February 2006 Archives



I can't blame it on the gray skies, because we had a string of beautifully clear (but very cold) days last week. And I can't blame it on work, which has been full of wonderful new challenges and opportunities of late. (No, I can't blog about that. At least not yet. But soon, I hope.) I'm not sure what to blame it on, really, but I've been in an awfully crabby mood for the past few days.

Actually, I probably do know what to blame it on--I've just been loathe to admit it. Last week, right after I posted about "staying the course," I veered off the track. I think all those carbs in my Valentine's night meal set off a series of cravings, and the really cold weather caused me to avoid our garage-based weight bench for a couple of mornings in a row. So I ended up with three days of no exercise and an unbalanced diet. That, combined with normal hormonal swings, was a very bad thing.

Like Weez, I took a 4-weeks-later photo this week. Unlike her, I didn't see a significant difference in the images. But, to quote one of my favorite movies from childhood, it's often the case that "you see what you want to see." And given where my head was at the time, it's not surprising that I didn't see positive change. Today I weighed myself at the gym, and discovered that I've lost 8 pounds since she left town in January. That's just over a pound a week, which is pretty respectable. And I know I'm stronger, as well.

So yes, it appears undeniably true that not only is this approach to eating and activity having an effect on my physical appearance, it's having an equally significant effect on my state of mind. That's a good thing to remember when the ice cream looks tempting--is it really worth feeling this out of sorts for several days for that fleeting sensory treat?

So I'm climbing back out of the (carb-induced?) funk, and back into a positive mindset. I have so much to be happy about, and I'm working hard at shifting my focus back to that.

staying the course


A couple of people have asked "offline" whether things are still on track with the dietary and activity changes. The answer is definitely yes. Still doing cardio 3x/week and weights 3x/week, and the changes in food intake continue. Gerald and I pushed our "cheat day" from last Sunday to Tuesday, so we could have a decadent valentine's dinner. It was wonderful, but I found I didn't really want to eat all of the carbs that came with it, so I ended up eating much less than I might have. (I even stopped halfway through the creme brulee, which is quite unusual for me.) Despite that, I felt unpleasantly full for the rest of the evening--a sign that my body has definitely adapted to the new eating habits.

Some discoveries of good replacement snack foods along the way...

  • Luna bars, which I think are hands-down the best tasting of the various high-protein snack bars out there (so far I've tried, and liked, the S'Mores, Lemon Zest, Chai Tea, and Cookies 'n' Cream flavors).
  • Soy Crisps, which satisfy my chip cravings
  • Terra Chips, also good for chip cravings

Weight loss is slow but steady. Well-being increases are faster and also steady. It's all good.

conference registration software?


Does anyone know of a good, free, lightweight, event registration software system that I could install on a unix-based web server?

I'm running an event that will have ~90 people at it, and I want an easy way for them to be able to register for the event, and submit basic bios (and photos, ideally, but I can live without that). No money collection, no complex program management. And it would be nice to be able to have basic functionality built in to generate a list of participants, and even nametags.

Yes, I know this is buildable, probably with relatively little effort. But I have zero free time and zero dev resources to devote to this, so would much rather avoid reinventing the wheel if the wheel already exists.

why i still read blogs


It's not for the tech news, or the news commentary. Those are useful, sure. But not useful enough to make it worth facing Bloglines' implicit condemnation on a daily basis ("2354 unread items, you slacker!")

No, it's for the connection with people I care about--how else would I know not just that Mateo had arrived, but also how beautiful he was?

And for the gift of wonderful writing, which people like Paul Ford bestow upon us not as often as I'd like, but often enough to keep me coming back.

four things: there is no escape


I thought I'd escaped that whole "four things" meme that had cropped up on many of the blogs I read, but I was wrong. Lilia tagged me! (And I miss having lunch with her, too...) So here's my entry--a good way to end a busy week.

Four jobs I've had:

  • McDonald's drive-through order taker
  • Student director of the University of Michigan Campus Information Center
  • Government and Law Bibliographer for the Library of Congress Congressional Information Service
  • Visiting researcher at Microsoft

Four movies I can watch repeatedly:

  • Casablanca
  • Fantasia
  • Bull Durham
  • The Matrix

Four places I've lived: (Lilia's said "liked," but the other posts I've seen were "lived")

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Randolph, AL
  • Kenmore, WA

Four TV shows I like:

  • Lost
  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Northern Exposure (back in the day...)

Four places I've vacationed:

  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Meteora, Greece
  • Negril, Jamaica
  • Eastham, MA

Four favorite dishes:

  • Latkes (aka "potato pancakes")
  • Chicken Makhni (aka "butter chicken")
  • Filet mignon
  • Tiramisu

Four sites I visit daily:

  • GMail
  • Google
  • del.icio.us
  • Bloglines

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • On a boat in Puget Sound
  • Weez's dining room
  • My mother's kitchen
  • Hiking a mountain. Any mountain.

Four bloggers I am tagging:

fitness update: the tale of the tape


Two weeks ago, I decided to shift from the more flexible approach to getting fit outlined in Pam Peeke's Body for Life for Women book to the more prescriptive approach in Bill Phillips' original Body for Life book. I did this after seeing how well the latter program was already starting to work for my husband.

At this two-week mark, I'm pretty amazed by the results. The scale shows a drop of only 3 pounds--from 136.5 to 133.5. But the tale of the tape (as they say in boxing) is more striking. I've lost nearly 2" from my waist, and 1" each from my bust, hips, and thighs. My arms have stayed the same, but I suspect that's because of the muscle being added. I can totally feel the difference in how my clothes fit. Beyond that, I also feel more energetic, more balanced. (Gerald's results have been even more impressive, but that's his story to tell, not mine.)

So, how does it work? It's pretty straightforward. Six days a week you exercise, alternating a high-intensity 20 minute cardio workout on one day with a 40-45 minute weight training routine the next. For the weights, you alternate between upper body one day and lower the next, using a formula for increasing intensity--12 reps at a relatively easy weight, followed by 10 at a higher weight, 8 at the next higher, 6 at the next higher, then 12 at a lower weight followed immediately (no 1-minute break like the others) by 12 of a different exercise for the same muscle group. The goal is to hit a point by the last rep where you absolutely, positively, couldn't do another rep if your life depended on it. (He provides downloadable PDF worksheets on his web site, which makes it easy to keep track of your progress and plan your workout for the next day.)

The recommendation is to do this on an empty stomach, and then to wait an hour afterwards before eating--to ensure maximum fat-burning. So getting the workout done first thing in the morning makes the most sense, and also lets you get it out of the way for the rest of the day.

On the food side, Phillips recommends that you eat 5-6 small meals a day--eating every 3 hours or so. Each meal is supposed to have both a healthy carb and some protein, with the emphasis being on reasonable portion sizes rather than calorie counting. Veggies can be eaten with any meal, in whatever quantity you like. He particularly encourages the use of protein/health bars for the in-between meals, and that's worked well for me. I've become quite the expert on the different brands and flavors, and have finally found a few that I genuinely enjoy rather than tolerating.

The plan allows for one "cheat day" a week, during which you can eat whatever foods you want, and yesterday I indulged in french fries at lunch, and potato chips and a white roll with my burger at dinner. Turns out my body really doesn't like those refined carbs much anymore, and I felt like crap by bedtime. Interestingly, I've had almost no cravings for sweets since starting the program, and wasn't the least bit tempted by my kids' milkshakes and ice cream after lunch.

This is a 12-week plan, at the end of which you can assess where you are and decide if you want to reduce the intensity of the weight training. But I suspect that the dietary changes that Gerald and I are making aren't going to end after 12 weeks. It's clearly improving our quality of life, and that's not just a short term goal. More importantly, this feels sustainable. We're eating foods we enjoy, and we don't feel hungry at all during the day. This is nothing like "diets" I've been on in the past--it feels like a low-level shift in our way of thinking about food and eating.

More updates to come.

yet another thing i owe to my blog...

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I'm always a little bit amused by people who still wonder aloud how and why I find the time to blog. I find time the same way most people find time to watch their favorite television shows, or go to movies (neither of which I do very often at all). And I do it because I've had extraordinarily personal and professional rewards accrue to me as a direct result of the effort I put into blogging--not the least of which is the visiting researcher position I currently hold here at Microsoft.

blog bootyBut today's mail brought an unexpected bonus from my blogging, in the form of five copies of the second edition of Edward Tufte's wonderful essay on Powerpoint. It's new enough that it doesn't even seem to be advertised on his site yet. Since the only time I met Dr. Tufte was as a student in one of his workshops more than ten years ago, I can only assume that the "with the compliments of Edward Tufte" card attached to the essays was entirely a result of the posts I've made here about Powerpoint, many of which reference the original essay.

A nice bright spot in an otherwise gray day. And a good reminder of the blessings this blog has brought.

flickr/family serendipity

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The Löbmann FamilyIn the fall of 2004, I posted on Flickr a series of century-old photos of my father's side of the family that he had scanned into digital form. One of them was a beautiful formal family portrait of my grandfather, his parents, and his four siblings--that photo actually won an informal award from the "old photos" group on Flickr.

In the caption of the photo, I noted that my grandfather's younger brother had emigrated to Brazil, and that the last my father had heard of his three aunts was that they'd gone to Australia. I had pretty much resigned myself to not ever knowing what became of that whole side of my family, because I really had no starting point for doing that research.

Yesterday afternoon, I received a new comment on the photo--from a Daniel Loebmann in Brazil. I suspect that he searched Flickr for the term Loebmann...and up popped three of my old photos. I followed up with a message to him asking what the family connection was, and he turns out to be the grandson of my grandfather's younger brother Salo--which makes him (according to Gerald, my most reliable family tree decipherer) my second cousin.

Even more exciting, he had information about all of Salo's descendants, and even about the three mysterious aunts--whose names, it seems, were Vali, Erna and Ruth, and who also eventually relocated to Brazil.

My dad and I are totally astounded and delighted by this Flickr-fuelled family reunion, and I'm thinking about trying to find a time to take a trip down to Brazil to meet some of my long-lost cousins.

So, how cool is that?

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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