Friday, January 28, 2005


I've never been on a diet before. I lost weight through regular exercise (rode my bicycle to work and back most days for about a year) several years ago. I've been working out since and have increased muscle mass -- that helps you burn calories when you're just sitting still.

At any rate, Vickster's wanting to lose weight, and was heavier than I've ever been (part of it's the muscle, but part of it definitely isn't). So, this time through, I decided to go on a diet with her.

Now if you know me, I'm a big proponent of personal responsibility and self-control. And I'm here to tell you that after 4 days, it really isn't easy. But... it is doable.

To quote Mark Knopfler, "Sometimes you gotta be an S.O.B., if you want to make a dream a reality".

And in this case, the person you have to be an S.O.B. with is yourself.

So we're doin' South Beach. It's easier to deal with meals, since you're basically changing the kinds of foods you eat instead of eating less food or starving. But for a guy who's used to being able to grab anything anytime -- especially a beer, the first two (or three) heavily carb restricted weeks is, I must say, tough. I like a bit of whiskey in the evening. The bread in the store smells better than ever. The beer looks fresher somehow, foamier. More refreshing. I'd say the hardest part for me has really been not being able to grab a little glass of whiskey in the evening.

The first day, I was a little hungry by late morning, but not bad. The food is good, but it is a pain to fix -- not really relative to other cooking, but frankly we haven't cooked much in the last few years. So any food preparation, chopping, mixing is more work than we're used to. Cuts into guitar playing time, for sure.

I imagine eventually we'll get used to the recipies and do what we've been doing with other foods. Cook a big dinner, and scarf on it for several days. We're already doing some of that. The fake mashed potatoes (mashed cauliflower) is very good, and we made several days worth. We can cook up a bunch of chicken breasts ahead of time to reheat, and stuff like that. It'll get better. And we won't be on this "75 grams of carbohydrate a day, and as little of it sugar as possible" part forever.

So between wanting some of your favorite things, and the pain of fixing stuff you're not used to fixing, and re-learning shopping habits -- it's not easy. Not only do you have to say "No", to the little voice in your head, you have to argue with it, too. And most importantly, you have to win.

So far, I can say I've won. And it's paying off. Drop your blood sugar to minimal levels, and after a couple of days of depleting your liver's glycogen, your body is left with no choice but to burn fat. And you really have to be a butthead with yourself to keep your blood sugar low. One sugary snack or baked potato or pile of chips or crackers, or beer and you're back to square one.

I weighed myself every morning the week before we started, and the scale was consistent. I went up and down in a 4 lb range, but usually near the bottom of that range. On the morning of the third day, I was down 3 lbs from the bottom of the range. Next day, same thing. Today, another 2 for a total of 5. Pretty slick.

After the first two (maybe three) weeks, we'll switch to the more relaxed phase of the diet. Now, since my goal is only 10 or maybe 12 lbs... I expect I'll be there by the end of phase 1. But I'll keep trying to eat the new kinds of food most of the time -- and I will probably be able to go back to moderate beer/whiskey consumption.

So, here's my dieting tips.

Be an S.O.B. with yourself. Set up rules and follow them. Don't try to rationalize why it's ok this time to have this, or try to figure out how you can eat something more, too, or a boatload of something because its an allowed food. Don't try to bend the rules. The spirit of the diet won't drop fat off of you. The letter of it will.

My other one is, exercise with your diet. It'll work better. It's hard to snack when you're exercising, and your snack drive is much lower after exercise.

Depending on your willpower, pick a flexible diet. It's probably good to pick one with a meal plan if your willpower is low. That way it's easier to tell yourslef 'I am eating this, and that's it'. The more willpower you have, the less flexible diet needs to be, IMHO.

The reason we picked South Beach is -- it's a combination of a short, fairly inflexible (but still varied) diet with meal plans in the book -- followed by a more flexible, sustainable diet that's still low in calories, especially sugar and fat calories. That make sense to me.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Twenty Two Years....

Twenty two years ago, for my 19th birthday, my college roommate and I and another young freshman girl friend of ours got together for a mutual birthday party... all of our birthdays are within one week of each other....

I don't know that any pictures survived from that party, but a year later, we looked something like this:

And what's with the ultra-hip "Ben Stiller playing a cheezy 1970's hipster" look I have there, anyway? Trying to pretend I'm some sort of wild man, I'm sure.

And the next year (below), Mark's looking like the handsome and innocent boy next door, Lois, looking quite fetching in an early "Madonna" sort of way -- and apparently Geraldo Rivera showed up in my place. Good thing I got back in time from raising that safe from the Titanic. I notice I was taking the rare opportunity to at least put my arm around a pretty girl. Screw the cake, man. And no wonder. (Go back to the picture above if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

The years went by, and we did this until we graduated. Mark left town for radio gigs in Kansas, and Lois went to St. Louis to have a string of bad relationships as pennance for all the sins all three of us committed in college. Thank you Lois, you're a savior. The tradition, we all thought, ended when we left school.

But, five or so years later, Mark, fed up with the dusty plains of Kansas and its associated blah radio culture, came back to Columbia to start anew, and get a graduate degree in philosophy. We got an apartment together, and the mutual birthday party was reborn.

Radio called him back and he found a wonderful girl in Cami. I started doing computer support at the University and met Vicki -- who lived in the fourplex we had moved in to. And Lois dumped the last of the butt-heads and her sister hooked her up with this great guy we now all know and love in Mike.

We've pretty much done it every year since. Even when Mark and Cami lived in Texas. We've gone through the growing up of my two step kids, and the births of four new kids in the group, two for Mark, two for Lois, and here we are, forty one years old, still doing it. Well, the parties anyway ;-)

Somehow, it seems to take less alchohol now.

We had a great time. Mike, Mark, and I all play some sort of stringed instrument, and Cami just picked up a guitar and is doing well. We sat around, fetched kids, made food, listened to fascinating narratives by very young children about anything from why the Incredible Hulk can beat anyone up (hint: it's because he's the Incredible Hulk) to how to make little butterflies with beads and an iron.

Stayin' up late, talking, playing music... yeahhhhhhh.

Mark made some killer bbq sauce and grilled up some fantastic chicken & portabellas (in the -20 degree howling windchill outside) Lois deluged us with a ton of very tasty cob salad. We brought our snoopy waffle irons and batter & canadian bacon for one breakfast, while Cami treated us to great breakfast burritos the other morning. Mike made balloon animals for the kids, and put on a cool magic show for everyone Sunday afternoon to top it all off. Laughing. Joking, Strumming, Singing. Cool shizzle.

Happy Birthdays to Us.

(thanks to Lois Lane for the pictures!)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Superglue Bandaid

Cleaned out my old office yesterday -- moving to a new cube.

I've been drinking sparkling water at work... this Mendota stuff that comes in cans. The price is right, and so are the calories. Somehow, sparkling water satisfies as a snack -- the carbon dioxide is kind of filling, the fizz makes you slow down so you enjoy it longer, and water's good for you. Win-win-win.

I had an empty drawer. The first day, I needed a place to toss the can. Don't want to throw it away, you know. Recycling's good. Tossed it in the drawer. Deal with it later.

Four weeks later, as you might imagine, I had quite a drawer full.

So I brought a recycle bag in from home, and started crushing them with my heel. One stomp, and blam! Flat. Most of the time.

I caught one at an angle and it didn't flatten satisfacorily. I reached down with my right hand and grabbed it to squeeze it the rest of the way flat.

My thumb caught on the inside of the tab hole, and I sliced my thumb open but good.

I know what you're thinking. "Sue."

Well, that would be the modern American Way, wouldn't it? But if you know me, you know I think people should take responsibility for their own stupid mistakes, and I try to behave as I expect others to. So I put a bandaid on after holding it tight for a few minutes.

Well, the bandaid kept coming off, plus, because of where the cut is, I had trouble typing. And I have my guitar lesson today. And there's this weekend's jamming with Mike and Mark to consider. And the bandaid wasn't keeping the wound closed either.

Then it hit me... superglue. It's durable. It's fast. It sits on top of the skin, and it will hold the wound closed. And it will allow me to do the things I need to be doing.

So last night, after shedding my fifth lousy bandaid, I cleaned the area, put some superglue on a piece of paper, and closed the wound tightly. Then I simply dipped the wound in the dab of superglue and let it dry a few mintues.


All the advantages of a bandaid, and most of the disadvantages are gone. It won't get in the way. It'll actually hold better, allowing for quicker healing. It keeps dirt out. It keeps moisture in. I can type. I can hold a pick, and even strum a guitar. I have to replace or re-enforce it a couple of times a day, but hey.

Just don't let it seep INTO the wound before it dries.

A little post bandaid research suggests that superglues made of octo-cyanocrylate are the least irritating to the skin.

(disclaimer - do this at your own risk. I am doing it at my own risk.)

Prison and Exile

Well, the Bart problem isn't getting any better. I put a rubber runner down over the weekend, and he's just taken to "going" on that. At least it doesn't get in the carpet, but that's not the point. He was supposed to look at it and go "oh, that's not absorbant. I know a better place (hint: how about the litterbox?)"

So last night, I put a mild bleach solution in the carpet cleaner and went over the whole carpet area, and put some fans on it to dry it out. I know. "You'll ruin the carpet." As if the cat pee hasn't already.

It did a pretty good job except for in his favorite spot, which I saturated with enzyme this morning.

Bart spent the night in prision last night. Hey, it's better than a shotgun, which is moving up on my list of solutions. We closed him up in the laundry room where he has access to his food and water and to the litterbox area under the stairs. Got his old basket down from the attic and put a towel in it with a light sprinkling of catnip.

He was meowing loudly this morning. I let him out for about an hour -- watching him carefully. Then I locked him back up. He's going to spend the next several days this way. He's already meowing again. Tough. The alternative is lead to the head, buddy, take your pick.

He might even get exiled to Brian's house for at least a short time period. Even if Brian will take him over the weekend.

He's got to get out of the habit, and I have to eliminate the smells from his "adopted" litter area. I'll also change his litter to something less scented. That might be a part of the problem as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Oh, how I hate rebates. Normally, I'll go out of my way to avoid them, or only buy the product if the price without the rebate is good enough for me to go ahead and buy it anyway.

But I did go into our cell phone service deal largely because of them, even knowing how much I hate them because they were so substantial and it was something we'd decided we wanted to do.

There were $410 worth of rebates.

The first rebates ($200) I carefully filled everything out and collected all of the necessary materials and mailed them in to T-Mobile and got those rebates right away.

There were two more sets of rebates, though, totaling $210 but there was of course, a catch. I had to wait a certain period of time to redeem each of them.

Now here's the real deal behind rebates. You wonder how the companies can afford to do this -- and the answer is, most of the time, they don't have to. People forget to do it right away before the rebate expires, or they lose one of the littany of pieces of documentation they require.

A typical rebate deal may go like this:

Send in a copy of your original order, a copy of the UPC from the box, and a picture of you wearing a monkey's underwear on your head holding a headline from the New York Times dated precicely 34 days after your invoice (was that the order date on the invoice, or the ship date, or the day you signed for it?). Be sure to be holding the product at a 43 degree angle from the horizon in the photograph. Any visible scratch on the item will invalidate the rebate.

If that date should fall on a thursday, please include the main editorial from section D from the previous Sunday's New York Post. This must not be a copy, but an original printing from the press.

Don't forget to tape the body of a bluebottle fly to the lower right corner of the envelope.

Rebate requests postmarked later than 35 days from the invoice date will be considered void.

This is designed to keep anybody from actually getting the rebate.

I missed the 120 day deadline for $100 worth of rebates, but the other $110 -- there's still time. However, in all my zeal to get everything together and ready to go when the specified dates came, I neglected to include a copy of the UPC from the box -- never mind that I have the order invoice, the number, my 4th month's T-Mobile bill (as requested), which I'm sure all match records they have in their computer anyway.

I HOPE I scanned the UPC into the computer, because I was required to send the UPC's in for the first rebate. No chance of making a copy of those. However, my scanner is a printer/scanner/copier, and I MAY have just used the copy function. I'll have to look tonight.

Otherwise, I've screwed myself out of $210 worth of rebates.

Which was their plan all along.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Another light snow

Just like last week, we had some heavy rains followed by a cold blast, and we woke up this morning to sleet and snow. The snowflakes got big, and it was hard to stop watching the cardinals out the window in the cedar tree in the snow.

I filled up their feeders.

Been scanning in family photos like a madman. I've had them far too long -- some of them got damaged in the great water leak incident of 1998. Fortunately, we saved most of them.

So that we can save goofy-a** pictures like this one of me from Christmas of 1969...

I was going over pictures from Kindergarten and first grade and remembering all the girls I thought were pretty -- yeah, I've always liked 'em. Never knew what that whole cooties thing was all about. Whaddaya MEAN you don't want 'em to touch you? I always liked being around 'em. Especially Diana Nichols... I had it bad for her in first grade. And then there was our pretty family friend Carol Schulte, and Donna Pardo(t?) -- who was so cute it hurt to look at her.


Guess you had to be there.

Got the birthday bash coming up in KC a couple of weekends from now. Lookin' forward to that.

New guy showed up at this week's jam session -- a guy named "Bill" -- he was good. Left Columbia like 30 years ago and has been all around the country, most recently in Boston where he played bluegrass with Ray "Tappet" from Car Talk in a local jamming group they started. I picked up a couple of things by just watching him play.

Here's an odd one -- Bart has been pooping at the bottom of the stairs -- fortunately, it doesn't get IN the carpet -- it's solid and remains on top. Still, not excactly the kind of thing you like to come across. He likes to do it where the wall meets the floor. I put a strip of toilet paper down by the wall night before last to check to see if he was also going "number 1" there, too -- he didn't, but the next morning there was a little pile, but not on the toilet paper, and not where he normally goes when he does it. It was off the end of the toilet paper -- so, he doesn't want to go on the toilet paper. Cool. I went along the rest of the wall with it. Need to break him of that habit.

Lesson today. Still slowly but steadily improving, and I'm trying to go back to playing songs I like on top of that -- just printed out Jonathan Edwards' "Sunshine" -- always one of my favorites -- and it turns out to be quite easy to play.

Well, I'm off....

Monday, January 10, 2005

The last sputterings of the season

Went to Mom and Dad's for our Christmas get-together with them and the brothers. Had a nice turkey dinner and we had a pretty good time.

Mom had Jeff and Joel bring salt in to kick up the water softener that they hadn't been using, and we had a little trouble with that-- the salt got under the tube that protects the float valve from getting jammed by salt -- and -- well, it all had to be cleaned out again. But once that was done everything was ok.

Carrie, a friend of Mom and Dad's, was out. She seems like a nice girl -- probably in her mid 20's, real cute. They say they've "adopted" her... you know dad always wanted a girl.

I brought them a Doris Day Christmas album and some Classical and Big Band Christmas stuff, as well as the Stanley Black "SPAIN" CD. We also brought out a coat tree -- they'd wanted an oak one with oak pegs, not metal. We found a maple one here in town very similarly colored -- for like $30. The places they'd been looking wanted $160. They are quite happy with it.

Mom and dad got us in the drawing -- and we got a bunch of hot spices from Penzey's. Like 8 or 10 bottles of various stuff from crushed red pepper to chipotle.

Had a bit of trouble hooking up my old (better) scanner last night after I cleaned it. One thing lead to another and at one point I had to reboot -- then there was some sort of spyware thing that installed itself on my box -- "Freshbar" -- and I searched all over for how to remove it. Every solution involved a freeware product called "HijackThis" -- which I eventually got and got rid of it.

The clever little b*stard even swapped the names of itself and the google toolbar in the toolbar control list so that if you went to disable Freshbar you actually ended up disabling the Google toolbar instead (however, once you figure this out you can disable Freshbar by disabling the entry that says "Google". That wasn't enough for me, though, I wanted it GONE.)

And I finally did get rid of it. It wasn't for beginners.

And I got the scanner working, though I can't use my 10 foot USB cable for it because it allows too much noise.

So -- I'll be using the shorter cable. I have a lot of old photos from Mom and Dad's that I need to scan for posterity. I opened the scanner and cleaned it out to get rid of that vertical line that was the reason I'd stopped using it. I have an HP Printer/Scanner/Copier, but the scanner (even though it's 2400 DPI) is a very crappy 2400 dpi. My old one is 1200, but the quality is much better. Cleaned the glass, ran another test scan -- I think we're good to go.

Bart took to peeing again at the bottom of the stairs. Oddly, if he were some wild animal that came into the house I'd have no problem just killing him -- but we've had him for 10 years so I feel obligated to find ways to deter him. We can't use the CatScram 9000 there because he has to go through that area to get to his litterbox and food. I'm going to try to build a CatScram 200 -- with a motion sensor and an old hair dryer fan.

He hates hair dryers, and cats won't linger in a place they're being blown on. I hope.

Well, hi-ho. Off to work.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Holiday Frenzy

The Holiday Frenzy is subsiding. We had a lovely Christmas with Mom & the boys, the traditional oyster stew & cinnamon pears Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day -- the prime rib and red cabage.

Went to see Mark's play on the 23rd -- it was very funny.

Kevin got a digital camera. Brian got stuff for his house, mostly, and some DVDs. Vicki got some jewelry, and a pretty fleece pullover she wanted, along with a pair of Jack Vetraino paintings (prints, actually -- of course).

Me, I got an electric guitar. It was a pawn shop buy, and I knew about it -- it was a fixer-upper, and fix it up I did. It's a Bruno Conqueror -- probably made in the late 1960's (1967?) as a knockoff of a 1950's Gibson 335 ES hollow body electric. It's a nice guitar. I replaced the two volume controls, and added the missing tone controls -- and got some new knobs, and wired the thing correctly with this wiring kit.

Tom & Betty & Joel and Dawn came in for Bro-fest. It was 67 degrees here New Year's Eve, and it is traditional to have a fire going in the fireplace for Bro-Fest. Well, it was too darned hot... so I drilled seven 1.5" holes in some logs, put them on the fire grate, and put little tea lite candles in each hole -- two logs. That was our fire.

A few days ago, I found a Lord of the Rings replica ceramic pipe -- pretty cool. So I had a New Years pipe with the smokers on the balcony.

2005 successfully got here, as you can see.

I've always been fascinated by Tsunamis -- so the dreadful catastrophy that scourged the rim of the Indian Ocean got my mind going again on them. It's just so difficult to imagine the scale of the forces involved. But I found this on the BBC website and it was pretty good.

Right then. Well -- Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!