Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On the Shaving of Legs :

So, I do, and though I'm not going to detail the reasons at the moment, save to say that I am a cyclist, I have a few remarks to make about it:

A few points that women who shave their legs may not have considered about men who do: First of all, more testosterone tends to lead to thicker, coarser body hair. Especially if you are a blonde or redheaded woman, you have it easy in comparison. It's pretty easy to cut yourself in the process. Also, there's the question of body fat. Men have sometimes half the body fat a woman would have at similar fitness levels, and cyclists tend to have half that of most men. This means veins and capillaries are much closer to the surface, leading to annoying bumps that make it easy to cut, and more bleeding if you do.

As Frankie Andreu said, "The main thing is to not cut yourself and bleed to death in the tub."

By all means, do this sitting or lying down, rather than standing up in the shower, or gravity will make you regret it.

For more amusing information, see The Funk's Undeniable Bible of Shaving.

Also, there's an ongoing debate among men who shave their legs (and use modern safety razors) about whether a standard men's razor or a women's one should be used. I swallow my pride and use a women's razor from a popular manufacturer, despite the purple colour. It's easier to grip and slightly more forgiving for that purpose. I still use a men's disposable razor for my face. There may be those few crazies who use a straight razor on either part, but I happen to like my tendons and arteries.
A brief remark on punctuation to myself: Seriously, you can think of better ways to imply pauses than the excessive strings of dashes and semicolons which you're so partial to. When you have to stop yourself from including three semicolons in one sentence, you must realize enough is enough.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The stuff people make up.

Dr. Paul Brians of WSU has put together this excellent website regarding common errors in the English language. Take a look at it!

In a discussion about the proper use of sentence fragments, (some exist) he creates this amusing little number inspired by the Illiad

Menelaus: Aha! Helen!
Helen (startled): Beloved husband!
Menelaus: Slut!
Paris (entering, seeing Menelaus): Oops. 'Bye.
Menelaus: Not so fast!
(stabs Paris). Paris: Arrggh!

Dr. Brians should have a little sit-down with Strong Sad.
Sacajawho?

Previous post, I mentioned the Sacajawea-obversed one-dollar US coin, which apparently the mint refers to as a "golden dollar." It's copper, mostly, plus a little zinc and nickel, with traces of manganese.

(The cheap bastards pulled basically all of the copper out of the illustrious penny in 1983, by the way. They're now made almost entirely of zinc.)

But who was this lady?

Meriweather Lewis and company used her serices as a translator, pretty much. Want to see how this telephone game worked?

Sacajawea's native nation and language was shoshone, but spoke a bit of Hidatsa

Her "husband," Charbonneau was a French Canadian, spoke French, but also knew decent Hidatsa, among whom he lived.

One of the privates in L&C's expedition, Drouillard, knew decent French and reasonable English, the native language of Captain Lewis.

So, to sum up, the translation would go shoshone-hidatsa-french-english.

Try going to babelfish and translating at four levels. It gets ugly.

And Sacajawea? She was fifteen.

She had her child, pictured with her on the coin, during the expedition.

She became the "wife" of Charbonneau because of a bet. She was captured from her home by Hidatsa warriors, and Charbonneau won her, along with some other Hidatsa teenage girls from them. What a prize!

She got a nose job for the coin, by all accounts.
Gold Coins, and, The Battery Sellers
---

There's always someone on the street trying to sell you something.

Right now, there's a man at the counter of the coffee shop, scruffy beanie and untrimmed beard, trying to ask how much change he can get for a solid gold coin.



Sacajawea coins aren't solid gold, of course. They're not even gold-plated, gold-coloured. They're just coins, and they're brass-plated. Shiny.

When informed she'll give him exactly one dollar for it, the old man looks offended, refusing to part with his treasure for "less than seventy or eighty bucks."

The shy girl at the counter shakes her head when he's gone. "That's me in a few years," she says.

And then, there is the batteries.

They tell you in elementary school to beware of drug pushers.

If there's one item that strangers on the street actually try to sell you more than anything, it's batteries.



The latino guy approached me conversationally today. "Hey, man, that's going up fast," he says, pointing to the civic, under construction. I nod my assent, look at the red light in front of me. "Hey, man. You good on batteries? Double-A? Triple-A? Two bucks for eight, five bucks for twenty-four."

I'm really curious as to why this happens, and what exactly they're selling you.

Now, granted, a market for cheap batteries on the street --must-- exist, because in the digital world people's digital cameras, CD and MP3 players, and other devices constantly are in need of power.

I joke that I need to implant a large lithium cell into my abdomen, so that I can simply plug myself in as I sleep at night, and anything I need to power throughout the day I can simply plug into myself. It'd be simpler that way.

Back to the batteries for sale -- what are they, and where do they come from?

At a convenience store, batteries are one of the most overpriced commodities out there. Four name-brand double-A's often cost five or six bucks, which is ridiculous. At costco, of course, you can buy something like forty-eight batteries for twenty bucks.

But the street vendors, I doubt, are just buying in volume and selling at a discount.

Do they sell the batteries because they are relatively compact, universally required, and easy to sell? That would mean that they're shoplifters, stealing the packs from grocery stores and running with their loot.

On the other hand, they could be scam artists: they could have a single battery package, and in their scavenging, find bunches of discarded, dead, useless batteries. They could be cleaning up the throwaways, inserting them into the old pack as a sales display, and passing them off as good.

Any ideas?
WEAK SAUCE DRUG ADDICT :

This stuff is crack.



I just bought one, because for whatever reason the tea isn't doing its thing. Perhaps because tea contains only antioxidants and a little caffeine, but MONSTER ENERGY DRINKS have it all: natural flavor, color added, potassium sorbate, taurine, ascorbic acid, panax ginseng, l-carnitine, maltodextrin, sucralose, asesulfame potassium, sodium chloride, guarana, insitol, glucuronolactone, niacinamide, and pyridoxine!

Okay, well, I know sodium chloride is table salt, ascorbic acid is vitamin C, and niacinamide is a vitamin source. What the hell else is the rest of it?

Lots of stimulants, artificial sweeteners, and other joys.

I know I shouldn't really be drinking this shit.

Artificial, yes, plus two bucks each.

I don't buy them every day anymore, but nothing else gives me quite the same rush of silly pleasure, so I can't resist it today.

It's tough to live the straight and narrow of a natural, simple life.

At least I don't smoke.

Or, eat meat.

Or watch television, own a car, eat fast food, or any of the other toxic components of American life. But I've got this vice to bring me down to earth.

P.S. Why the "low-carb," artificial-sweetened version? It ain't some fatkins nonsense, and my 138-pound ass doesn't really need the "weight loss," but

Full-sugar version has 200 calories of pure, pure sugar. Energy? You betcha, but if I'm not actively exercising, the insulin spike and crash means I fall asleep in 45 minutes after drinking one. Some energy drink that would be.

P.P.S. I shouldn't use the phrase "138-pound ass." You might get confused. I realize that more than a third of americans are OBESE. I would have to gain more than 50 pounds to be considered "overweight," and another 50 on top of that to be at the very bottom of the obesity scale. Plenty of Americans might have an ASS that weighs 138 pounds. I should say "138-pound self," though that doesn't sound as vehement.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Efficunt Daemones, ut quae non sunt, sic tamen quasi sint, conspicienda hominibus exhibeant." -- Lactantius.

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
and with strange aeons, even death may die."
-- The Necronomicon.





Gee, who have I been reading today?
Yikes.

People are fucked up.






The details get a bit fuzzy, but the bicycle courier in question's description of the events is as follows:

"I was WALKING my bike up Agusta when the incident took place. He was driving and opened his door (while driving) and yelling profanities he threw his beef patty on a bun out of his door. I walked over to his car, and right or wrong, I opened the door and "gave" him back his food (which he MUST have dropped by accident!) He then lost it, and jumped out of his car and threw 2 large Timmies at meand then grabbed me by my helmet and tried to toss me around a bit.It was at that point that my bike lock key (that I wear on a bracelet around my wrist) scratched his car. I have read all the postings about people sympathetic to the car driver due to the expense of repairing the scratch but sorry folks, i doubt that it will cost him anything to repair as it was a 1.2cm mark in the clearcoat only(did not damage the paint) but regardless a scratch none the less. Then with some "encouraging" from some helpfull bystanders he got in his car and drove away...or so I thought! People were comming up to me and saying that I should have him charged but at that point I just figured I had made my anti-littering point and and eye for and eye with the coffee shower, I mean I did throw that patty right. But just as I was getting on my bike to ride home he came running back and thats when the photos start. He had driven half a block and decided that the scratch was worthy of a more thorough beating I guess.
Now for a bit of clarity on a couple of things...
The blonde girl is his girlfriend...she also makes a pretty good shield from an angry mob!
I was NOT punching anyone! especially not with keys in my hand! I was just trying to save my bike (I just built it a week ago!!)
And as for the police charging him....
He took off in his car as soon as he heard the sirens....they chased him down but it is not a crime to leave the scene. They were going to charge him with a variety of things including assult with a weapon x2, mischief x2, aggravated assult, etc, but the police informed me that if I went ahead and placed those charges then they would have to charge me with mischeif for the scratch.
So in the interests of good karma (and my own sanity) I have opted to "let it go" and allow the universe to repay this angermanagement case in its own way.
And finally to those who say that i must have had a sudden case of self ritousness in regard to littering.....YOU ARE WRONG! I hate littering and NEVER do> In fact I am constantly picking up litter and make my son pick up litter at the park. I just feel that it is such a fixable issue in the world today. If everyone would not throw their own piece of litter then there would be none!! What a concept eh!?
enjoy the beautiful winter riding!"



Okay, opinions on this shit are a dime a dozen, and I'm not going to say too much other than my above "people are fucked up" comment.

Though I can't condone her tossing his shit back in his car per se, I think I have a pretty good idea of what kind of person she is, and by and large I'm okay with that.

But it makes me wonder. I don't understand a lot about many people's motivations or lifestyle choices, but my biggest confusion in this whole thing is psycho boy's girlfriend (see the link above for the full set of pictures).

Is this good relationship material to you?


And, what's a Timmy?

Friday, January 27, 2006

"For a Reason:"

I take issue with those who declare that anything at all that happens is part of a divine plan, that it happened "for a reason," and that we should trust in the innate good of all things.

Seven children, all members of the same extended family, were riding in a car Wednesday when a truck crashed into them.

Ever crushed an aluminum can with the heel of your foot?

That's what happens when an 80,000 pound semi truck hits a 4,000 pound car. It doesn't crash into it, it goes through it.

The seven children, aged between 1 and 15, were the car's only occupants. All were killed.

The crushed remains of a car were then rammed into a school bus, inside which three children were seriously injured.

Just to ice the cake, when the grandfather of some of the children heard the news, he had a heart attack and died, too.

But I'm sure all of that is part of a greater plan. Or something.
"That's a -- thre's something -- it's like saying, you know, you're breaking the law."

-- President Bush, in a January 26th press conference, answering questions related to domestic spying.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The dangers of speaking before an audience you haven't confirmed are zombies, and also, google, wikipedia, and the trouble with "research":

Screw You, Alberto Gonzales

Our Attorney General spoke recently about the legality of the recent domestic spying, ahem, "terrorism surveillance," activities, law students at Georgetown University law school stood up during Gonzales's speech and turned their backs on him.

Others displayed a banner reading: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." Students attributed the quote to famous American statesman Benjamin Franklin.

This is starting to get annoying. On USHISTORY.ORG, you can find Franklin quoted thusly: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." See here for an interesting discussion by Richard Minsky of what Franklin may or may not have actually said.




Also, as previously discussed, according to President Bush, "If they're saying we torture people, they're wrong, period. No American will be allowed to torture another human being anywhere in the world"

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/26/news/bush.php

The underestimated speed of pedal power

It’s a two-lane, winding road, and I pull to a stop in front of the construction flagger. I’ll admit it; it there were room, I’d simply go around, but there’s no sidewalk or shoulder, and it looks like they’ve got quite a bit of heavy machinery. It’s a gray day, misty but not rainy, and I pull of my lenses to wipe the fog from them.

The flagger, a heavyset guy in his forties with a full, wavy beard, glances at my bicycle. “This might nawt be the best roawd for you at this time o’day,” he explains, “gets pretty busy.”

I smirk slightly. “I’ll be all right.”

“Mmm. Hey, you just come from the top o’that hill?” The flagger asks, pointing to the other side of the canyon.

“Uh, Lakeside Parkway, yeah,”

“Cars go pretty fast down that one.” It’s a steep 1-mile section, about 10% slope, with signs cautioning trucks to use their compression brakes and low gears. Speed limit’s 45 miles an hour.

I laugh, click my speedometer, which records the highest speed I’d hit in a trip. I do frequently surprise motorists who think they’re going to swing around and pass me. “So do I. 54 just now.”

Flagger whistles, chuckles, beneath his beard and hardhad. “Fifty-four mile an hour? You? Man! But how fast you gonna go up this one, five?” He’s still blocking the way to a road called Jovita. It’s only about a four percent slope, but I’m sure he thinks that’s steep, because he adds “Haw, haw,” to the end of it. His radio crackles, a woman’s voice telling him it’s clear.

”Well-ll, I’ll give you a little head start ‘fore I let these cars go. She’s just about quarter mile up the road ‘round the bend,” he tells me.

I smirk again, click into my pedals, and take off probably a little faster than I ordinarily would have own.

Up the mile and a half-long hill, I go more like fifteen miles an hour. Yeah, for a car that’s not so quick. But when people expect you to be going five, it’s flying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Everybody's got magic necklaces these days.

For whatever reason, in movies and television shows, someone frequently has a necklace, pendant, locket, or amulet that's important in that character's story arc. However diverse these baubles may be, they all seem to have one little trick in common: a magic clasp.

For whatever reason, someone usually has the occasion to want to remove these neclaces suddenly. To do so with panache, you simply grab the thing and give it one swift tug. The necklace will come off promptly.

Now, necklaces are made out of metal. This isn't particularly the softest substance, and tugging it hard enough to actually break the thing against someone's skin ought to hurt quite a bit, and perhaps draw blood, but it doesn't. Certainly, a very thin, pure gold chain might pop off readily enough, but these magic amulets can do that one better: even after removal-by-swift-tug, they are completely undamaged, allowing the remover to stylishly place the necklace over his own head.

It seems that heroes and villains have this power equally, so it must reside with the necklace, not the tugger. Likewise, it applies only to objects actually dangling from the neck, and they must be essential to the plot. This can't be used to merely steal valuables, and collars, chokers, and torqs are not subject to removal-by-swift-tug.

There you have it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Le Deuxieme Pet Peeve of the Day

Want to know how to be really annoying?

Make a website that includes stuff that a lot of people would probably like to access, like movie reviews, a message board, or some other "helpful hints and tips" section.

Link prominently to that section from your homepage.

Then, prevent anyone from simply viewing your material without registering. Make sure to point out that this registration is "easy, takes less than five minutes, and is absolutely free!" As an added bonus, don't tell anyone that they're about to enter such a section so that it's a fun surprise to see the registration page, rather than the review / comment / tip they expected!

Listen, asshat, I don't care that much about your goddamned movie reviews. There are about fifty other ones out there that don't take any effort to read. I didn't especially seek out this data, it's nothing special, I just happened to click on the link that you managed to bait me with.

I'm sure if I weren't using a Mac and not accepting pop-ups, accessing your page would have given me 16 of them, too.

Go away.
It would be great if microsoft could get anything right. Seriously.

I've been a Mac convert for the last three years, and am happy to no longer have to deal with spyware, viruses, constant "security flaws," pop-ups, pop-ins, pop-unders, and the like.

I still maintain a hotmail account, though, since it's my oldest e-mail account and many know it. Under pressure from the benefits of Yahoo and Gmail, they finally increased their storage beyond the paltry 2 megs that you got for I don't know how long.

However, I am consistently amazed with how terrible of a service it is. It's often slow to load, and at least once a week I simply cannot access my account because "the server is too busy," or "the server that contains your information is down for maintainence."

Furthermore, the console's controls have no idea what the fuck they're doing. The spam filter is inadequate, and if you flag one message as spam, it kicks you out of reading your mail. The combinations of buttons work very poorly, and have frequent, endemic malfunctions; if you delete a message, then hit "previous message," you will return to the message you intended to delete, and sometimes this will trigger the un-deleting of all messages you have removed in the past day or two.

Come on, Microsoft. Get with the program.

I recognize that this is a free e-mail account. But if all of the other big webgiants' free webmail can work well, why can't yours?

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Reason People Must Die

Left in the wake of an ancient glacial flow, 700-foot-deep Peasley Canyon now serves mostly as an annex to the Puget Sound area's massive industrial machine, filled with gas stations, highway onramps, and disused gravel quarries, now turned into self-storage-facilities, a "waste transfer station," a hydroelectric facility. Oh, and a shopping mall so massive they call it a "super" mall and award it its own freeway exit.

The steep slopes of the Canyon's sides, however, are still largely verdant, threatened mostly by the onslaught of subdevelopments. Ironically, it is the aforementioned post-industrial ugliness that wards off development of the canyon's west side, since homes with views of said gravel-pit-storage-areas aren't nearly so desirable as those overlooking one of the area's many lakes.

56th avenue, then, is a wonderful paradise for a cyclist, its main disadvantage only that it is short. This stretch of road, only about three kilometers long, winds serpentine up the side of the canyon, then back down again. It is narrow, steep, doubles back on itself, and is so narrow there's only one narrow lane for the entire length of the road. Perfect for cars, great for bicycles. Your correspondent once had to play the "outrun the cement mixer" game on this road, and he's happy to report that pedal power carried the day. Why a cement mixer decided this little goat path was a good shortcut is anyone's best guess.

I come to the reason People Must Die.

On the roadside, every few hundred meters, is a large sign reading "No dumping under penalty of arrest!" A few others advise that the area is "under 24-hour video survaillence to ensure compliance!"

It doesn't work.

The contents of the creek beside the road, like all in this area, often looks like one of those apocalyptic-pollution scenarios for an Earth-day PSA: empty beer cans, discarded food wrappers, and the ubiquitous six-pack-ring. Worse, this creek, presumably man-guided for drainage, is frequently plugged by bags of trash. I'm not talking about a little plastic grocery bag, either, I'm talking full-sized, stuffed-to-bursting point Hefty bags (Cinch-Sack!). Yesterday I counted no fewer than eight such bags, some in the ditch, some carelessly strewn in the roadway.

Somebody has not only been so lazy that they've thrown garbage out the window of their car (SUV, pickup truck, more likely), but they've actually spent the effort to load up their household waste into their vehicle, just so they can throw it onto this otherwise lovely stretch of road.

You filthy, disgusting excuses for human beings.

--

"Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart!"

Little "heart" kid used to always annoy me. And couldn't they use a cooler fifth-element word, like "Spirit," "Soul," or "Milla Jovovich?"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I have this aversion to computers that doesn't make any sense.

Now, I'm not a luddite, and I have plenty of warm fuzzy feelings for the internet, but I can't manage to spend more than fifteen minutes reading or typing any one thing in front of a computer without going completely nucking futz.

I write hundreds of pages of journals, in longhand, with a fountain pen, read a lots of books, and often contemplate posting things like reviews, ideas, and everything else, but somehow the effort it takes to key that shit in is more than I can inject into my leaden fingers.

Reading an entire book on ink-stained leaf pulp is easier for YHN* than reading a short article or interview on a screen. Maybe it's the lack of large leather chairs and cups of tea in my hand.

So, I was about to do a little review on "Candy Girl," but I think it will wait. My reading list over the past few weeks, which I am too lazy to even Amazon link to:

"Candy Girl." Diablo Cody.
"Timequake." Kurt Vonnegut.
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." Robert Heinlein
"Glory Road." Heinlein
"Lance Armstrong's War." Daniel Coyle
"Franny and Zooey." Salinger (again.)
"Theory of the Leisure Class." Thorstein Veblen

One or two others, but that's off the top of my head. Exeunt.


* Your Humble Narrator, since you asked.
Microwaves and Shark Noises

Another quirk about the world I've discovered recently: Microwaves are bizarre inventions.

I mean, for the most ubiquitous item in the modern kitchen, you think there'd be some consistency with how the suckers work.

If you want to cook something for a minute, what time do you key in? Me, I punch 6-0. Then I noticed someone else punch 1-0-0, to the same result. Okay, so I tried 9-0, and got 1 minute, 30 seconds. 9-9 is 1 minute, 39 seconds, but 1-0-0 is a minute. Say what?

---

I had a dream involving getting into a fight with a shark the other day. It was a smallish, freshwater shark, maybe four feet long, and I was standing in a shallow stream. At one point, I pulled the shark out of the water to do some kind of WWF move on it, or something, and the shark opened its jaws and ...

Cut!

The shark ... screamed? Screeched? Hissed? The dream absolutely could not decide what noise a shark ought to make.

Can a shark make a noise? I don't think it has vocal chords, or anything.

I think it was about ready to have it shriek / growl like the "velociraptors" in Jurrasic Park, but then thought better of it.

This thing was confusing enough to the dream that it gave up and ended.

I never got to finish that wrestlemania move.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Google : Still Not Evil. Google's motto is "don't be evil," and today, they've proved their mettle. The Department of Justice has badgered the internet's search engine providers into supplying them with lists of what you've searched for lately. Apparently, they are trying to revive a child-pornography law that was declared unconstitutional.

Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo, who don't get links because of this, all keeled over and gave the DoJ what they wanted, after some initial whining about privacy, but Google, unphased, gave them the big ol' finger.

"Their demand for information overreaches," said Nicole Wong, Google's associate general consel. DoJ's in the process of getting a court to strongarm the search giant into complying, of course, but I'm heartened by Google's resolve. "Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that google can accept," continues Google.

Thank you, google.

Google owns blogger, by the way.

An Observations on Raisins: Everyone knows they're dehydrated grapes, right? But did you know that if you re-hydrate 'em, you get a grape again? Try it: drop a few raisins into a bowl of water, wait overnight, and check 'em out again. Normal-looking grapes. There's no reason you'd actually want to do this, and they don't quite eat right this way, but it's still remarkably cool. What amazes me is that I've eaten raisins for twenty years without knowing this about them.



Football: What the fuck's the point? Up here in Seattle, everyone is absolutely freaking out about their bloody football team maybe making the championships. I don't know what the deal is with this game, and I never will. Every goddamned radio station in town is blaring around about this being "blue friday," and people are supposed to wear blue to support the team, etc. The "big game" isn't until Sunday, but they're still all over it.

If we could get people to get this excited, this unified, about a cause that actually mattered, maybe the world could be a slightly better place. Of course, good causes require things like effort and thought, rather than just cheering like a bunch of lemmings.

I understand that sport has its merits; hell, I'm pretty into cycling, but that's because I cycle and am genuinely impressed by the talents of the professionals. American-rules football, on the other hand -- a season consists of something like, what, 16 games? And there are how many people on a team, and they spend how little time, each, actually playing the thing? Seriously, I can't stand it; any time I'm somewhere football's on TV, it amazes me how little goes on. It's like ... wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, OKAY, there was the play. Now, how many angles can we re-play that play from while nothing else happens? But I suppose it matters enough to pay some big, fat, strong guys six- and seven- figure salaries to run into people a few times.

Now, here's a nice thing. I googled "football fanatic," the idea being to find a picture of one of those insane fans that make themselves up to look like KISS, but in the colors of their team of choice, paint their bare chests, or whatever. Instead, I found this:

Real football = soccer, plus Argentina. I'm not sure I can go along with every aspect of this overdone little thing, but it's a far more pleasant image than what I was expecting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Enough people have asked me "do you ride your bike every day?" to answer.

Six days a week, at least two and at most six hours at a time.
Two Weight-loss Strategems:

There's been a lot of talk about dieting and losing weight lately. In my last post, I talked about my own lifestyle changes,At a bookstore yesterday, I was amazed at the size of the rack of diet books. "Your best body in some number of days!" "The ultimate weightloss codex!" and suchlike. The number of books all making the same claims amazed me, and so did another thing: for this big of a rack of weight-loss books to exist, they must be selling. And, yet, anyone looking around America will realize that nobody's really listening. My lady-friend and I have both slimmed down considerably lately, though neither of us was exactly overweight before, I thought I'd share how it worked. I'll start with hers, because if you're anything like a couple of people I know who always struggle mightily but fail to lose any weight whatsoever, my "weight-loss strategy" will simply cause you to whine a bunch that you cannot entirely change your life. Whatever. I now present the "ultimately impossible because you would have to change your life entirely and stop being a fat american slob addicted to mcdownholes and suvs and get off your lazy ass" lifestyle, and the "So simple it's stupid" diet.

She started at 5'7", 165lbs. Not exactly hefty, you might say, and that's true. But she's now a sexy and sustainable 125 pounds.

This strategy would make a very bad book, because it's "so simple it's stupid". It goes like this:

Take whatever you are eating now. Reduce that by one third.

That's all.

She's not a paragon of health and fitness. She's an American like the rest of you, and for the most part lives like one. If she can do this, you can. Sure, she says, she ought to exercise; maybe she'll get around to it someday. She even bought one of those fitness balls, a pilates video, and a couple of five-pound weights! In the six months or something it's taken her to lose the 40 pounds, I think she's used them twice.

She has a desk job, drives absolutely everywhere she goes, enjoys Taco Bell, Mountain Dew and Coca Cola (none of that diet garbage), and plays a lot of video games. It must be a serious non sequitur, because any time we go to a restaurant and she orders a Coke, the server is seemingly taken aback. "Wait, did you want diet?" And she just smiles sweetly and says "nope."

Her desk, in addition to a few Star Wars toys, sports an impromptu sculpture of Coke cans, and the drawers always contain some sort of package, preprocessed snack food. She's got those little mini goldfish, bite-sized chocolalate-peanut butter cups, "fruit by the foot", "cheez-its", pringles, and some fruit snacks, in some combination.

All of those things they tell you to do for your diet, like cut out sugar, or fat, or orangutan, or whatever? Not important.

A few comments she has on how this works. One, she eats breakfast every morning now, and she didn't before. This is a particular company's meal replacement bar, which is meant to be part of some comprehensive diet, but really she just eats that one because it tastes good and eating a bar for breakfast rather than oatmeal means another ten minutes' sleep. Add a can of Coke to that. Yes, that is regular Coke for breakfast.

She adds, if you're going to reduce your food intake by a third, the best thing you can do is cut out either all snacking, or an official lunch. She can snack all day on the aforementioned "junk food," a little bit at a time, because she doesn't take an offical lunch break. This also means getting more work done, for those who care about that.

Seriously, I don't understand how she drinks soda as often, but in as small quantities, as she does, but that's how it works. Of a twelve-ounce can, maybe half of it is consumed. When she gets a meal at Taco Bell, the quart-sized Mountain Dew they give her barely looks like it's had a dent made in it by the end.

And there you have it.

P.S. You will be hungry when you cut out a third of your diet, for a little while. Your stomach is stupid. Deal with it. You will adapt.

Okay, so, here's my version. I'll warn you: you won't like it.

I don't watch television, I don't smoke, I drink only the occasional microbrew or red wine, read lots of books by old dead guys. Why is this a "weight-loss strategy?" Because it's a lifestyle. I don't sit on my ass very often, and I try to walk, instead of drive, anywhere I can.

I am a paragon of "health and fitness." Look, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to brag, and I don't mean to be. Blame my genetics, or being brought up by a mother who believed that Honey Nut Cheerios was a "sugar cereal," and that if I wanted my plain ones a little sweeter, well, I could put some raisins on them.

I'm a vegetarian, and have been for thirteen years. That does mean I converted at the ripe old age of ten, when I considered the ethics involved with my ham sandwich way back then. At my heaviest, I weighed 160 pounds, and I'm a few millimeters shy of six feet tall. Like I said before, I was a skinny geek with a gut. I didn't exactly decide to cut the shit out of my diet, I just started riding bikes. "Riding" became "training," "training" became "racing," and now you've got a 138-pounder who consumes between 3,000 and 6,000 calories a day. Seriously, I did the numbers: even at 140 pounds, riding my bike at a "moderate intensity" for an hour burns about 500 calories. This quickly adds up when you ride for four, five, six hours. If you give me a box of cereal and half a gallon of orange juice, do not expect it to last until tomorrow. Climbing up hills and doing the hard work on the bike can crank it up to seven-hundred-fifty, maybe a thousand calories in an hour. On what I consider a middle-distance, low-intensity bike ride, I've burned more calories in those three hours than she will all day.

I cut out all "junk food" almost entirely; that means just about anything pre-processed and packaged, except for breakfast cereal, like I said, which is my favorite food in the world.

I started listening to my body's cravings a little more, and I find I actually crave all that stuff that the health shows tell you you're supposed to eat because it's got antioxidants and vitamins and shit. I'm a big fan of tea, blueberries, salads, orange juice, rice, espresso, carrots, whole grains, and, yes, since you're going to ask, I like tofu all right, depending upon how it is prepared.

I told you you wouldn't like it.

So, suck it up and work harder.

In conclusion, you can do it the easy way or the hard way, but you don't have an excuse any more. It can be hard but it is not complicated. Look, a calorie is a physics concept. It's thermofuckingdynamics, people. LET kCal(in) - kCal(out) = Y. IF Y > 0 THEN weight will be gained. If Y < 0 then weight will be lost. Pick your poison.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fulls and Empties
I've decided there are two types of people in the world: fulls and empties. All weight loss or gain must start by considering your category.

Fattie is a full. As he said today, that means that "it’s tough because I have to get used to not always feeling full, and that includes at bedtime." I have sympathy for this position, but not empathy.

The reason I've lost so much weight cycling is that I'm an "empty." That means that I don't like that bloated, ungainly feeling I get when I'm full of food, so I try to avoid it, even unconsciously. This means I'm fated to be skinny, forever, in some form, and it would take a lot of conscious effort to become overweight. When fattie mentioned his constant need to be full, it all clicked. I have a few good friends who are "fulls," too, and I'm sure you can think of several others you know. The deal with being a "full" is that exercise, on its own, won't make 'em lose weight, because activity empties out the belly and fulls, well, as soon as they're done exercising just get straight away to filling it up again.

Before I started cycling, my diet was shit, even though I've been a vegetarian since age ten. I drank up to three litres of full-leaded Coca-Cola per day, had a mad passion for Red Vines, Pop tarts, and fried noodles. My activity level consisted of a lot of clicking at a mouse. But there's only so much you can slurp down as an empty, and this means I was a flabby skinny guy - at a few millimetres shy of six feet tall I weighed in, at my heaviest, at 160 whole pounds. Skinny little arms, legs, ribs, add a gut.

Another relation, on the other hand, he'd complain that a hundred, two hundred, 300 sit-ups a day didn't make him lose his belly. Well, folks, I'm betting a sit-up is worth less than a calorie, so she didn't begin to make a dent in the Burgerville Strawberry shakes that satisfied the full urge. Result: strong abdominal muscles under a flabby belly.

Then I started cycling, and without further ado, I'm ready to start challenging for the polka-dots. Suddenly I weighed 145 pounds.

Mind you, I didn't tryto lose weight, I didn't know I'd be serious about cycling, I was just getting out there and training for the masochistic fun of it. Empties don't have to --diet--. My own version now is the constant, conscious effort to eat, so I can recover quickly and be ready for the next day's ride. Eating enough means I can ride at full speed again, and that means more calories burned, so I have to eat even more, and the cycle continues.

For the past two months I've been sitting on 138 lbs. Even with the cube-square law of height and mass, that's 1.93 pounds per inch.

I don't know what makes a full a full or an empty an empty, nor if it's possible to convert one into the other. I can see the evolutionary benefit to it: store up all the food while you can, it may be scarce in the future, blah, blah, etc., etc. For the modern era, though, it's clearly more burden than boom, and as we enter the postmodern era, things get even stranger to compensate. When there is a prolific amount of food on the market whose entire purpose is to have as little nutritional value as possible, you know something has gone terribly astray.

Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, "they" say. When is fruit not fruit?

This all hit me upside the head when I noticed the ultimate postmodern comestible: reduced calorie orange juice.

The producers say "If you're looking for a way to reduce calories but not sacrifice taste," then this is a great idea.

What the hells?

Take a gallon of orange juice, containing the juice of, say, 50 oranges.

Now pour half it out, replace it with a sugar-water mix, except instead of sugar, use an artificial, indigestible sugar replacement (containing no calories because the body can't digest it.) Sell it in the same half-gallon containers as the real stuff, for the same price.

WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANYONE DRINK THIS NONSENSE?

If you're looking for a way to reduce calories but not sacrifice taste, I have a brilliant idea.

Just take a twelve-ounce glass of orange juice, but only fill it halfway.

You get all the taste of real orange juice, all of the flavour, all of the nutrition, because it's real orange juice!

But of course, oranges are expensive, and artificial sugar replacements cheap. Whoever came up with this product must be making a bundle. They've just figured out how to charge TWICE AS MUCH for the stuff.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Two things I saw yesterday that exemplify my complaints about the modern world:

At the convenience store counter there is often a bunch of gee-whiz trinkets for sale to try to grab an extra five bucks off of you. Usually it's some quirky cigarette lighter that changes colours or plays music or something. This one, though, takes the cake: Do you want a magnetic flexible laser led light? Of course you do! Everyone needs one of those. You're looking at a small barrel, abour as long and big around as your little finger. Add to that about four inches of flexible, bendy-straw hose and tip it with a little LED light -- the whole thing looks like a very minature vacuum cleaner. On the barrel of this sucker are two tiny metal buttons. One of them turns on the LED flashlight, you’ve seen the kind, at the end of it. LEDs, being something like ten times more efficient than a standard incandescent filament bulb, can be impressively bright for their size, and this one is blue-white. The other button activates the laser built into the barrel. Yep, a little laser pointer. Pretty darned weak.

The net effect of this thing is that it looks like one of those random tools you’d see on an episode of Star Trek sitting on a tray that the engineer would pick up at an appropriate moment, point the light at some component he was fixing, flick the laser a few times, and say he had “re-modulated the inverse flux capacitors.” In short, it’s absolutely useless.

Think about it. What possible use is this device? Sure, a little flashlight is a good thing to have on a keychain or in a glovebox, sometimes. But what’s the point of the bendy bit at the end? How could this possibly help? This thing is smaller than your hand – if you needed to point it a funny angle, you’d just point it. Any opening too small for your hand to fit into, well, it’s going to be to small to fit your HEAD into, either. Second, it’s got a laser pointer. Um, all right. In a classroom or to give a presentation, a laser pointer occasionally comes in handy. But what it has to do with a flashlight, or why you could ever need the two devices combined is beyond me. Anybody need a combination screwdriver and hair dryer? Also makes Julienne fries! Will not break!

Oh, and it’s magnetic! Not as cool as it sounds – it’s not a “Magnetic LASER.” I don’t know what that would do, but it sounds spiffy. It’s just got a cheap magnet glued to it so you can, I don’t know, stick it to your refrigerator, or, if you do put it in a toolbox, you’ll get every loose nail and bolt stuck to it. Great.

Why is this thing worth a rant? Because it is utterly useless, and yet someone designed it, spec’d it out, produced it, advertised it, shipped it, and now it can be yours for four ninety-nine, plus tax. Conventional neo-classical economics would suggest that this is a good thing: the purchase and sale of the magnetic flexible laser led light adds to gross domestic product, and that in turn raises the “standard of living.” I heartily oppose the notion that, at any level, these little bits of landfill fodder do ANYTHING to improve the quality of our life, on the whole.

Next: The playground.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I just got back from riding a bit over five hours, and I really don't have the energy to write very much about it, but I need to be in a roughly sitting position for the next fourteen minutes to get full use of my Compex Muscle Zapper. What the hell is a Compex, anyway, and why would you want to zap your muscles? Because it feels great, that's why.

These little suckers have half a dozen different settings, from "potentiation" (that means "warm-up" in badly-translated Swedish) through "explosive strength" and "active recovery." While I can't vouch for it actually making me stronger, and certainly it hasn't made me explode, for goodness sake, but that last one is just awesome.

I've never been a pro cyclist who has a soigneur to massage his legs after every race, but I imagine it would feel something like this. Physical therapists and chiropractors have been using electrostimulation to help with muscle pain, imbalanaces, and rehabilitation for some time. Recently, through some tricky new technology that's beyond my understanding, Compex has developed these little hand-held units with a lot of the same kick.

It feels like a wonderfully relaxing deep-tissue massage, only through electrodes. If you have the opportunity to try one out, definitely take it, although at $800 I can't exactly recommend purchasing a new one. (I didn't happen to pay for mine)

Seriously, I stopped using this thing for a couple of weeks because I misplaced the charger to it and slacked off on finding it, and after a long rides my quads were so tense that they were pulling my kneecap all sorts of ugly ways. Then a hard effort up a twelve percent climb strained something badly, and I could barely walk for a couple of days it was all so sore.

Granted, I didn't replace the Zapping with any conventional self-massage or stretching, which I know I should have been doing, but hey, if I can get a free massage

NOW all it needs to be able to do is impersonate some cute Swedish girl...

Okay, so I didn't talk much about my ride in the rain, but my fourteen minutes are up. It's time to go take a nap, wake up, and eat about two thousand calories, then do it all again manana.