What Greasy Eggs Can Teach You

Every day now, I make myself an omelet. Couple of free range eggs, with some ham, usually, and some cheese. Cooked in butter, because fat is good for you, despite what THEY say. Get the surface of the eggs a little golden brown in spots and it’s totally yummy. Today, being Mom’s Day, while I was making that omelet, I was also remembering how I learned to cook, thanks to my mom.

When I was a young pain in the ass, my mom used to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast a lot on weekends.  She would always cook up the bacon first, and it would leave this thick sludge of bacon grease in the pan. By that time, the delicious scent of the bacon would have carried me out of bed to the kitchen table, and I’d watch my mom crack a few eggs and toss them into the grease and scramble them for me.

I hated those brown, greasy, sort of lumpy eggs. One morning, I told my mom that as she set them in front of me.

“Can’t you clean the pan first? I hate eggs made in this gross bacon grease. I’m not going to eat these! They’re horrible. I mean look at them.”

I probably stuck my tongue out at them.

My mom said, “Fine! I’m not making you eggs anymore. I like my eggs this way. If you want them made differently, you can learn to do it yourself. You’re old enough.”

She probably should have added that I was being a stupid little snot. I don’t remember her saying that, but she should have. Because I was.

And that was the moment that started me off on one of my favorite hobbies – cooking.

I got my mom (and sometimes my dad) to show me how to make different things. I got to enjoy the light, fluffy eggs I really liked. I started making other things – cookies, hot dogs, burgers, tuna salad – exactly the way I liked it. I became a culinary artist, digging into the pantry and mixing up things with the maniacal verve of an evil scientist. And oddly enough, my mom liked my creations enough that eventually, I started helping with the cooking.

I’d find notes waiting for me when I got home from school.

“Keith, there’s some ground beef I put out to thaw. Can you mix it up the way you did the other night and start dinner around 4 or so? Thanks, Mom.”

I had developed a useful talent and a hobby I loved, thanks to my mom not putting up with me being a snot. So on this Mom’s Day, appreciate the lessons you learned because she wouldn’t put up with you. Sometimes you don’t appreciate the value of a good swift kick towards the edge of the nest.

Weighty Updates

I’ve been thinking about writing an update about my success in reducing my weight by reducing the carbs in my diet, an idea I got from reading Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. Today seemed like a good day since there are some other updates I can point to as well.

I’m down 20 pounds since early February, when I started the program. I feel really positive about eating the way I do, except for the fact that most of my clothes are now falling off me, which means I had to spend some money on new pants and belts. I’m curious about my cholesterol numbers, but my physical isn’t for a few months thanks to how busy doctors are. Hopefully the numbers will be good. I certainly feel like the numbers will be better than they have been in the past.

On cholesterol, it’s interesting that Mr. Taubes published his cholesterol numbers on his blog today, as well as a description of what he eats. Take a peek and be surprised.

Taubes also has an article on sugars in the N.Y. Times that’s an interesting read.

For myself, I was so fascinated by the “Why We’re Fat” book, that I embarked on reading his Good Calories, Bad Calories book, which is 500 pages of history and science and is just as fascinating. I recommend it if you’re interested deeply in science and science history, since you get a detailed account of how digestion works, as well as a fascinating look at the politics of scientific studies. Seriously, science is not that far from religion in terms of how closed-minded it can make people.

And by the way, turkey pepperoni just sucks.

 

NPR Disputes WebMD on Heart Attacks

After my last post raving about the WebMD article telling me sex and exercise (isn’t one a sub-set of the other, or am I doing it wrong?) would boost my risk of heart attacks slightly, it’s rather interesting to see the way NPR spun the same study.

Infrequent Sex, Exercise May Raise Risk Of Heart Attack

Crank up the Enigma and the Barry White…it’s time to decrease my risk of heart attacks….

WebMD Increases My Risk of a Heart Attack…But Only Slightly

I used to like WebMD. Back in the heady, wild west days of the Internet, I felt like they were a reliable source for health information. So when my insurance plan came bundled with all of these WebMD resources, I thought, “Kewl! I’ll get some extra information resources from a reliable source about health.” HA!

They seem to have lost the journalistic standards that made them one of my favorite sites back in my naive days of starry-eyed Internet newb-ness.

Take for example, one of today’s headlines:

“Exercise, Sex Can Boost Heart Attack Risk”

OMG! I must become a monk, take my vow of celibacy, and sit and meditate in a relaxed position all day!

But wait, read on into the first sentence and you discover that the risk is “small and transient”. Then why report on it?! I guess page views are more important than alarming or confusing people about their health.

More and more I find headlines like that in my RSS feed from WebMD, and more and more when I click on them I find that kind of “World ending! Tune in at 11.” style of journalism. I guess health isn’t science anymore. It’s just a source of pumping out a lot of stories.

It’s enough to give me a heart attack.

 

Are We What We Eat?

So, I went on a diet recently. I don’t do that lightly. In fact, I don’t think I ever admitted to doing it before. But, as the Barenaked Ladies song goes, “I’m gaining pounds / at the precipice of too late…”. I’ve felt like I needed to do something for a while, and I’d done some reading about the science around healthy eating, and never really come away with anything that felt like reality to me.

Oddly enough, I got a nudge in the right direction by Paul Thurrott on his “Windows Weekly" podcast over on the TWiT network. He happened to mention that one of his new year’s resolutions was to lose weight. And he said it with the confidence of a practiced gunslinger facing down a kid with a spud gun.

What was his secret? He mentioned a book called “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” by a science writer named Gary Taubes. Since I’m addicted to the Kindle and eBooks now, and it was available there, I picked it up.

 

The book absolutely fascinated me for Taubes’ ability to tell the health establishment to go flip itself like a pancake. The food pyramid is wrong. The calories in/calories out method of maintaining weight is wrong. A lot of the advice we’re given about how to control cholesterol is wrong. I left the book trying to decide if it could be correct.

Thing is, this is actually the second book Taubes has written on the subject. His initial 500+ page treatise, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” was a book aimed squarely at the establishment, to challenge them with detailed science. “Why We Get Fat…” is the populist version. So it seemed like the science was really there, and it rang true to me, despite there being a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about what Taubes’ point is. (It mostly has to do with carbs and insulin.)

Not having much to lose (or maybe too much to lose) I decided to give the science a try.

One of the appendixes in the book is the handout Duke University gives people that are embarking on their low starch / low sugar diet. So I’m following that plan now. In the first two weeks, I dropped 10 pounds (at least half of which is probably related to water retention). I’m just into the third week, so I’ll try to occasionally update about how things are going.

Definitely take a look at the book if you’re interested in the science of nutrition. It’s an interesting, challenging read. And let me know if you have any favorite ways of losing weight.

Thoughts on Microsoft Kinect

My house has become a very sweaty place.

No, my air conditioning is fine, I just picked up a Microsoft Kinect, their new motion control device for the Xbox 360.

 

The first thing I did after I set it up was play the TRON: Legacy trailer…with my voice.

“Xbox…Play Trailer!”

BAM! High-def Tron goodness.

That was a “future soon” moment for me. I hate voice control. I don’t really like babbling commands at my phone. I can’t imagine dictating something I’m writing.  I make great use of Dial-A-Human. Yet, talking to the entertainment center in my living room felt very natural. After a week or so of playing with the Kinect voice control, I’m wishing it could do more things, especially since using your arms and hands to control the menus with gestures is still a bit fidgety.

Rumor has it Microsoft wants to bring this kind of gesture and voice control to computers. I’m hopeful about this because I hate touch screens. After five minutes of fiddling with my phone at lunch, my screen is as smudged as a Macy’s window during the holidays. Pizza grease and touch controls just don’t work well together. Kinect makes me want to wave my device in the air, like a Harry Potter wand, to control it. “Wingardium dial-my-mom-um!”)

Games is where Kinect really shines. Kinect Adventures, the game that comes with it, easily equals the fun of Wii Sports. You jump around, wave your arms, have fun, and get winded and yes, extremely sweaty. The fact that Kinect Adventures takes pictures of you being a silly ass that you can then post to the Internet is a bonus.

The virtual puppet rewards are really fun, too.

Shark Award from Microsoft Kinect Adventures

 

Since my wife uses the Wii to work out, I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Being able to follow along with a workout without having to hold a WiiMote, nunchuck, and some crazy fitness rubber band is a big bonus. Kinect gives you the ability to actually work out while holding weights.

It comes with an excellent  variety of workouts and some fun fitness games, though their confusing menu system makes it a bit difficult to find different things. While I like working out with it, I’m finding it’s kicking my butt and I can’t really create the custom wimp-ass workout I want to. How about I tell you how many lunges I want to do, Fitness Evolved?

Definitely some nice innovation here from the Microsoft folks. Looking forward to checking out some of the other games, as well as seeing what other neat hacks people come up with for the device.

The Writer’s Life, Chapter 1

Back in August I went part-time at my bread-winning job to actually pursue what I wanted to do for a career, which was to be a writer. Most people dream of quitting their jobs, dragging the old Smith-Corona out of the closet and pounding away, fueled by coffee and gin as they produce the great American novel. Me, I just wanted a single day to myself, where my brain wasn’t already polluted by the myriad tiny but complicated projects that make up my day job.

Thankfully, I have a wife who cares about my soul. She’s been telling me for years to find the thing that would make me happy. (Besides her, of course.) She actually quit a job many years ago for a month or so, and tried the writing life. She was good at it. But she longed for human contact and security and a little more cash to pay the bills, so she went back to her old job, and ended up being very happy for a while. She understood where I was coming from, and when I finally decided to be a tiny bit brave and take back some time for myself, she was at the top of my small pyramid of cheerleaders.

One of the things they tell you, when you want to write a novel, lose weight, or set any similar goal where failure would be mortally embarrassing, is to tell a bunch of people. I’m a chicken. I didn’t start out aiming to tell people, but they found out anyway. As I talked through the details of rearranging my work schedule, people kept asking me what I was going to do with my extra time. I’d tick off a small list of things like, improve my web development skills, learn a bit more about programming, try some dumb creative projects with glitter and ice cream sticks…maybe even write a book.

For some reason, the book was the idea that always stuck with people. It got around. Suddenly, people were coming up to me in the cafeteria going, “I think it’s so great that you’re pursuing your dream! How’s the book going?”

I really need to find a way to marshal that network for marketing when I’m done with my book.

The funny thing is, writing wasn’t really top of the list.  I thought maybe I’d pursue some of the practical things first. I thought I’d work on the skills that would help me buy more bread in the end. But the world seemed to be speaking to me, and I decided to listen. I sat down with my writing box, with all the old half-formed story ideas and fragments I had on my hard drive and on backup CDs and thought about what I wanted to write. I picked one, maybe not the easiest idea to pursue, but one that I felt I could do, and do pretty well, and that I thought would have some resonance in my soul.

And I started writing it.

Boo To You and Kungaloosh!

My wife and I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party yesterday, and had a fantastic time. We dressed up as Hathaway Browne and Natasha nee Samantha Sterling of Disney’s dearly departed Adventurers Club, may it rest in peace. Little did we know the bonus our costumes would net us in our candy safari.

People kept trying to guess who we were.

“Amelia Earhart?” I heard multiple times.

Grasping from my pilot costume, Natasha got, “…and another…pilot…?” numerous times.

But 10 lucky people during the night did, in fact, give us high fives or club salutes (“Kungaloosh!”).

The best one was at the candy station in Frontierland. We walked up to one of the hosts handing out the candy, bags out, and he said, “Let’s see…what are you? Don’t tell me…let me guess…”

Thinking he looked young enough to be a new Cast Member or a College Program intern, I pointed to the Official Club Pin on my tie.

“What’s that?”

His eyes got bigger than Mickey’s in a cheese shop.

“Oh my god! BEST COSTUMES OF THE NIGHT!”

We shared club salutes.

“Oh…oh, wait a second.” He turned from dumping the handful of candy he had into my bag to the candy barrel. “I need to take care of my fellow adventurers!”

He then took a giant armful of candy and dumped it into my bag.

I held the bag up to gaze into the path to diabetes he had dumped in.

“Wait, wait, I’m not done with you yet!” He turned the path into the highway to diabetes.

“Oh, oh…Samantha! Fantastic!” He followed up with a similar highway for my wife.

“I so mourn the loss of that club,” he said. We commiserated. Everyone mourns the loss of one of the most unique and fun places on Disney property.

But the spirit lives on. As one of the performers said, “You guys have to take care of each other. When the club is gone, and we’re gone, all you’re going to have is each other, your fellow adventurers.”

So the spirit of Kungaloosh lives on in all the high-fives, shouts of “Hathaway!” and “Samantha Sterling!” and “Kungaloosh!”, and two gigantic bags of candy we got that night.

My Wife and My Top 5 Guesses for What’s Going in Now at the Local Strip Mall

My wife and my top 5 guesses for what’s going on the new pad in the strip mall:

  1. Another bank
  2. Yet another Walgreens (because there’s a CVS across the street)
  3. Yet another CVS (because there’s a Walgreens across the other street…seriously, it’s like tic-tac-toe)
  4. Yet another Publix supermarket with yet another Subway (because the closest place with both of those is a mile away, although our next door neighbors are now a Subway…)
  5. Yet another liquor store, so we can all drown our sorrows about yet another strip mall

Spider-Man in Niagra Falls

Going through some old email archives this weekend and came across an email I had written sending out an article I’d stumbled across about Marvel’s Adventure City at Niagra Falls. Who knew?

A little googling came up with a video of the Spider-man ride from there, which is like some bizarro world craptacular version of the absolutely brilliant ride here at Universal Islands of Adventure. Video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdSM5LZz54c