Tuesday
  • Too much pizza on Friday (without the crust)
  • Eating a banana and drinking coffee before breakfast

Waist = 39.0"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dream: Sudden, Unexpected Downpours

I'm standing in the back doorway of my childhood home looking out.  There are two people sitting at a wooden picnic table in the backyard, in front of me and slightly to my right.  One is a man and one is a much older woman.

I look at the sky in the west, while the sun is setting in the opposite direction in the east.*   The view is amazing.  There is much moisture in the sky.  I see a rainbow in front of a line of white clouds.  The rainbow itself is straight, not curved.  And in front of that I see floating islands of dark grey clouds with long, smokey tendrils hanging down.  And I can see volumes of sudden, intermittent heavy rain, too.

I call out to the two people, "Sudden downpours are coming!"  But they carry on talking as if I they didn't hear me.

And then the rain does come, heavy and pounding, so I step all the way inside and close the door.

* Apparently, the entire house and the land it's on is turned around in the opposite direction.  Or the sun really does set in the east in this dream world!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130926

I ate half a bag of potato chips last night right before going to bed. I'll decline to describe the size of the bag to spare myself some embarrassment. One way to can prevent this is to make sure there are no chips in the house. Another way is to go to bed right after supper. Staying up late is sure to bring about the temptation to eat things I shouldn't.
Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dream: Aunt & Uncle at NYC Church

It is Christmas time.  My wife, daughter and I are driving through NYC on our way home.  We decide to stop and visit a church.

I'm walking up a double-wide set of outdoor concrete stairs, which are covered by snow.  I consider stopping to clear them, but instead I decide to continue on my way.

I enter the church with my daughter.  I had dropped off my wife and plan to meet her inside.  But it's so crowded that I enter a smaller chapel adjacent to the main sanctuary.  Hopefully my wife will find us, but I doubt it.

My daughter begins talking nonsense.  The fact that she's loud and saying bizarre things makes her seem blasphemous.  I try to quiet her down.

As I sit passing the time, I suddenly see Uncle D. and Aunt E. walking toward us, dressed in Sunday attire.  I catch their attention and they walk over to me and greet me.  I kiss my aunt's somewhat ancient hand, and I move to hug and kiss my uncle, but he leans away.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mindless Games

At first I thought to title this "Mind Games."  But that phrase has negative connotations of manipulating another person.  In my case, there's no other person.  And it's not so much manipulation as it is boredom management.

The gist is that when I do something that requires little thought, my mind plays games.

For example, when I take my lunch time walk, my mind will seize upon a thought or idea and chew upon it as if were a wad of gum.  When I visit the local cemeteries, I'll read off the names on the markers as would a school teacher calling out names for attendance.  The teacher is invariably an annoyed, bored and insensitive middle-school gym teacher, one who likes to crack jokes and one for whom English was not his best subject.

"Stein" "Gladstone" "Cohen" "Ginsberg" "Fleiss"  "What the hell is this, a synagogue?  You guys wanna send out for some bagels or sumthin?"  I've had gym teachers like that, actually.

Cleaning out the litter boxes, I'll be entertained by various scenes from "The Karate Kid."  It probably started by associating the drudgery with all those chores that Danny had to do in exchange for learning karate, such as waxing cars (wax on, wax off), painting the fence, and scrubbing the deck.  But now, arbitrary scenes from the movie (and its successor) effortlessly pop into my head.

Does your mind do this, too?  What chores are most likely to get your mind chewing gum?  What do you think about?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130919

I've been taking lunch time walks while the weather is nice. And my wife didn't bring home too much ice cream last week. So I've had a chance to reverse the recent weight gain.
Waist = 37.75"
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 13, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130913

I've been really lax, both in performing the weigh-ins on time, and with maintaining a good diet and exercising. Hence the increasing numbers. This week was especially bad with the pizza. Normally, I eat just the pizza topping and discard the entire crust. But on Tuesday, I ate the crust as well. By crust, I mean the entire bread part, not just the outer rim of the piece.
Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130904

Potato chips are another food that's contributing to my recent weight gain.

Waist = 37.75"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130828

My wife refuses to stop buying ice cream, and it's very difficult to resist. It's like bringing home beer, wine or Jack Daniels when you live with an alcoholic.

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dear Mayor Michael Bloomberg

An open letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg....

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

I applaud you for taking steps to combat heart disease and obesity within your jurisdiction. It is hoped that the nation will follow suit to eliminate trans-fats and reduce its intake of soda.

The next logical step would be for you to eliminate monosodium glutamate or MSG. MSG is a chemical that’s used in medical research to bring about obesity and pre-diabetes in laboratory animals. It’s also a ubiquitous flavor enhancer used in processed and prepared foods and even some beverages. It’s designed to stimulate the appetite. If a food is described “crave-worthy” or “you can’t eat only one” it most likely contains MSG. Also, MSG can cause seizures in certain individuals.

MSG can be present in foods without it being listed as an ingredient. The FDA allows food processors to omit MSG from the ingredients list if they use an ingredient that contains less than 79% MSG. A list of additives that contain MSG can be found here.

It would be wonderful if you could manage to eliminate all MSG from food. But all fast food restaurants and most dine-in restaurant chains would fight this because they’d have to recreate their menus. They’d have to replace substandard meat, fish and poultry and stale, anemic produce, with fresh, wholesome ingredients. They would no longer be able to quickly provide palatable food at their current low prices.

So instead of eliminating MSG, I would propose a new labeling standard. All restaurant menu items and packaged food sold in NYC that contain MSG must clearly be labeled as having MSG. Plus, the label should include text that describes MSG as “a chemical additive that stimulates appetite and causes obesity, diabetes and, in some individuals, seizures.”

I invite you to research the matter. Once you do, I’m confident that you will take measures to improve the food in NYC as well as the health of NYC residents and visitors.

- Sincerely,

Square Peg Guy


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was listed as one of Martha Stewart’s Food Visionaries, as published in the November, 2012 issue of Whole Living, which was subsumed into Martha Stewart Living in March.

This was the link:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20130823

We still had Chicken of the Woods left over -- it was such a big piece! I cooked some more. This time I let it simmer for 30 minutes. And this time I did not have any of the bloating.

A second piece was growing right next to the first. I brought it into work and two coworkers divided it and each took half.

School is starting for our daughter next week, so soon I'll be getting up again at 5:30!

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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