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How to Fat Smash and Become an Ultramarathon Man, Pt. 1

When you surpass the weight of Homer Simpson, you began to develop an elephantine disgust with oneself. I had done this several months prior, yet kept engorging myself with foodstuffs through the holidays. It is a lucky bit then, I suppose, that ultimate collision of several motivating entities that drove the forging of both form and mind. With continuing fortitude, I shall hammer myself into an ultra-marathoner. What a load of pretentious drek that was… In all seriousness, I had previously heard that the only way the vast majority of people who achieve a drastic change in body type manage to do so is the mindset that comes along with absolute abject misery towards the state of their body. To paraphrase: I was a disgusting fat body. I felt my fat had gained enough experience to go up a level. Somewhere between 230 (Homer’s weight) and my peak of 252 I had slipped into obesity. You can feel this. Your bulges no longer seem to be a part of you, but almost as though you are wearing a coat of lipids. The underside of your arm touches your chest before it’s supposed to. When you sit on the toilet, your gut takes a nap on top of your leg. You sense your wife’s growing abhorrence towards your naked form. I would like to think that that was the kicker, that my need to please the love of my life was enough to push me to better health. For the sake of not delving into the darker, more honest portions of my psyche, we’ll leave it at that. Luckily, several other things simultaneously occurred, the first being that several of my teammates at work expressed a similar desire to shed a few pounds. Competitive nutcases that we are, a bet was formed. Money was put on the line, big money. The second motivating factor was Wired magazine publishing an article on Dean Karnazes. Dean is known as the “Ultramarathon Man� This guy ran 50 marathons in 50 days. He’s ran a marathon at the south pole. He’s won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 milerace from Death Valley up a mountain… in the middle of summer. I was awed at what he had done, and inspired. If this guy could push the limits of human endurance as far as he had, I certainly could push myself 1 50th of the way there. And I could give myself 2 years to do it, which would give a nice milestone of running a marathon when I’m thirty. I plan on covering the grueling steps to get where I’ve gone, and where I’m going. But right now I’ll just settle for telling you we had our second of 3 weigh ins for the bet. I’ve lost 30 pounds, more than twice the competition. I can run 5 miles on a hill climb program when I’ve never been able to run much more than 1 flat, even when I was in my weight lifting football years. I bought a belt yesterday because I was on my old belts last notch and my pants were slipping off. Best of all, I’ve had a lot of women tell me they can tell I’ve lost weight and I’m looking good. And one of those women happens to be my wife.

Word of the Day: Pica

In the past we have taken a look at two amusing curiosities of the English language: Foley and Pharlapsicus. Today we will look at a similarly vexatious, but diverting vocable: Pica. The word pica has two very common and proper but very divergent meanings. In this brief lesson we will look at both, but the most important lesson for today is that you must not mix up the two meanings of pica. The first meaning of pica is a unit of measurement used most often in the design and print industries. Each pica is equal to exactly 12 points, no more, no less, although the size of a pica in inches may be 0.177638, 0.166044, or 0.166666 (repeating) depending on the context. Most often it is the latter figure. If you have not worked as a printer, typesetter, or graphic designer you may not be very familiar with picas, but if you have typed a document in a 12-point font you have in fact made use of the pica/points measuring system. Of course, if you are a devotee of the history of typewriters, most of the above will seem comical! Pica is also the name of a disorder where the sufferer has a persistent urge to eat non-food items. A patient with pica finds themselves craving and attempting to consume objects that are completely inappropriate. Examples of things that might look like the most delicious sweetmeats to a person with pica include carpeting, soil, or mouthwatering anthracite coal. In some cases pica indicates a mineral deficiency and may clear up with the deficiency is addressed, while in other cases it is associated with a developmental disorder. Do not underestimate the repercussions of crossing or conflating the the two definitions of pica. If you work regularly with developmentally disabled adolescents, and you see "pica" listed in a client's records, do not assume that the client will be a fraction of an inch tall. If you do so, the accommodations you prepare for them will be gravely inadequate, they cannot use such a tiny chair for sitting! If you are working in a major metropolitan newspaper, and overhear an editor saying "There should be 2 pica in this gutter," do not look about for two people ensconced in an arroyo, happily shoveling handfuls of soil into their earthen-stained mouths. You will not find them. Few, if any newsrooms contain ditches, let alone ditches of sufficient size for two human beings. Your eyes have begun to wander. Perhaps I have not made myself clear. Stop this quixotic search, do not call out or wave to them, they are not there. They will not smile to you through loam-sullied lips.

First they Came for the Trans Fats, and I did not Speak Up

...and then there was no one left to speak up for me. Pity the poor citizens of New York City. Their most basic human rights have been stripped away. The freedom to choose has been stripped from them by a big brother who says he knows what's best. Adam Smith, George Washington, and Milton Friedman are spinning in their graves, and the Statue of Liberty sheds a single, rusty tear as she gazes across the at a once free people. No, I'm not talking about illegal domestic wire tapping, or the denial of the First Amendment via remote "free speech zones." We all know that those are required to combat terrorism, and triffling privileges like those are a small cost for combating terrorism. I am talking about a much more important freedom: the right to choose to eat foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, rich with trans fats. "Dear god, say it isn't so!" you shout. "What will they ban next?" Probably baseball and apple pie. But while I would join you in protesting and future attacks on baseball and apple pie, I am afraid I cannot join in your outrage over the trans fat ban, for three reasons: First off, trans fats are really, really bad for us. Consuming them results in much harm and no benefit whatsoever. I'm not going to say anything more about this point, the research is out there. Secondly, a trans fat ban does not really take any choice away from consumers. How can that be? Let's perform a scientific experiment. Walk into a restaurant, sit down to order, and examine the menu. Exercise your right to choose by picking out the food with the most trans fat. Having a hard time? That's okay, ask the waiter or waitress which food has the most trans fat. Still having difficulties? Demand to speak to the manager. See if that helps. Although trans fat content above .5 grams has been required on packaged food labels for almost a year, there is often no way to know the trans fat content in restaurant food. You have no way to choose because to have no basis for making a choice. This is not a case of nanny-state Marxism injecting inefficiency into the free market, this is a small, but very real, market failure--a very common case where one (or both) sides of a transaction do not have the information needed to rationally pursue their own interests. A sufficient amount of transparency a necessary condition for a free market. If lack of information and transparency is the problem, why not simply require labeling in restaurants instead of banning trans fats outright? Quite frankly, holding restaurants (especially sole proprietorships and "mom and pop" shops) to accurate food labeling would be much, much more costly to them than an outright ban. No more chefs deciding today's special on based solely on their skill and artistry - everything would need to be vetted and nutrition calculated. A huge apparatus of state would need to be created for testing and enforcement. I can't see too many libertarians in favor of that. Third, banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with make food better, not worse. The truth of the matter is, if they had managed to somehow eliminate trans fats in secret, you would not have even noticed. Trans fats are not used to enhance the flavor of food; the most they can do is effect the texture of foods that have been sitting out for a long time. Restaurants do not use them because they are what consumers demand or prefer - they use them so that they can leave the same oil in the fryer for a longer period of time and sell girl scout cookies baked long ago as if they were fresh. If anything, a ban will result in fresher food. Costs may go up for restaurants, but not by an inordinate amount - Denmark banned trans fats in 2003, yet you can still get McDonald's french fries without taking out a loan. Taste is, of course, very subjective. There are plenty of chefs swearing they cannot do without. But keep this fact in mind: very, very little food made in the 1980s or earlier had anywhere near the amount of trans fat found in foods today. And yet historical records show people living in such ancient times considered their food "yummy" and "delicious." Removing trans fats is in fact a return to cooking "just like mom used to make." Finally, I can't take seriously any argument against the ban founded on "first they said this was bad, now that" cynicism. I know, I know... first they said saturated fats were bad, so you stopped eating butter. Now they say trans fats are bad, so you can't eat margarine anymore. Clearly these "scientists" have lost all credibility and are just toying with the public for their own amusement. I hate to have to be the one to break it to you, but this is actually a perfect example of how science works. The scientific method is not a way to prove, beyond all doubt, that something is true with a capital 'T.' It is a way to come up with the best explanation given the data available. That best explanation will almost necessarily change over time - first came enough evidence to accept that fatty foods were linked to heart disease. Then, as more information and finer measurements were taken, it was discovered that saturated fats, in particular, a re very bad. Then, after the food industry started replacing saturated fats with trans fats, more and more data because available leading to the conclusion that trans fats are even worse than saturated fats. I am sorry if this is distressing to you. If you want (relatively) unchanging truth, you are more than welcome to turn to the various religions of the world. But keep this in mind: unlike other systems, science and its application have consistently generated real-world results, such as vaccination, air planes, antibiotics, the internal combustion engine, rockets, nuclear weapons, and the XBox 360. Perhaps ten years from now we will discover that only trans fats with certain numbers of carbon atoms are really bad, and some are okay. Oh well.

Gift Ideas: 5 Practical Presents that are Actually Useful

Looking for some interesting gift ideas? Sick of buying the traditional tie for dad and sweater for your nephew, and want to get them something they might actually have a use for? Look no further! Well, actually you should look further down the page. Below are five unique holiday gift ideas for that special someone that won't find their way into a box in the attic. Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner1. Give the gift of convenience. It is the year 2006, and yet you cannot fly around town on a hoverboard, jet pack, or even a flying car. Luckily, we do have robots to do menial household labor. I highly recommend the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner. You may be wondering: does it really work? Our experience with the Roomba has been very positive, so much so that we got one for my parents last Christmas. How is it practical? You just have to press a button, and it cleans the whole floor! Seriously. It takes longer than you might be able to do with a fancy Dyson vacuum, but you don't have to do anything! My mom loves it. To be fair, you do still have to empty it out when it is done and once in a while you might want to clean hair out of the brushes. But if you are lazy like me, it will do a much more thorough cleaning job, and you'll end up vacuuming twice as much. $149.99 at Amazon 2. Give the gift of health. Many of us suffer from health problems that could be improved by improving our diets. There is a lot of homeopathic quackery out there, but there's also a large and growing body of research on how to fight high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other common modern ailments. Unfortunately, the vitamin, supplement, and "natural " health food industry is largely unregulated. How can your dear mum be sure she is taking fish oil and not a mercury smoothie? Get her a subscription to ConsumerLab.com. How is it practical? I think this one is pretty obvious. Access to independent testing data on different brands can ensure you're getting what you're paying for. It might not seem like as much fun as a Big Mouth Billy Bass or a keyboard tie, but trust me, no one wants those things anyway. $27.99 for a one year subscription Kil-A-Watt 3. Give the gift of power. Not everyone is a tree hugger, but everyone likes to save money on their electric bills. You might be surprised which appliances and gadgets are sucking down the most power - or your recipient will, when you give them the Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. How is it practical? Just plug the thing you want to test right in and you'll be able to compare kilowatt-hours. It can also help justify buying that new flat panel monitor, air conditioner or other more efficient device. "Look honey, buying this new MacBook with the Core 2 Duo will actually save us money!" $24.99 at Amazon (and a little less from some of their "featured merchants.") Mind Hacks 4. Give the gift of brains. Publisher O'Reilly is well-known for their technical books and their fun "Hacks" series. Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain is a very entertaining book on how your brain works and why it works the way it does. The book is not just for nerds--it definitely does not read like a dry technical manual. It does adopt the hacker point of view, a combination of curiosity, cleverness, and an interest in real-world results. A similar book in the series (which I haven't read yet) is Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain. How is it practical? The chapters are, quick, light reads that give you practical insights and tricks, everything from improving memory performance to figuring out optical illusions. Everything is grounded in scientific research, and they cite actual sources! If you think your intended recipient will be put off by the title and format, you might want to consider Forty Studies that Changed Psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research, which covers some of the same ground from a different perspective. $16.47 at Amazon Lego Ice Cube Tray 5. Give the gift of cool. Like most people, you are probably sick of boring old ice cube trays. Wait, you say you haven't given ice cube trays any thought in your entire life, and that my premise is specious? Once you've seen the Lego Ice Cube Tray and the Lego block-shaped ice cubes that it produces, you'll agree with me. This is the perfect gift for that certain someone. How is it practical? Well, how else are supposed to build a frozen scale model of Edinburgh Castle on the kitchen counter? Unfortunately, it looks like it is sold out until March! Not-nearly-as-cool but just as practical substitutes include the OXO Good Grips Ice Cube Tray and the ISI Orka Freeze and Press Ice Cube Tray, both with spill-reducing lids. $7.99 for the Lego tray (sold out) $3.99 for the Good Grips tray $9.95 for the Orka Freeze and Press Bonus gift idea! Finally, for those of you who need to the right gift for a godless, hedonistic liberal, The War on X-Mas Manual will no doubt fill their hearts with joy. If they are too far from the lord to truly know joy, then at least you know their hearts will be filled with secular blood as they pick up helpful tips on destroying your faith. How is it practical? Remember: whenever a minimum-wage cashier at a big box retail store says "happy holidays," Jesus cries a single tear. Better yet, if you can get the press covering a "war" against Christmas, they won't have as much time to report on the war in Iraq.

Natural Beauty and Dove

So, while trolling around the internet I found this video: [youtube]uT4dpFpiTgk[/youtube] The first thing to say about this video is that it is an advertisement.  I mean, it seems innocent at first.  They tell you that we have no perception of beauty because computers and make up artists and photography tricks, then they say that it's dove brand that wants you to know this.  Have you seen any of dove's advertisments in, say Cosmo or Red Book?  Okay, so now they are on a liberal viewpoint that says 'hey, we don't want to hide natural beauty by making every woman self concious because she has freckles or her hair doesn't do that "thing" that model's hair does.  But, they were just as bad as any other group of big business circus freaks. Not to say that I am not glad that they are aware of what they are doing to America and the rest of the world's youth.  Which is making a lot of girls who will never be happy with the type of body they have or the color of their skin or lips or eyes or hair, ect.  I am glad that they are taking a stand on it.  Good job, Dove.  They are even pushing it so far as to have women who are not impossibly thin as their models.  Making you the consumer feel that it's okay to have a big booty or some nice hour glass figure.  Atleast if their ads are sucessful. But not everyone is happy with Dove brands right now.  Follow me here, if you will.  Apparently these blond, blond women feel that Dove discriminated against them because no blond women were featured in a beauty ad.  Well, sorry that you were left out, ladies.  It sucks to be a racial minority.  A beauty racial minority.  Because blonds haven't been featured in every sexy ad since sexy ads were discovered by the ancient Norwegians long long ago. One of the quotes that I feel captures the feelings of this racial beauty minority group is the following: "Therefore, your reversed discrimination instantly makes you a hypocrite and abolishes any validity to your so called tolerant views on beauty." What do these blonds mean by this?  Do most blonds even know most of the words in this sentence?   Does this sentence even make sense in the context of the rest of this petition?  The world may never know. But, I digress.  I just wanted to give a shout out to Dove for having a campaign to make women feel like it's okay to be a normal looking woman.  I think this ad may save some suicidal teen's life one day.  Thank you Dove!