Monday, March 30, 2009

Biometrics trois

To finish out the series of posts on these numbers, here are the changes that I went through after 25 weeks of diet and exercise:
  • Weight: -61 pounds
  • Blood pressure: -25/-10
  • Chest: -8 inches
  • Waist: -10 inches
  • Hips: -7.25 inches
  • Arms: -3.5 inches
  • Thighs: -9.25 inches
  • Body Mass Index: -7 BMI
  • Body fat: -16.6%
In particular, my blood pressure is actually pretty good now, and while my arms initially shrank down after losing the initial flab, they've started to increase in size, which I'm taking as a good sign.  My lean body mass—the amount that I would weigh with zero body fat—has been re-estimated pretty dramatically since last time: before, it was estimated at 199 pounds; now it's down to 181.  A lot of these numbers become more and more accurate as your body becomes healthier, so it's much more likely that the 181 number is the accurate one.  That would mean that I would have the same amount of body fat as Michael Phelps (8%) at 196 pounds, which is a pretty decent indication that 200 pounds would be a pretty unreasonable goal if I were a goal-setting person.  But, I'm only 17 pounds away from that point, which is only a little over a quarter what I've already lost, which is somewhat encouraging.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pasta

One worthwhile thing that I've learned in the diet portion of my regimen is what a serving of pasta is.  It's not much at all—two ounces, which is just a fistful, and not even a big one.  But as it turns out, I usually feel just fine eating such a small amount of pasta when I do have it.  Two ounces is right around the point where eating the pasta starts to become boring and repetitive, and when the plate starts with only that much on it, I don't actually really feel like eating any more by the time I'm done.  Tonight at dinner I had two ounces of pasta with six ounces of sausage and some surprisingly-acceptable organic sauce with no sugar added, and it turned out really well.  In the past I'd have had a little more than five ounces of pasta (about a third of a box) and perhaps a little less meat, with a sugary Ragu sauce, which would amount to several hundred unnecessary additional calories.  This version with more meat is one of those extraordinarily rare times where I actually like the healthier alternative better.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miak, defined

I started to basically rewrite this post nearly word-for-word, but I remembered in time.  After thinking of milk again today and once again associating it with the movie Ernest Scared Stupid, I decided to look up the word "miak" online to find out what it is.  As it turns out, it may not be anything at all.  The best search result I got for "miak" was the Urban Dictionary page for the word, which claims that it's probably a made-up word.  I feel so lied-to and betrayed.  Not only did that childhood movie give me a lifelong association with the word "milk," but that association was with something that doesn't even exist!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Running

One thing that has annoyed me about my six-month exercise adventure is that after all this time, after all of this strenuous exercise and training, I'm not really any better at running than when I started.  I was sure that after a hardcore fitness regimen I would be in a lot better shape and be able to run much harder and with less trouble.  While I'm certainly in better shape than before, I still have trouble running.  For all my life, I've never been able to run for extended periods of time.  In high school I was running a couple times a week, and while I managed to get to a point where I could jog for half to three-quarters of a mile without having to resort to taking a break and powerwalking (though it was extremely hard to keep going toward the end), that's still not all that good.  My whole chest starts to hurt, I can't breathe anymore, and I get a metallic taste in my mouth.

When I was running in high school, I had a specific path that I'd take that would be one and two-thirds miles, starting and ending at home.  Generally, by the second half of the return trip I would be utterly destroyed, barely running faster than I could just powerwalk.  Sometimes my dad would actually hide up in the trees along the trail, spot me slowing down (or indeed powerwalking, depending on how exhausted I was) and yell at me.  Occasionally there were threats involved, like "no computer tomorrow if you don't speed up," as if I were slacking and weren't actually in horrible physical pain.  I'm not sure if the intention was for the yelled threats to motivate me through self-determination or simply fear, but neither worked; I simply couldn't go any faster.  I knew from experience that once I got to that point where I could no longer breathe properly, pushing any harder would cause me to start to feel that I was going to pass out and collapse.  I wasn't going to do that, so any threats were really rather pointless.

It happens on the treadmill too.  I haven't been running outside or on a track for quite some time now, but I do use the treadmill once a week or so, and it happens there, without fail.  I can set it to do intervals, where the speed changes on a regular basis, and that helps, but if I keep going too hard for very long, I experience the same symptoms and I just can't keep it up.  On other machines that don't directly simulate running, like elliptical machines, bikes, or stair climbers, or even doing other exercises like swimming, I don't ever experience this, no matter how hard I push.

I'm in better shape now than I have been for a very long time, and even when I was in an elementary school and was perhaps in better shape still, I still had the same problems.  I have a doctor appointment on Thursday and I'll probably bring the topic up again then just so I have something to talk about (I've mentioned it before), but I expect it's something that I'll just have to deal with.

Watchman

Saturday at the gym, I was stopped by a man with a European accent as I was entering who had just parked at the entrance loop.  He said that he needed to go check with the receptionist about something, and asked if I could watch his car for a second.  I said sure.  He ran inside, and I looked inside his car and noticed that there were two young girls inside.  So, I stood there, waiting.

Waiting.

The younger of the two girls started crying.  I waved and smiled at her to try to get her to stop, but I think that just made her cry more.  Five or six minutes passed, and the man came running back outside, and asked if his daughters were crying.  I started to say that the younger one wa—

But then he ran back inside.  And then he was gone for another three or four minutes.  Finally he came back out, gave me a quick and not-at-all-heartfelt "okay, thanks" and jumped in the car and drove off.  I felt sort of used.

As I was waiting there for far too long, two things struck me: first of all, he asked me to watch his car, not his kids.  Of course in this case they were really one and the same, but still, it seems that a caring parent would have chosen a word like "children" over "car."  The other thing that occurred to me is that I wasn't really sure why he wanted me to watch his car.  I was a complete stranger; unless I looked more trustworthy than someone scary (!) with dark skin (!), I wasn't really any more or less likely to steal his children while he was away.  The car wasn't exactly going anywhere.  Really the only thing I could come up with is that I'd be there to notice if someone hit the parked car and the kids were injured, but realistically, it's a busy entrance and someone was walking by the car every five or ten seconds, so many people would have noticed if anything had happened anyway, so again, my being there didn't really serve a purpose.  So really, the conclusion that I came to is that I stood there ten minutes to make a stranger look like less of an ass, because he had gotten someone to watch over his car kids.  I was not very happy when I went inside.

Stormtrooper

My current Netflix movie is Milk, and I watched it tonight.  In the credits, one person is credited as "Gay Man."  That's about as helpful as someone being credited as "Stormtrooper" in Star Wars.  The fraction of people in the movie who are not both homosexual and male is about 1%.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Most remarkable

Perhaps most remarkable about the past six months is that I've managed to go that much time without having a single sugary drink, other than a couple sips once or twice.  No Coke, Mountain Dew, Sprite, root beer, or anything else delicious.  In the past I'd have a few a week, but even getting rid of three a week is a good 400 pointless (but tasty) calories worth of carbs saved.  Over 24 weeks that works out to be about three pounds worth of body fat—not a ton, but not completely insignificant either.  I'll add them back into my regular diet in some fashion somewhere down the road, but not just yet.

Really looking forward

You know, I was really looking forward to sleeping in today.  I haven't been getting nearly enough sleep the past week and I was exhausted a litle after 2 last night, and then I just woke up naturally at 9.  I guess I should be happy that I feel mostly rested already, but I really rather would have just slept an extra hour or two...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Completion

Today, for all intents and purposes, I completed the 20/20 Lifestyles weight management program, in that the last of my personal trainer and dietitian appointments are now over.  I've got one more series of blood work, a doctor's follow-up, and two follow-up sessions with my trainer to get me started on my future solo workouts, but all of the recurring stuff is now over, and everything else will be completely over next week.  From now on I'm not going to have anyone watching over my back; I need to manage things myself and keep myself on track.  I don't think it will be a problem.  And, it will be nice to be more flexible and not have so many of my workouts scheduled.

I'm pleased with the progress I've made.  I'm 59 pounds below my starting weight, which is 2.5 pounds per week over a course of 24 weeks.  I'm only losing about one a week right now, but I can accept that just fine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The interim belt

I'm down 58 pounds now, and none of my pants fit anymore—they just fall right off.  I don't want to get new pants yet, though, because I'm still trying to lose more weight.  So, I just bought a new belt, six sizes smaller than my last one, and I'm already on the third notch on the new one.  It's the most craptacular belt I've ever seen.  I didn't expect much from my $10 leather belt, and this one certainly delivered on my low, low expectations.  It looks okay (certainly not good), but it feels vaguely like it's made of cardboard with a veneer of fake leather.  When you move it around it makes a variety of subtle squeaking and cracking sounds.

Once I get down to a stable (and hopefully lower) weight I'll have to go on a shopping spree and pick up new clothes and a nicer belt.  For now, the interim belt will have to do; I don't have any intention to buy a bunch of clothes and then have them be too big again in a couple months.  I think that I probably would wear size 34 pants now.  (That's a guess; I haven't actually tried on any new pants.)  The average American white man's waist size is apparently 38 inches, which is probably more like size 36 or so given how generous sizes usually are.  That seems to mesh with the distribution of sizes I see on clothing racks.  I wore a 40 a couple months ago, so I've at least fallen from above average to below average.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weary

I haven't been posting too much recently. There are a few reasons for this. The big reason for it this past week specifically is that I've been very busy and exhausted since Monday morning; I haven't had time to do much of anything exciting or relaxing. Next week should be fine.

Beyond that, I assume that it's mostly because I've found myself having more actual, non-blogging conversations and email exchanges... all of my good topics are just already used up. I hate saying the same thing over and over, and if I've already told a couple people one of my interesting anecdotes, I feel silly posting the same things here, especially when I know that some of those people also read my blog.

Just so you don't feel left out, here are some random thoughts to tide you over until I come up with something good to say.

Watchmen

I thought that Watchmen was nothing special; I give it three out of five stars. It spent either too much or too little time introducing the characters—enough to bore me, and not enough to make me actually care about any of them by the end, except maybe Rorschach. I'm sure it's much better if you've read the book.

Selling yourself

I've been thinking a bit recently about the whole concept of "selling yourself" to other people, as opposed to simply assuming that other people will eventually realize your special qualities and come to like you for them. At first, the idea seems really distasteful, but I'm coming to think that maybe it's really necessary in an imperfect world where each person only gets a finite amount of time to get to know another person. I'll probably write more about this someday.

Lambdas

[Warning: nerd stuff] I had a legitimate reason to use a lambda expression at work today. I use almost exclusively C++ at work despite how much I abhor the language, and I'm always much happier when I get to use a more expressive and pleasant language for a little bit. C# has a lot of new functionality that I haven't really had a chance to use over the past couple years.

Activity activity = workflow.Activities.Find(child => child is SequenceActivity);

...instead of...

Activity activity = null;
foreach (Activity child in workflow.Activities)
{
    if (child is SequenceActivity)
    {
        activity = child;
        break;
    }
}

In the above case, the "child =>" part defines a short little inline function, and Find is an extension method that can be applied to any IEnumerable<T>, even when the class doesn't actually have a method called Find. It lets you do neat things in code that have the same effect of stuff that would have normally taken up a lot more space on the screen.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

The short version:
Kelli Ali—Rocking Horse: 4/10
The Bird and the Bee—Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future: 9/10
The Bird and the Bee—Please Clap Your Hands: 8/10

One new CD I've been listening to a bit recently is the latest from Kelli Ali, Rocking Horse. It's a wildly different style from her previous two albums, which were part electronic pop and part dark goth-y electronic weirdness. (Before that, she was the lead singer for trip-hop group Sneaker Pimps' first album.) This one is lighthearted and pretty and cute and acoustic, with not a computer in sight. And... I'm not a big fan, but it's not bad. The best tracks on here are Dancing Bears, The Savages, and Heaven's Door. It suffers from the same problem that Enya's last couple CDs do: it's sugary-sweet with not enough variance to keep things interesting.



But I'm absolutely in love with Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future from The Bird and the Bee, which is one of the best CDs I've picked up in a long while, and the previously released EP Please Clap Your Hands is of roughly the same quality level too. It's a very fun album, with catchy beats, interesting tunes, pleasant vocals, and overall it's just very addictive. Many times I've started it from the beginning right after listening all the way through. The best songs on the album are the three singles, Love Letter to Japan (video), My Love, and Polite Dance Song (painfully awkward video), but there are no particularly bad tracks on here, and the four new tracks on Please Clap Your Hands could have easily fit into the main album.

Oh, and the band was great in concert as well.

I've been listening to Cartographer from E.S. Posthumus too, but I'm not quite finished passing judgment. I've been waiting for this album for many years, and it's decent, but it doesn't have the same magic as their first CD. Like Rob Dougan's Furious Angels, it comes with both vocal and instrumental versions of every song, and my initial impressions are that the instrumental versions are considerably better.


Currently listening: E.S. Posthumus—Mosane Pi

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random thoughts on dentistry and special orders

I had a dental checkup yesterday, and I got some interesting feedback: my teeth and gums are in far better shape than they've ever been.  The hygienist and dentist both noticed my weight loss and said that it was probably due to that.  Apparently a healthier body translates to dental health as well, not that my mouth was in bad shape to begin with.

I'm back to losing weight again, down six pounds or so since a couple weeks back when I noticed that I had stalled a bit, a total of 56 pounds lost.  On Tuesday I took a dozen and a half brownies to work, and I regretted not hoarding them to myself almost immediately.  But it's probably better that I didn't, because I think I'd have eaten them all by now.  Brownies are my favorite dessert, and I don't know of any restaurant that does them as well as what you can make from a Ghirardelli box.  Plus, they always serve them warm, and I don't like warm desserts.  Brownies are best ice-cold.

Maybe the next time I order a brownie I should just ask for it to be cold.  It probably comes from a refrigerator and gets warmed up anyway.  I've already started asking for bean sprouts instead of rice when I go to a Thai restaurant.  (Pro: it's crunchy, delicious, and healthy.  Con: it's much harder to eat.)  Soon I can be one of those people who insists that every food item he gets is prepared in some special way.  I could be that guy.


Currently listening: Echoes of War—Legacy of Terror