Monday, March 31, 2008

Lose Weight by Blogging!

How's that for the title of a new diet book? Seriously though, I've decided once again to try and lose some weight. I'd like to take off 20 pounds by my birthday. That's about 2 pounds a week. My long term goal is a lot more, but let's just try to make this first milestone. I actually began a couple of weeks ago, but my efforts have been half-hearted. Many times in the past, I've made the decision to change my eating habits (we don't call them diets anymore), with varying degrees of success. Usually it is a conscious decision I make by myself, without telling anyone, and typically it lasts for a few weeks until I fall off the wagon, and quietly resume my former habits.

I've heard lots of conflicting weight loss tips and advice, and tried many of them. Count calories, don't eat fattening foods. Eat anything you want, but only eat 18 points a day. Watch your fat calories. Watch your carbs. Drink lots of water. Eat small amounts all day long. Don't weigh yourself. Weigh yourself every day. I haven't tried any of the "eat only our food" plans like Jenny Craig, or Seattle Sutton, but I know people who have had success with those plans. But truthfully, all the dieting advice in the world really boils down to 4 words. "Eat Less. Move More". I'll deal with the 'move more' part later. That's a whole 'nother initiative in my case. For now, I'd like to delude myself by thinking I can get by with just 'eat less'.

I have tried and had success with the Weight Watchers plan. I don't think it was due so much to their "points" system as it was to their "accountability" system. To truly participate in the program you needed to write down everything you ate. That meant everything. If I popped 4 jelly beans or a couple of pretzels into my mouth on the way through the kitchen, those weren't invisible calories. I had to write them down and account for them. The other part of the accountability was the weekly meeting and weigh in. You didn't necessarily have to announce your weight to the group, but you did have to weigh in and have your weight recorded by a WW rep.

So this time, instead of joining a group like WeightWatchers, I'm planning to use this blog for the accountability factor. Each week, probably on Mondays, I'll post my current weight and progress (positive or negative) towards my goal. I wont make you read my daily food consumption, but I do plan to track it and may post daily calorie totals. I need to stay around 1800 a day. I'll also comment on how I face some of the challenges I forsee. And, so you can monitor the changes in my physical profile, each month I'll put up a picture of myself in a Speedo.

Ok, maybe not.

Doctor Oz say's don't measure your weight, measure your waist. I have 2 waists. One where I buckle my belt, and another where I button my shirt. I'll report both of them.

DateWeightGain/LossUpper WaistLower Waist

Friday, March 28, 2008

Joke Friday

Keeping with yesterday's Scottish theme...

An American was hopelessly lost in the Highlands and wandered about for nearly a week. Finally, on the seventh day he met a kilted inhabitant. "Thank heaven I've met someone," he cried. "I've been lost for the last week." "Is there a reward out for you?" asked the Scotsman. "No," said the American. "Then I'm afraid you're still lost," was the reply.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Flowers of Edinburgh

Edinburgh (pronounced edinburra) is a very old city, recognized as the capital of Scotland since the 12th century. It is currently Scotland's second largest city, the home of Edinburgh Castle, and the University of Edinburgh. "Flowers of Edinburgh" is a traditional Scottish country dance tune, in the form of an 8x32 reel.

Back in the early 1990's, before there was any such thing as "Guitar Hero", I had my own playlist of guitar heroes, that I used to listen to during my work commute. This was before CD players were common in automobiles, so it consisted of a collection of cassette tapes by guitar virtuosos such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen to name a few. In the summer, I used to play them at top volume, with the windows rolled down on my van. I never had to announce: "Honey, I'm home!" when I came in the door at night, because I could be heard coming a block and a half away. My collection included more than just rock guitar, however. I also had tapes by various other guitarists, like Larry Carlton, Billy Joe Walker Jr., and Albert Lee.

It was on Albert Lee's Gagged But Not Bound that I was first introduced to "Flowers of Edinburgh" played on an acoustic guitar. I listened to it a lot, and always thought I'd like to learn to play it sometime. But I never got around to it, and eventually forgot about it.

Until recently. I was searching for info about flatpicking, and came across the YouTube channel of a guitar player known as Fret Killer. He had a video of himself playing "Flowers of Edinburgh" that inspired me again to try and teach myself to play it. So, after a few weeks of practicing, I present you with a video of me & me playing the "Flowers of Edinburgh".

Notes on the video:
I recorded myself playing the melody, and then without moving the camera, recorded myself playing the accompaniment. The audio was recorded on two separate tracks on my multitrack recorder, and then mixed down to a single track that was later merged using Pinnacle Studio with clips from both videos, using dissolve transitions between the clips. It took a really long time to do!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Joke Friday

Is it proper to joke on Good Friday? Why is it called 'Good' Friday anyway? I mean, I get the part that it's 'good' because it was the day we were all finally redeemed of our sins. But if that's the case, then isn't 'Good' Friday kind of an understatement? Shouldn't it be something more like 'Excellent' Friday, or 'Wonderful' Friday? Isn't 'Good' Friday kind of like saying 'adequate' Friday? OK, enough silliness. On with the joke.

A Dumb Blonde?

A lawyer and a blonde woman are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer asks if she would like to play a fun game. The blonde is tired and just wants to take a nap, so she politely declines and tries to catch a few winks.

The lawyer persists, saying that the game is a lot of fun. "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me only $5; you ask me one, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500." This catches the blonde's attention and, to keep him quiet, she agrees to play the game.

The lawyer asks the first question: "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches in to her purse, pulls out a $5 bill, and hands it to the lawyer.

Now, it's the blonde's turn. She asks the lawyer, "What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?"

The lawyer uses his laptop, searches all references. He uses the Airphone; he searches the Net and even the Library of Congress. He sends e-mails to all the smart friends he knows, all to no avail. After a good hour of searching he finally gives up. He wakes up the blonde and hands her $500. The blonde takes the $500 and goes back to sleep.

The lawyer is going nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes her up and asks, "Well, so what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?" The blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5 and goes back to sleep.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vernal Equinox

Happy Spring!

Today is the official first day of spring, the vernal equinox, the day of equal day and night, and The Day When You Can Stand An Egg On End.

I know, I know, some say this is just a myth, but don't look to me for an egg standing "MythBusters" show. I like believing it's true.

So, I'm going to stand an egg on end today. How about you?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hallelujah Revisited

According to a Boston Globe article in the 3/18/2008 Chicago Tribune, the song "Hallelujah" has become an unexpected hit following its performance by competitor Jason Castro on American Idol. The 1994 Jeff Buckley version of this song hit No. 1 on the Itunes download charts last week, and the song's composer, Leonard Cohen, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Quoting the article, "Singer Brandi Carlile calls 'Hallelujah' the 'best song ever written'".

In my previous post about "Hallelujah", I mentioned that it has been used as background music in a number of TV shows. I was surprised to learn that rights to use a song like "Hallelujah" can cost as much as $40,000.

I've decided to make my YouTube debut with this song, so here goes:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Joke Friday

Today is Albert Einstein's (1879 - 1955) birthday anniversary, so let's have an Einstein joke.

Albert Einstein arrives at a party and introduces himself to the first person he sees and asks, "What is your IQ?" to which the man answers "241." "That is wonderful!" says Albert. "We will talk about the Grand Unification Theory and the mysteries of the universe. We will have much to discuss!"
Next Albert introduces himself to a woman and asks, "What is your IQ?" to which the lady answers, "144." "That is great!" says Albert. "We can discuss politics and current affairs. We will have much to discuss!"
Albert then goes to another person and asks, "What is your IQ?" to which the man answers, "80." Albert ponders this for a moment, and then says, "GO BEARS!"

Here's a funny flash video cartoon of Einstein telling a joke: Einstein Joke
If you like that one, there's more: Jokes With Einstein

Thursday, March 13, 2008

π Day

Tomorrow is March 14, (3/14) also known as Pi day. I'm posting this today so you'll have time to plan all your Pi Day activities, and to scoop any other bloggers that might have been thinking of a Pi Day post for Friday. :) The value 3.14 is often used as a coarse approximation of pi. Another common approximation is 22/7 but the 22nd of July hasn't really caught on as a pi day.

You'll remember from school that the Greek symbol π or "pi" is used to represent the the irrational number that results from dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. It is one of the most important mathematical constants, and is included in many scientific and engineering equations. You may not need to use pi very often in your daily life, but an amazing number of things you use daily would not exist without an understanding of pi.

How many digits of pi do you have memorized? Be careful with your answer. I've heard that the number of pi decimal places you can recite is a measure of nerdiness. I'll admit to knowing 5 decimal places, which is probably about 3 more than average.

Here's an interesting attempt to create music from pi. The digits 1234567890 were mapped to the notes CDEFGABCDE, and played on a piano. Chords were chosen to complement the melody.

The Pi(ano) Song:

And one Pi joke: What do you get when you divide the circumference of a bowl of ice cream by its diameter? Pi à la mode.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Joke Friday

I'm not very good at telling jokes, but I can find them and put one here once a week. Here's some nerd humor. Enjoy!

A hydrogen atom and a helium atom go into a bar. The hydrogen atom is clearly upset, and moans, "I've lost my electron, my only electron." The concerned helium atom says, "Just calm down now... are you sure you've lost it?" The hydrogen atom replies, "Yes, I'm positive!"

Later, a neutron walks into the same bar. He sits down and says to the bar tender, "Hey, how much for a beer?" The bar tender looks at him and says, "For you, no charge!"

Monday, March 3, 2008

Van falls into sinkhole in S.W. Side

Seems like a strange coincidence that the day after I make the claim that there are potholes large enough to swallow a car, that it actually happens.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Winter Rant

Is there anyone who hasn't had enough of this winter yet? My niece Ashley recently wrote an essay contrasting Early Winter with its evil twin, Late Winter. She compared the delight and magic of the first snowfalls that arrive in early winter with the disdain and malaise of yet another late February snowfall. I'm pretty sure were all in the disdain phase right now.

A running joke in my family is that I like to consider Ground Hog day the unofficial first day of spring. My claim is that it never snows very much after Feb 2nd, and any snow that does fall melts right away. Many years this claim has held true. This year, I've had those words shoved down my throat with a snow shovel. I don't know exactly how many snowfalls we've endured this year, but I really can't take another.

With each new snowfall, out come the plows, and then out come the salt trucks. One of the effects of this repeated cycle of snowing/salting is the worsening condition of the roads. I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the potholes that are everywhere. 95th st, near Harlem is like driving on the cratered surface of the moon. Cicero avenue is strictly "drive at your own risk". I've seen potholes there that could swallow up your entire car like the house in Poltergeist. Even the local sidestreets are crumbling. Is there any silver lining to this pothole nightmare? I don't know about silver, but I'm guessing that there's plenty of green lining the pockets of Firestone, Goodyear, and Uniroyal for all the replacement tires, and front end re-alignments they're selling.

Here's a cheery thought. Imagine the lane closures and traffic delays we'll be facing this summer when all the street repairs begin. :(

Please let this winter be over. I promise never to make any false claims about the first day of spring again.