30 Pounds Down

When you step on the scale and see the dial ring up at 205lbs, especially at only 5’9″ tall, you realize you need to take steps to fix things. I couldn’t walk from my car to my cubicle without being winded (maybe about a two or three block walk). I was not sleeping well and according to my wife snoring frequently. I was eating as much as 2500-3000 calories per day of food, something I wasn’t aware of until a bit later. All of this combined with a desk job and life of high stress over the past many years have combined to put on about 60 pounds of weight over the past 15 years.

You put it off because maybe you aren’t as distinguishably obese as many other people out there. You justify it to yourself as “Yeah, I have a little weight I could stand to lose..”. But at the end of the day whether you have 10 pounds or 110 pounds to lose, it all has to start the same way and all follows the same path.

I have to confess, my path to the loss didn’t start that way though. Every great once in a while something comes along that gives you that added push needed. In my case it was coming down with appendicitis in mid-November. The surgery was fairly routine, though open and not laproscopic. The recovery afterward was fairly heavy on pain killers and I definitely needed them as my stomach felt like someone sliced across my stomach with a 5 inch incision all the way through to my insides. Oh wait, they did! Between all of this my appetite dropped and over the course of the next six weeks I lost approximately 15 pounds. With those 15 pounds behind me I decided it was time to lose the rest of the weight I had made excuses for over the year.

The first necessary thing is to start exercising. I am currently signed up at Snap Fitness, and while the free weight area is a bit small and there are relatively few machines, it is very convenient in terms of location and hours, and does have a few facilities like tanning and personal trainers if desired. Outside of a few days of waiting for a station or free weight area here and there I really have very little to complain about.

Now here’s the thing about exercising. You need to sweat. You need to push yourself further than you want to be pushed. I think as humans we have a tendency to set very modest goals for ourselves. I could probably get by on seven hours of sleep so I’ll get eight. I could probably run around the block in two minutes but three minutes is still good. Internally and subconsciously I feel we know exactly where our capabilities lie, while externally and consciously we set our expectations just a bit under that. While exercising, specifically weight lifting, I’ve learned to throw that ideology out the window. You almost have to get rid of that line of thinking and I believe that’s why at the gyms you don’t see a lot of people getting serious on weight training and instead congregate in the cardio area. There’s probably a higher sense of reward saying you walked your 3 miles today compared to only lifting a 10lb. dumbbell ten times for two sets.

For my weight training I am following Doug’s Mega Cutting Routine. While a cutting routine is typically used to shave off a few pounds from an already fit frame, I figured in my case it would be a great way to both lose fat and build muscle at the same time, a guess that has so far proven correct. I did have to modify it slightly though. I can’t do tri-sets due to not being able to set aside 3 stations for rapid rotations. I changed the two light cardios per day to one heavy cardio 4 times a week to match the weight lifting. I’ve also had to modify one or two exercises to compensate for the equipment I have to work with at the gym. But outside of that I would say 99% of that routine is intact.

Over the first week or so I noticed that I actually put on five or six pounds. This is when I realized the next part was absolutely critical, a diet. Losing weight, aka burning fat, is a two step process. The first is keeping track of how many calories you are putting into your body and the second is making sure over the course of a day you are burning more calories than you put in. Where most weight loss diets fail is that they require minimal exercise and act on the basis of starving yourself. Unfortunately our bodies know when we are starving, especially if we are not feeling satiated. This leads to feelings of hunger which in turn leads to feeling distracted, anxious, and stressed. This is why it’s a two step process. This first step is eating so your body feels satiated. You should find out your caloric maintenance levels, include your level of exercise, and then subtract a modest amount of calories from that. Here is a pretty decent caloric calculator I found on the web. Using such a calculator you can figure out your daily needs with exercise, and then subtract 20% from that. Doing this what you will usually find is that you are eating and feeling good about it, not at all starving, yet still losing weight at the same time. But again, if you don’t have a good exercise regimen in there you will more than likely just feel hungry all of the time by just cutting calories.

As for quality of food, to my belief, your quality of food can be anything as it’s the calories that count. if you want to get your calories from chcolate cake get it from chocolate cake. Things I have found though:

  • Garbage in garbage out. If you take in high quality carbohydrates and protein your body will perform better. If you take in fats and sugars your body will behave worse.
  • Healthy foods leave you feeling better and more “good full” than bad foods. Eat a half loaf of whole grain bread and then eat a dozen chocolate cookies and see which one you have more energy after.
  • It’s not only important to get your calories in, but to get them in at the right time. Get carbs in before you are going to expend energy (workout). Get protein in before and after you work on building muscles.
  • No matter what you would like to drink during the day, nothing is better than water and milk. Pretty much all I’ve relegated myself to drinking and I couldn’t feel better about it.

So that’s my plan that started back in January. Next few posts I’ll catch you up to date to see exactly where I’m at now. I decided not to do a lot of pictures during this whole process but do have a few to share. We’ll see what else comes as time goes on.

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Disney to buy Marvel

In things that I NEVER expected to read this morning, this would probably have been top on the list if I was given a choice. Yes you read the title properly, The Walt Disney Company is buying Marvel Entertainment.

BURBANK, Calif. & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Building on its strategy of delivering quality branded content to people around the world, The Walt Disney Company (DIS) has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (MVL) in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced today.
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration.

Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories,” said Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney.”

“We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation,” Iger said.

“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses,” said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Marvel have each approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, effectiveness of a registration statement with respect to Disney shares issued in the transaction and other customary closing conditions. The agreement will require the approval of Marvel shareholders. Marvel was advised on the transaction by BofA Merrill Lynch.

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Tomorrow I Start My Weight Loss

So tomorrow is the day I start working on losing this weight.

Believe it or not, it’s not about looks, or how long I want to live, or anything like that. My life is VERY busy. So busy that over the past few years I haven’t had any time whatsoever to even look at working out, jogging, or anything related to fitness. The result is that I end up in poor shape, working harder because of it, more tired because of working harder and not being in good shape, and start the cycle even further along.

My goal to start with is simple. 10 lbs. in 3 weeks. That is 3.33lbs. a week and will put me at the lowest I’ve been in probably a couple of years. My goal after that? Well to be honest we’ll see how well the first 10lbs. goes and then we’ll work with it from there.

My schedule isn’t lightening up anytime soon. If anything it is only going to continue to become busier and busier. I pretty much need to give myself every advantage I can get to meet it head on, and improving my fitness is a good push in the right direction. So here goes 10lbs.

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Windows Movie Maker Now With iPhone Support

Finally Windows users have a way to work with iPhone videos. For those who don’t know, the iPhone 3GS is actually a capable video recorder. It records to 640×480 at 30 frames per second and with an empty 32GB iPhone you can easily record a few hours to the thing. The problem has been there was no simple way in Windows to edit the videos or send them to DVD. Sure you could download various shareware or freeware apps, or buy one of a dozen video editors, but this seems like such a pain when on a Mac you can just use the built in iMovie app to edit and publish.

Enter the newest version of Windows Live Movie Maker. When run on a Windows 7 machine, the newest version of Microsoft’s video editor supports additionally AVCHD, MPEG-4, and most importantly for iPhone users, Quicktime formats. I almost did a double take, but sure enough.. I drag my iPhone movies into a new project and they show up perfectly on the timeline. Unfortunately this still leaves XP and Vista users without an easy solution for the time being, but hopefully come October and those numbers will begin to dwindle rapidly.

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iTunes, Album Art, ID3 and Windows 7

One of the beautiful things about Windows 7 is not only the system’s native ability to playback AAC files, but its ability to natively read the MPEG-4 tag data in the files as well. Mind you I still use iTunes exclusively as my jukebox, but when/if I need to do actual file level work on my music, being able to sort it in Explorer by artist, album, song, etc in libraries in Windows 7 makes it much nicer to work with. When it works.

MP3 Data Not Showing Up

Check that your ID3 version is v2.3 or lower. For some odd reason Windows 7 still can’t handle ID3 v2.4. In iTunes you can show the “Kind” column and sort on it to quickly list all of your MP3s, select them all, and then right click on the and select “Convert ID3 Tags…”. Don’t worry, iTunes does the conversion non-destructively so it keeps all of your tag data intact.

AAC Album Art Not Showing Up

If you are having a problem seeing your album art in Windows 7’s Explorer and you use iTunes, you might be having the same problem I did. It appears that if I right click a bunch of songs and say “Get Album Art” iTunes will download the art but not actually put it in the file. I am guessing it keeps it on the disc and then just references it in iTunes. Regardless, what I did to fix it is to use iTunes’ downloading feature, then do the following:

  1. If Album Art isn’t already visible, click the fourth button from the left on the lower left corner of the screen.
  2. Make sure the “Selected Item” is showing artwork in the bar. If it says “Now Playing” click the arrow to the left of it to change it to “Selected Item”.
  3. Select the songs you want to download art for, right click and choose “Get Album Artwork”.
  4. Now here’s the trick to get the art working in windows. Doing this an album at a time, highlight all of the songs in the album, right click on the artwork in the lower left window, and select copy. With the songs still highlighted right click on the songs and choose “Clear Downloaded Artwork”. Finally right click back in the artwork window (where it should now say “Drag Artwork Here”) and choose paste.

Doing this I have had a 100% success rate in my album art showing up properly in Windows 7’s Explorer window including (and especially) in libraries and Windows Media Player. Even better, the album artwork now shows up properly in my DLNA players including my PS3.

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SWFObject 2.0 and multiple videos on your blog front page

So with as easy as posting videos is from Windows Live Writer, a problem that bugs me is their use of the <embed> tag and its non-compliance to web standards. Of course leave the tag out and many browsers won’t work properly.

Through a couple of pieces of information from multiple places I finally figured it out.

First step is to download swfobject 2.0.

Next is to of course include the swfobject code into your page. Do this by including the following into the <head> of your blog (likely located in header.php or something similar):
<script type="text/javascript" src="swfobject.js"/>

Finally include the following code block where you want your video placed in the post:

<div align="center" id="mov2009081101">
    You need the Flash Player to view this video.
</div>
<script type="text/javascript">
    /*<!--*/
    var flashvars = {};
            var params = {};
            var attributes = {};
            attributes.id = "swf2009081101";
            swfobject.embedSWF("http://www.youtube.com/v/2Fb-p5TkAE4&amp;hl=en", "mov2009081101", "425", "355", "9.0.0", false, flashvars, params, attributes);
    /*-->*/
</script>   
</div>

You will need to replace “mov2009081101” and “swf2009081101” in all places with two different strings unique to the movie. The problem is if you have multiple movies on a page, whether the front page, a category listing, or whatever, duplicate ids will conflict. The ones I included above were simply the date of the blog and a 2 digit enumeration. With all of this done, flash videos should now be viewable for everyone AND your page should pass W3C validation.

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Can’t get this song out of my head

So I can’t get this song out of my head. I’ve been out of metal for YEARS.. Really since I first got into alternative rock back in the early 90’s. Anyway, as I’ve grown older, recently my musical tastes have kept slowing down. Unfortunately for me, the schedule of my lifestyle hasn’t slowed down and yesterday I came to the realization that the tempo of my music simply didn’t meet the demand of the pace of my work. So I took it upon myself to grab some metal albums and really get things moving a notch or two faster. Of those I picked up Pray for Villains by DevilDriver among a few others. The reason I’m linking this one though is one of the songs from the album just grabbed me. One of those songs that I like to describe as “I five starred it in itunes within 10 seconds of it starting”. Yes it’s metal.. speed metal to be exact. But if you like to believe or say that you have an open mind towards music I highly recommend that you give it a listen.

You need the Flash Player to view this video.

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Windows 7

Well, after years of dealing with the absolute backwater OS that is Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (say that 20 times fast) I went ahead and installed Windows 7 on my PC. The last straw was trying to update my iPhone on XP x64 only to have it not recognize the phone in recovery mode and needing to hook it up to another computer to fix it… TWICE!!

Overall I can honestly say, well.. I am impressed. I have been trying to if not move over to, at least get a hold of a Mac for a little while now, mostly because I am sick of fighting with my operating system. Running XP x64 is like trying to love your chronically disobedient child. It never does what you want it to, usually loses things and often breaks things, but it’s such a major part of your life that you just put up with it and work with it to the best of your ability.

So why am I impressed? Well, right off the bat this is the first MS OS I’ve installed (going back to DOS 6.22) that I haven’t had a crippled OS right from the get go. Drivers, check (aside from my scanner which I had to download the Vista x64 drivers from Epson). Ability to play videos (including Divx/Xvid/MPEG4)? Check. Scanner app (after it was installed)? Check. Heck, even my AAC files from itunes are supported.

Overall there are some things I really love about it. Aero Peek is already a mandatory feature. Basically give a quick full sized peek to an open window without having to bring it to the front or minimize all other windows. The new “quick launch” bar (which it really isn’t) is the first ever quick launch bar in windows that I’ve ever used, or even cared to try. The new system tray is very much clutter free and easy on the eyes by default. UAC and application access to the firewall seems much more sane. And I don’t know if it’s new or not, but the theme setup is vastly improved over XP at least.

Heck, even this post is easy to make thanks to Windows Live Writer… I mean it’s not Windows 7 specific, but not needing to log into the web site and to just instead type this out like Word is very convenient.

desktop

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2 + 2 = ???

2 + 2 = 4. It’s one of the very first forms of addition we are taught. It’s also by no coincidence one of the first forms of multiplication that we are taught. I think this is why it is also used in explaining the simplicity of a problem being correct or the absoluteness of something.

“The same as 2 plus 2 equaling 4.”

“You can’t change that just like you can’t change 2 plus 2 equaling 4.”

But does 2 + 2 really only equal 4? Does it not also equal 16/4? Or how about 104736/26184? Any math professor can tell you it equals 3.999999999? Heck, it even equals 2 + 2 itself!

Now it may seem like I am arguing semantics here, but there is in fact a point to be made. Questions and problems have multiple answers. Some are obviously correct and some a matter of perspective with mere variations on the simple answer. There are also answers that are wrong, and no amount of arguing the point will change that.

So how do you know if your answer is just a rather creative way of solving the problem instead of just flat out incorrect? Much like actual math, you have to still solve through. You still need unquestionable proof that your answer was indeed just a unique (but still correct) way to approach the problem.

Now this might seem like an odd subject for me to spend so much time on, but really it’s how I have spent most of my life. You see, I don’t like playing inside of the rules. I like answering “2 + 2 = ???” with the variety of answers given above. I like explaining to people why those answers are correct (even if they don’t believe me). While it may seem like a needless complication, many times answers such as “4” are not readily available, and it is in fact a more logical step to make your way to “32/8” instead. Again it seems like semantics, but in reality there are still enough differences in the answer (no matter how small they may be) that this particular answer might be better suited for that particular problem. Of course this isn’t always the case. Sometimes (many times?) it really is just making extra work for yourself. This is definitely something to be careful of.

So why all of this? What does it mean and where is it going? Basically I am needing to approach a number of difficult and important decisions. The “easy way” as I like to call it involves making things easier on myself, but at the same time requires concessions that I am entirely uninterested in making. Some may call it stubbornness or bullheaded, I call it finding interesting solutions to seemingly straightforward problems.

Either way, you will read it head eventually. As always. Stay tuned.

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Pretty awesome when business areas come together

So as mentioned below, we are doing an inventory project for badger that’s pretty extensive. Basically it will keep recent books in one area sorted by week, and then older books in another area collated together into one mass inventory. pretty simple.

Here’s the trick. I just created a universal order pull list application. Basically you can select any number of orders, click generate, and a list will be created for every item that needs to be pulled. pretty simple hey? It gets even better. This list generator will check the last five weeks and individually flag items for the week they came in if they happened to arrive (either in a new order or a reorder) that week. But we’re not done yet. It color codes them based on a coding system involving color sorted boxes and cycling the oldest colored box into inventory and replacing its contents with books from that week. whew.

But this isn’t really to talk about the workings of the inventory system. This is to talk about how cool (and interesting) it is when something you are really good at (programming in my case) perfectly coincides with something you have only a little experience with (business logistics and physical asset management in this case). I ended up creating a basic physical location based inventory system and programmed a picker application that can work within this system. Most reading this are probably saying “So what?”, but when you look at where I started this whole experiment from and where it’s arrived at now it is really an interesting road. This is something I wouldn’t have even realized I needed two years ago, but now here we are with a full custom built physical inventory management system.

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