Short Nerd Chief

Archive for October, 2007

Fatblogging: The Feedback Loop

Posted by Fred on October 26, 2007

fatblogging.pngPart of an occasional series. See here for more fatblogging entries.

Wikipedia has this to say about feedback:

Feedback is both a mechanism, process and signal that is looped back to control a system within itself. This loop is called the feedback loop. A control system usually has input and output to the system; when the output of the system is fed back into the system as part of its input, it is called the “feedback.”

In the Fatblogging Non-Diet, it is important early on to establish a feedback loop.  This is the justification for near-daily weigh-ins and meticulous recording of caloric intake. Seeing the numbers on the scale go down are just a bonus.  As discussed in an earlier post, determining resting metabolic rate at home is an inexact science. There are formulas that can approximate RMR, but the same input into two 6-foot men can yield decidedly different output.  By tracking the calories you take in and your daily weigh-ins, you can determine how many calories you need to consume to lose or maintain weight (or gain weight, for that matter, but then you would be Skinnyblogging, which is boring).  So you establish a simple feedback loop:


If the output (change in weight) is positive, you have negative feedback, and you reduce input (calories). If the output is negative, but at too high a rate (unhealthy weight loss), you increase input.  It’s all fairly simple: if 2,000 net calorie intake doesn’t result in weight loss, reduce it to 1,750. Repeat until you reach equilibrium.  But it can be time consuming to track and chart the data inputs. Which is why I was excited to see The Daily Plate change the default weight chart. What used to be a simple line chart showing weight vs. time now charts both weight and net calories (using Open Flash Chart).  Here’s my current chart, which is skewed a bit by my recent trip to Disney (Donald’s Breakfastasaurus at the Animal Kingdom’s Restaurantasaurus didn’t help).


I’ve already got a pretty good feel for my RMR, but tools like TDP’s calorie and weight tracker make it much easier than how I did it (using a kludgy spreadsheet).


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Organic Batter Blaster: pancakes in a can

Posted by Fred on October 26, 2007


I agree with CrunchGear’s Doug Aamoth: “Nothing about refrigerated canned pancakes is weird at all, though.”  Plus, it’s organic, which makes it better, right? This is not that different from Bisquick Shake & Pour pancake batter, but the can makes it seem like Cheez Whiz (although aerosolized foods are better if they can be dispensed directly into the mouth, like cheez in a can or Ready Whip).

For Fatbloggers, the Batter Blaster looks fairly healthy, at 70 calories per serving. That’s for one pancake, though, and most of the calories in a pancake breakfast come from the butter and syrup.  We mostly do belgian waffles lately, anyway.

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Pixar Short Films Collection, or How Luxo Got His Groove On

Posted by Fred on October 25, 2007


On November 6, Disney will release a 54-minute DVD, the Pixar Short Films Collection – Volume 1, which includes all 13 of the animated shorts John Lasseter and company have produced. here’s the full rundown:

  1. The Adventures of Andre and Wally B., originally appeared on the “Tiny Toy Stories” VHS tape.
  2. Luxo Jr., originally included with the Toy Story 2 DVD.
  3. Red’s Dream, originally appeared on the “Tiny Toy Stories” VHS tape.
  4. Tin Toy, originally included with Toy Story DVD.
  5. Knick Knack, originally included on the DVD for “Finding Nemo”.
  6. Geri’s Game, originally included with “A Bug’s Life” DVD.
  7. For the Birds, appears on disc 2 of the Monsters Inc. DVD set.
  8. Mike’s New Car, originally included on the Monsters Inc. DVD.
  9. Boundin’, originally included in the Incredibles DVD set.
  10. Jack-Jack Attack, included on Disc two of The Incredibles DVD set.
  11. One Man Band, included on the Cars DVD.
  12. Mater and the Ghostlight, included on the Cars DVD.
  13. Lifted, included on the Ratatouille DVD.

I’ve seen most of these, but not the two that originally appeared on VHS.  Pixar’s shorts vary in quality – I really like the two that appear on the Incredibles DVD, and really didn’t care at all for the two on the Cars DVD.  Jack-Jack Attack in particular was great. It’s nice to see them all in one place, as Pixar has used the shorts as a way to experiment with CGI technology and try out ideas for the feature films.  20 bucks for 54 minutes seems a bit steep, however. I’ll probably get it anyway.

ico_shoutbox.gifvia Kottke.

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Blogger Anagrams

Posted by Fred on October 25, 2007

Kottke links to some rude anagrams for “Ann Coulter”.  Fair enough – Coulter’s hard to take, and Jason clearly doesn’t like her (I don’t either, and I agree with her sometimes). But did you know that anagrams for Jason Kottke include “To Joke, Stank” and “Ask Ken to Jot”?  Here’s some more links:

For the record, my name yields the greatest anagram ever: Short Nerd Chief.

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Free My Phone, Too

Posted by Fred on October 25, 2007

While I was in Orlando (being frustrated by my inability to get an acceptable AT&T signal at the Happiest Place on Earth – 3G in most of Orange County, but EDGE inside the parks), Walt Mossberg stated the obvious – the restrictions of the cellphone oligopolies are anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Says Sir Walter:

That’s why I refer to the big cellphone carriers as the “Soviet ministries.” Like the old bureaucracies of communism, they sit athwart the market, breaking the link between the producers of goods and services and the people who use them.To some extent, they try to replace the market system, and, like the real Soviet ministries, they are a lousy substitute. They decide what phones can be used on their networks and what software and services can be offered on those phones. They require the hardware and software makers to tailor their products to meet the carriers’ specifications, not just so they work properly on the network, but so they promote the carriers’ brands and their various add-on services.

Let me be clear: Any company that spends billions to build and maintain a wireless network deserves to be paid for its use, and deserves to make a profit and a return for its shareholders. Not only that, but companies like Verizon Wireless or AT&T Inc. should be free to build or sell phones or software or services.

Mossberg’s right, of course – the current PC/internet model, in which you pay the keeper of the pipe for access and in return can do essentially whatever you want with the hardware you own, is far preferable to the current mobile telephony market, which is premised on walled gardens controlled by cellular providers.  All is not perfect in the PC world, either, as some internet providers attempt to restrict use of disruptive technologies (Comcast’s treatment of BitTorrent traffic being the most recent example).  The PC world is not completely free of walled gardens, either – you can’t easily play music purchased from the iTunes Music Store on a Sansa MP3 player, or install Leopard on non-Apple hardware – but there is definitely more freedom.

And no one but the toadies of the CTIA (I’m looking at you, Steve Largent) believes that locking phones, crippling functionality, restricting software and services or requiring onerous contracts and early-termination fees has anything to do with the stability of the network.  It’s all about protecting the revenue streams of the carriers.  Using a Windows Mobile phone has allowed me some additional flexibility, but here are some issues I’ve had lately:

  • There’s still no WM6 update for the Blackjack, months after Microsoft released it and months after T-Mobile released an upgrade for the Dash. In an ideal world, MS would release the software and consumers could install it, but WM installations are so customized by handset makers at the behest of the carriers that this isn’t possible.  AT&T just announced the Blackjack II, which includes WM6. Why release a free software upgrade when they can get $150 for a new phone?
  • AT&T locked down Java on the Blackjack for no good reason. I worked around this issue by installing a different Java interpreter, but with the base installation, the Opera Mini and Gmail for Mobile applications are useless.  Restricting use of the open Java platform allows AT&T to steer customers to the overpriced programs in the AT&T Mall.
  • AT&T requires handset manufacturers to remove GPS and Wi-Fi functionality from their phones, in order to get the monthly fees associated with Telenav and data access, respectively.

So Mossberg is right. The carriers suck, and consumers are harmed by their actions (the red herring argument about subsidized phones notwithstanding). Where I think he’s wrong is his call for government action.  Congress won’t fix this, and given the lobbying clout of AT&T and Verizon, any statute would just make it worse.  The 700 MHz spectrum auction rules are a start, however.  And eventually, the market will address the issue.  Mossberg himself sees this, and refers to unspecified disruptive technologies. It wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t access the internet from a cell phone. Now you can.  Verizon long restricted “side-loading” of MP3s in an attempt to protect revenues from its own music store. Lack of consumer interest led to a loosening of the reins by Verizon.

The obvious success of the Carterfone decision in the 1970s makes government intervention attractive now, but beware good intentioned governments.

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On vacation

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007

I’ll be gone for a week traveling with the kids to the Land of the Mouse, so no posts until I get back.  I’m sure both of my readers will be disappointed.

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The Fatblogging Series: Convenience and Necessity

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007

fatblogging.pngThis is part three of an ongoing series.  Check out parts one and two.

Paradoxically, two of the biggest obstacles to the aspiring ex-fattie are too much time and not enough time.  Most of us lead busy, but sedentary, lives.  We spend 10+ hours a day at a desk, and then go home and work from there, too.  We spend our down time surfing the web and channel surfing.  Part of the reason we gained weight in the first place is that we filled the extra time with food.  We eat salty snacks from a bag at our desk, eat breakfast from the drive-through in our car, and accompany YouTube with fried tubers.  We know we should eat better, but cooking lean meats and veggies is certainly more time consuming than picking up an Extra Value Meal, a pizza or a platter of General Tso’s Chicken.

Cutting out the snacks is relatively simple, if not exactly easy.  Make sure you eat at least 1-2 healthy snacks during the day.  I’m partial to fresh fruit and 100 calorie granola bars.  Also, as much as possible, follow the Eat Only At The Table rule, which cuts down on unhealthy chips-and-the-remote time.  Finally, remember that deprivation is bad and moderation is good, so a few chips or pretzels go a long way.

crock-pot.jpgYou’ll get most of your calories at meals, however, so what’s a busy netizen to do? Embrace convenience. Your tool comes not from the 21st century, but the 1950s – the slow cooker.  It sounds hokey, but one of my best weapons against fatty meals has been the Crock-Pot.  Chop up a bunch of stuff in the morning, let it cook all day, and dinner is waiting when you get home.  We have a well-loved copy of a Better Homes & Gardens Crockery Cookbook (published in 1994 and now out of print, but available used from Amazon).  The White Chicken Chili and Tex-Mex Beef Fajitas are both good and less than 500 calories for a filling amount.  There’s also a surprisingly good meatloaf recipe.

Precooking chicken breast and chopping onions still too hard? There are some really tasty mixes now available that do most of the work for you.  Chop some meat, add the mix and water, and you’re done.  Avoid the Banquet kits from the freezer section.  They’re horrible.  Wouldn’t-feed-it-to-your-dog horrible.  These are better:

Canterbury Naturals La Comida Del Dia Chili Mix: Canterbury Naturals,  produced by Medina, WA-based Conifer, Inc., makes several quick-cook soup mixes.  These can be prepared in 30-45 minutes on the stovetop, but they work really well in a slow cooker as well.  This chili mix is no longer produced, but still stocked at Ukrop’s in Richmond, and readily available at Whole Foods.  It’s a vegetarian chili made with a base of Spicy V-8 juice.  About 170 calories per cup, and really good.

Canterbury Naturals Roasted Garlic Potato Corn Chowder Mix: another soup mix from Canterbury Naturals.  This one takes more work, as you have to chop onions and garlic and fry some bacon.  I usually either skip the bacon or use pre-cooked bits (not the fake ones, thank you very much). Pre-minced garlic from the produce section works well, too, as it’s just going to simmer all day with the roasted garlic in the mix.  make it with half half-and-half and half skim milk, for less than 200 calories per cup.  The mix makes 12 cups, so be prepared for leftovers.

Purely American Santa Fe Chipotle Southwest Bean Bake: Purely American, based in Norfolk, VA, makes eight meal kits as part of its Slow Cooker Gourmet line.  They’re all available online, but I can find three or four of the flavors at Ukrop’s.  The bean bake is a chili-like combination of beans, stew beef and spices.  You add the beef, some chopped squash and tomato sauce.  The leftovers are especially good rolled in a tortilla with some low-fat cheese and salsa.  310 calories as prepared, plus another 100 for a tortilla.

Purely American Italian Bistro Bean and Pasta Soup Mix: a combination of beans, barley, carrots, onions, potatoes, peas and bell peppers with tri-colore pasta. You add your own chicken breast, chopped zucchini, wine and canned tomatoes.  This is pretty good, but not as good as the bean bake.  With any of the Purely American kits containing lima beans, be sure to soak overnight per the label instructions, or else the limas won’t cook all the way through.  220 calories as prepared, so you can add some crusty bread and a salad for a nice meal.  It pairs well with the Ecce Panis Roasted Garlic loaf most grocers carry.

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ALCS Game 1 Preview

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007

inc_cle_bos.pngThe waiting is finally over, and the ALCS gets underway tonight at 7:07 from Fenway. The series matches up the two best records in baseball this year, as both the Tribe and the Red Sox ended up with 96 wins (home-field advantage going to Beantown because the Sox took 5 of 7 in the regular season). Most pundits give a slight edge to the Red Sox, based on home-field advantage and Papelbon over Borowski in close games. Expect it to go 6 or 7 regardless of the victor.

Game one features the two main Cy Young Award candidates in the AL. C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) faces off against Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27). Beckett was clearly superior in the ALDS, tossing a complete game shutout against the injury-depleted Angels. Sabathia threw 114 pitches in five innings while walking six. C.C. admits he was hyped up and overthrowing, hitting 96-97 on the gun (his control deteriorates above about 94). Bruce Froemming’s postage stamp strike zone didn’t help. Given that C.C. posted the best K-to-BB ratio by a left-hander ever, expect fewer walks even against the notoriously patient Red Sox lineup.

Over their last 10 starts, give a minuscule edge to Sabathia:

		W-L	IP  H	R   ER	BB  K	HR   ERA    GmSc
Sabathia	6-1  	72  59  21  21  17  60  5    2.63   62
Beckett		7-2	71  66  23  22  11  70  8    2.79   61

Each has had a hard-luck start this year in the season series.  On July 24th, Sabathia lost a 1-0 decision to Game 3 starter Dice-K when he gave up a 4th inning two-out RBI single to Mike Lowell (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K).  The following night, Beckett lost a 1-0 decision to Game 2 starter Fausto Carmona when he gave up a third inning solo homer to Franklin Gutierrez (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K).  For their careers, Sabathia is 2-4 with a 3.91 ERA  against Boston (skewed by a 9 ER, 4.2 IP start in 2005), while Beckett is 1-3 with a 6.57 ERA (skewed by 15 ER in two 2006 starts).

Players to watch tonight:

  • The good — Manny Ramirez (12-21 with 4 HR and 7 RBI vs. Sabathia), David Ortiz (5-18 with a HR), Bobby Kielty (9-29, 2 HR, 7 RBI) for the Red Sox.  Jhonny Peralta (3-7, 2 BB), Jason Michaels (4-10, 1 HR), Travis Hafner (4-9, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR) for the Tribe.
  • The bad — Jason Veritek (1-10, 3 Ks), Doug Mirabelli (1-10, 5 Ks), Mike Lowell (3 Ks in 7 ABs) and J.D. Drew (3 Ks in 3 ABs) for the Sox.  Grady Sizemore (6 Ks in 12 AB), Victor Martinez (2-11 with 4 Ks), Kenny Lofton (3-16, 2 Ks), Ryan Garko (0-5).

Prediction? Someone will win 2-1, but I have no idea who will have the 2.

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The Fatblogging Series: Searching for a System

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007


Part two of an ongoing series

In yesterday’s post, I suggested  that the most important dieting lesson I ever learned was Don’t Diet.  That is, the ultimate goal is not to lose x pounds through deprivation, but to make small lifestyle changes intended to lead to a healthier self.  If you do that, you will lose weight, and hopefully you’ll keep it off.  Losing through a “diet” all too often leads to gaining it back, as once you reach your goal you stop depriving yourself.  That’s a nice lesson, but not a lot of structure. So today we’ll look at structure.  From personal experience, I suggest that you ignore fat grams, ignore carb counts, and focus on total caloric intake.  If you do this, you will still cut fat intake, as fat is more calorie-dense than are either carbohydrates or protein. Thus, to reduce caloric intake, you by necessity have to either reduce fat intake or go hungry.  Recent research suggests that total calories are more important than merely reducing fat intake (via Reason’s Hit & Run).  On to the ordered list…

  1. Calculate your resting metabolic rate and figure out how many calories you should be eating.  Your RMR  is an estimate of how many calories your body consumes during a day of rest (note: many people use the phrase “basal metabolic rate” for this purpose, but proper calculation of BMR requires strict conditions, and the RMR is probably more accurate).  There is a formula for calculating RMR – the Mifflin equation – which for men is equal to (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5, but why do the math when the internet can do the work for you?
  2. The RMR will give you a pretty good indication of how many calories your body requires, but unless you’re lying in bed all day doing nothing, you actually burn more calories than your RMR.  The calories Per Hour calculator linked above will give you some activity factors based on your lifestyle – i.e., if you are sedentary, multiply your RMR by 1.2.  When I started, I was a sedentary 240, so my calorie bank was about 2,456 calories per day.  These are rough estimates at best.
  3. To actually lose weight, create a calorie deficit.  A pound of body fat contains about 3,500 calories, so to lose two pounds a week, you need to consume 1,000 calories per day less than you burn.  In my case, that means I could eat about 1,500 calories per day if I didn’t exercise at all.
  4. Track everything you eat. Keep a journal, or better yet, use an online calorie and exercise tracker that calculates everything for you.  You can’t create a calorie deficit unless you know what’s going into your body.  It’s not enough to eschew fat – most low-fat and fat-free foods replace fat with sugar, so the caloric content can be nearly as high or even higher than their artery-clogging counterparts.  Atkins proponents would tell you it is enough to dump the carbs, but counting calories will allow an omnivorous diet, which can lead to less of a feeling of deprivation of approached properly.
  5. Exercise. This really should go without saying, but it is easier to burn 400 calories on the treadmill than to cut out another 400 calories from your diet. Beware the control panel of your exercise machine, however.  They are notoriously inaccurate, and probably vastly overstate your energy expenditure. Use an online calculator or a heart rate monitor.
  6. Track your weight.  Here is one place I diverge from the weight loss gurus. I weigh myself every day and I chart my weight.  Yes, weight varies from day-to-day, sometimes by several pounds.  Yes, eating salty foods can make you retain water, and caffeine can act as a diuretic, making you lose water content.  Keep an open mind and get neither discouraged nor ecstatic by weight gain or loss.  What you want to do is look for the overall trend – is it down or up?  Statistically, a five or ten day rolling average is a more accurate measure, but I’m too lazy to code the spreadsheet, so I just look at the overall trendline.  Tracking weight is important because it can be a check on the RMR calculation.  For example, if I consumed 2,400 calories per day (my supposed RMR x 1.4), I would gain weight. Your metabolism is likely different than the Mifflin equation as well, and could be faster or slower (if faster, I don’t like you).  If you’re tracking what you eat and how much you exercise, the scale will tell you if the equation is accurate.

That’s it. No counting fat grams or carbohydrates. No Grapefruit Diet.  if you stick to the routine, you’ll lose weight. maybe not as fast as on A Diet, but it will work.  And after a while, it will seem routine.

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Shame on you, D-backs fans

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007


There’s no stopping the Rockies now.  Brandon Webb couldn’t do it, nor could any of the Arizona hitters.  Colorado’s won 19 of 20 dating to the regular season, and it seems unlikely that Game 2 starter Doug Davis (13-2, 4.25 in 2007) is going to have better luck.  The big news is how lame Diamondbacks fans look this morning.  First they had thousands of tickets still available at midweek (although they did manage to get 48,000 to the park by game-time).  Then they had the fiasco of the 7th inning, in which knuckleheads in right field threw water bottles on the field to protest an interference call on a double-play grounder.  The call at second was clearly right – this isn’t 1957 anymore, and you can’t take the man covering second out with a forearm.  Luckily, tonight we get good fans at Fenway, even if they are cheering for the wrong team.

Game 2 out west features Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.28) and the aforementioned Doug Davis.  Each has pitched better against tonight’s opponent than he has overall.  Jimenez has two no-decisions against Arizona, having given up 4 ER in 13 innings, with 16 strikeouts.  Davis is 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts against Colorado (although the last start was May 23)

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