A geek, a laptop, and some spare time.

Archive for April, 2013

Testicles in the Wind

Warning: Don't look down!

Warning: Don’t look down!

From time to time, I’ve been getting my blog on about my efforts to lose some weight. One of the most important things that I have learned along the way is that most of weight loss comes down to diet, not exercise. That’s not to say that exercise isn’t necessary or useful, but the lion’s share of my weight loss has come down to paying a bit more attention to what goes in my mouth.  (Feel free to make your own jokes here. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

In the past, I’ve approached weight loss with a very heavy emphasis on exercise. At one point in our past, Angie and I joined a gym in a failed attempt to battle the bulge.  For me, it was mostly an endless nightmare of sweat, elliptical machines, and near limb-loss at the hands of various pieces of overly complicated exercise equipment. But I did learn one very important lesson:

If I never see another old, naked, fat man blow drying his crotch, I’ll be OK.

I don’t know what possesses a man to blow dry his nether region. I’ve toyed with theories as varied as sacred grooming rituals, childhood trauma related to severe jock itch, or a colossal misinterpretation of the written directions that come with hair dryers. Whatever the cause, I have to wonder why they all kept doing it in front of me. And without wanting to sound overly judgemental, why on God’s green Earth were they all so…   portly?

At any given, time there were between 5 and 35 people working out at the same time I was.  Of those, the great majority looked so fit that I would have not have been at all surprised to find out they worked out at a second gym just to look that good at our gym. Statistically speaking, sooner or later I should have walked into the locker room to find a Hercules wafting heated air at his secondary beard. But it never happened. They were always chubby, old, and disturbingly naked.

For awhile I thought it might have something to do with balding. Most offenders were chrome-dome types, and I thought that maybe they just missed the thrill-filled exhilaration that comes with blow drying. I was even concerned that my hair loss might one day lead me down the same path. But then I saw what can only be described as an aging, overweight Sasquatch performing his own rendition of “no wet ball left behind”. Theory, and retinas, blown.

But as odd as the blow drying down under is, I’m willing to overlook it. What I can’t overlook is the plethora of old, fat, naked guys strutting about. Being a man of girth myself, I’ve always tried to do my part to screen the world from my “vast expanses”. It seems only polite. But these fellows never seemed to be aware of the spectacle they were creating.

And believe me, it was a spectacle. Because they weren’t just strutting about, sans clothes or towel. No, that would have been bad enough. Just to up the ante a bit, they often found reasons to bend over. It’s as if once they were naked, they became extremely obsessed with getting a good, close-up look at their toes. Or perhaps they were all tile floor and grout enthusiasts. Regardless, at least once a week, I’d find myself in a locker room full of old, fat, naked men alternatively blow drying their waistlines and bending over to do various questionable tasks.

I can’t be certain, but I imagine that is what a ballet in hell looks like.

Weekend Roundup: Jonathan Winters Edition

Comedian Jonathan Winters

Comedian Jonathan Winters

Welcome to the weekend! Let’s take a gander at what caught my eye this week.

  • The Dayton Daily News, my hometown paper, highlights the alleged criminal mastery of one Israel Frost. He is accused of stealing an item from a local pawn shop, and then attempting to sell it back to that same store. Five minutes later.
  • Google Street View is a great way to take virtual trips around town, or around the world. The folks over at Google-Street-View.com have some of the better planned, and not so planned moments captured by those roving camera cars.

Have a great weekend!

Chrome Tips: Pinned Tabs and FavIcon Bookmarks

Using pinned tabs and FavIcon bookmarks can really save you space in Chrome.

Using pinned tabs and FavIcon bookmarks can really save you space in Chrome.

I’ve talked before about being a big fan of the Chrome browser from Google. But like any good tool, it takes a little know-how to get the most out of it. Here are two more tricks to add to your Chrome arsenal!

Pinning Tabs:

Pinning a tab.Some websites are so useful, entertaining, or integral to your online life that you always want them available. If you have a site that you use a lot, you can actually “pin” the tab. Pinning a tab has several advantages.

First, a pinned tab shrinks down so that only the site’s FavIcon shows, saving you valuable horizontal space. Second, a pinned tab loses that pesky ‘x’ button that closes the tab. (You know, the one you’re always accidentally clicking on while trying to click on the actual tab.) Third, if you are a tab-aholic, and have so many tabs open that they’re streaming off the screen, the pinned tabs will always stay visible on the far left. Handy! To pin a tab, right-click on it and select “Pin tab” from the menu. If you want to restore a tab to normal, right-click on it again and select “Unpin tab.”

FavIcon Bookmarks

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got bookmarks coming out your ears. If that’s the case, then space on your Bookmark Bar can really be in short supply. A great way to pack more bookmarks in is to just use a site’s FavIcon in the Bookmark Bar. This is an especially useful tip for all of those sites that you can identify just by their FavIcon. If the picture is enough, why waste space with words?

FavIcon Bookmark Bar

Plus it looks pretty cool!

To do this, the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that the Chrome Bookmark Bar is displayed.  You can do this by clicking on the Chrome menu button (the three horizontal lines), then on Bookmarks, and finally on “Always show bookmarks bar.” You can also use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Shift+B (Windows and Chrome OS) and ⌘-Shift-B (Mac) to toggle the bar on and off.

Now when you add a bookmark, delete all the text out of the Name field. Now your bookmark is just the FavIcon!

The Story of My Life

From XKCD.com

Courtesy of XKCD.

Losing to the Victory Garden

Sweet, delicious propaganda!

Sweet, delicious propaganda!

On Saturdays, my morning routine involves a healthy dose of PBS. I am up by 7:00 am most of the time, but don’t actually begin my Think TV buffet until 9:00. (Tuning in earlier than 9:00 will leave you adrift in back to back to back quilting shows. Danger Will Robinson! Danger!)

Starting at 9:00, we have This Old House, where people who live in houses nicer than mine walk  around and cheerfully complain about this or that, and then just as cheerfully remodel the shit out of it. I watch and take mental notes should I ever be in a position to spend a quarter of a million dollars to renovate my home.

Next up is The New Yankee Workshop, where Norm Abrams of “This Old House” fame walks us through crafting wood into art. Norm, the flannel packing inspiration for Al Boreland on “Home Improvement”, makes even the most complicated of wood-crafting projects look easy. I watch this show with the sure knowledge that if I were ever foolish enough to attempt any of these projects, I’d lose three fingers and an eye. And that would just be while shopping for wood. God only knows what I’d lose if I started up one of the saws in my Dad’s wood shop.

After that comes American Woodshop, with a host who has all of Norm’s mad skills, and none of his smooth patter. I normally grab a shower while this is on. But it has to be a quick shower, because my terrible secret is on next. And if I miss it, I’ll be in a foul mood all week.

My name is Jaime, and I watch The Victory Garden.

I can’t even begin to explain why I watch this show. I don’t garden. I don’t have any real inclination to garden. When I pass a garden on my way to work, I don’t slow down and gawk. I don’t grow plants for ornamental purposes. I don’t landscape. In fact, the only plant I ever had for any significant period of time was an Aloe plant named George. And frankly, I think the only reason he lasted so long was that he required watering every week or two, which is about how often I remembered to do it.

To the untrained eye, I am about as far out of the target audience for this show as is humanly conceivable. And yet I watch. Obsessively.

I think I’m fascinated that any person could know this much about plants. I am ceaselessly amazed that one of the hosts will be walking around a garden they’re visiting and identify plants by not only their common name, but also by their Latin name. And just to show how Garden Gangster they are, they usually use the Latin name first, and then throw in the common name as an afterthought.¹ I sit in front of my TV, jaw agape, and take it all in.

A few years ago I was watching a segment that dealt with creating a lovely little loose stone mosaic in the back yard. They were creating it so that they would have a visually appealing, fireproof area to sit their fire pit on. In what can only be called a suicidal loss of reason and judgment, I thought, “Hey, I can do that.”

And so I did.

I went outside, dug a huge hole in my yard and built a very nice round, stone area for our iron fire pit to sit on. I used slabs of granite we had saved when we replaced an old sidewalk, and extra gravel we had from when we gravelled our parking area. I even built a fire when I finished and sat beside it enjoying my handiwork.

But while the results were actually surprisingly good, It was a very, very worrying experience. In hindsight, I believe that they brainwashed me into becoming a gardener. First they lured me in with the occasional interesting segment. Then they had me watching whole episodes. Finally, they convinced me to duplicate a project I saw on the show. Had I not moved to an apartment, it was probably only a matter of time before I surrendered to the madness and began wearing big floppy hats and clapping my hands excitedly when I saw someone gardening with the Three Sisters.²

For now, I’m relatively safe. I live in an apartment, and thus my exposure to gardening opportunities are limited. But there is always the chance of relapse. So should you see me out in public, pointing at trees and casually using their Latin names, take note of the moment. Use it as a warning to others. Let my tragic tale of gardening fascination serve as a wake up call to America.

The Victory Garden is just plain dangerous.

¹ – Should the phrase “Garden Gangster” become a thing, I’d like everyone to remember they read it here first.

² – The Three Sisters is a gardening technique where you use a combination of corn, beans, and squash together. The corn-stalk, aside from growing corn, also offers a tall pole for the bean vine to climb as it grows. The squash, with its broad leaves, covers the ground and keeps out weeds while sealing in moisture. Now, for the love of all things holy, why do I know this?

Weekend Roundup: Solid Rocket Fuel Edition

Welcome to the weekend! Lets sniff about a bit and see what caught my eye this week online.

  • Bob Parks at Wired has found the new must-have office accessory, the Ikaros Line Thrower. It’s hand-held,  weighs 8.8 pounds, costs $599, and fires a safety line over a 1,000 feet. Did I mention that it’s rocket-propelled?

Have a great weekend!

Weight Loss Check In #1

We’ve reached the beginning of a new month, and that seems like a good time to check in on my plan to downsize the geek. I just finished week number 7 on Weight Watchers, so let’s go to the chart:

After 7 weeks I'm down 16.8 lbs!

After 7 weeks I’m down 16.8 lbs!

After 7 weeks, I’m down from a mind-numbing weight of 372.4 pounds to a slightly less panic-inducing 355.6 pounds. Obviously I still have a lot of work to do, but all things being equal, I’m happy with my progress. Even better, I’m happy with the steady continuation of progress week after week.

If you take another gander at the chart, you’ll notice a nasty bit of yo-yoing during weeks 1 and 2 on the plan. Midway through our first week on the Weight Watchers, both Angie and I came down with something that I not-so-cheerfully referred to as the “Black Death.” (Angie says we caught a stomach bug, but I know the plague when it has me in its evil clutches.)

Neither of us could keep food down, which as it turns out, is a hell of a diet strategy. I lost 6 pounds that first week. By the end of the next week I had recovered, and so did my weight. I actually ended up gaining 3 pounds. But since then, my weight has been on a steady decline.

This past week was actually my smallest weight loss to date, down only 1.2 pounds. But in reviewing the week, I had to eat out a total of 5 times. I also had to survive the candy-strewn gauntlet that is Easter. After all of that, I’m more than happy with a loss of 1.2 pounds.

I have to say, the Weight Watchers Online program is really working for me. The iPhone apps are killer, and have really been integral to my success. I always have my phone, so I’m never without the tools to work the plan.

Now if I could just find an iPhone app that cleans the house, I’d be all set.

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