Friday, December 31, 2010

Is weight loss in your new year's resolution?

We're coming to the end of the eating extravaganza that is December. In our household we have 2 birthdays as well as Christmas and New Years as excuses to over-indulge. This year we had a landmark birthday, 2 xmas suppers and we have plans for both Dec 31 and Jan 1. We should be making resolutions to lose weight in starting in January, especially as we look forward to our late winter holiday, but we aren't.

I'm going to be rifting off several posts by Yoni Freedhoff the first being the fallacy that one gains 3 to 5 kgs over Christmas. Most people only gain 1kg but that's a hard 1kg to lose again. It adds up so if it's not the New Years resolution, what to do? Lifestyle change is always the answer!

My SO and I have always approached weight maintenance differently. Him by decreasing calories from fat and me by exercising. He does a lot of lip service to aerobic exercise and I do the same for food choices. I do exercise because I really enjoy it and I can eat what I want. We both lost around 7 kg between 1998 and 1999 and have kept it off. Reading the most up-to-date research, it seems that his is the more effective method. Not gaining weight is much easier than having to take it off. For us this means label reading and portion measurement until we get the idea of what a serving size is...and it's always much smaller than anticipated. We also always drink diet pop - carbonated chemical soup may as well be calorie-free since it's already nutrition free.

For me, it all goes sideways when I fall into the magical idea of weight set-points. That's the idea that it doesn't matter what I eat, I won't gain weight. Uh huh. Last time I tried that I gained 3 kilos from eating pub food after golf. Apparently some people use the idea of a societal weight set point as an excuse for their weight. Actually the idea of a lifestyle set point which makes a lot more sense. It's why we quickly loose some weight after holidays as we return to our normal eating habits.

So what about those resolutions? Mine is to continue to educate myself about nutrition and health and choose my food wisely. Happily after all this time, my tastes have changed and I can eat half a mini blizzard without the other half calling me from the freezer. I'm hoping to get SO to get the idea of hard aerobics out of his exercise routine and do the same - no more bootcamp for us but more ab exercises all around! We're getting more subject to injuries that take a long time to heal.

Have a great 2011 because, you know, the world ends in 2012. Kind of like Y2K only Y2K12. No pressure.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The unawesomeness of all in one devices

I used to have a PDA and no cell phone, I just don't phone a lot. My Sony Clie UX50 was a whopping $1200 and did everything but made phone calls. I was pretty happy with it - it's still my alarm clock.

Tech doesn't stand still though and slowly I couldn't rip MP3s into small enough files and Palm all but disappeared. Eventually I upgraded to a windows mobile phone then another. Along the way I found I really like swype but not a physical keyboard. I don't like a screen full of icons, even if I have no intentions of leaving the sandbox, I usually do. I like having a removable battery and an external SD card is a quick way to transfer media from one device to another.

I have a Samsung GT i9000M  thru Bell Mobility. Better known as the Galaxy Vibrant. I updated to Froyo, my device crashed and burned and is now at the repair shop. This is not a rant about Bell or Samsung. Enough devices failed that the update was pulled, repairs are being made and, hopefully, the problem is being resolved.

Nope this is about how much I plain rely on my device and I have to say I'm surprised. My SO was out of town last week. We usually text. Not this time, we had to  - gasp -  phone! Not that easy to catch someone when they are going out with a dog every 30 minutes. I twitter (much better than I blog). Sometimes I see stuff that I take a picture of and post. Or even take a picture to show SO later. No camera with me. I like to listen to tunes at work. No new tunes. My grocery list is on my device. Now it's back to pen and paper and it's hard to keep a pen. I pay for groceries with a credit card (for points) then pay back the card as soon as I leave the store because I loose those bills right away. Using debit card instead. Standing in line or waiting somewhere so I could play a game...if I had my Vibrant. I even saw a book that would be perfect for reading in snippets What the Dog Saw . Happily not yet available in Canada on Kindle. But I'm in the middle of a couple of books on my device - sigh.

Should I consider changing devices when mine comes back fixed? It was good until the update so I think it will be good again when repaired. And there's just nothing else out there right now that's better. Even the Nexus S doesn't meet up with my Vibrant.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How a WP7 device came to our house

I am the primary geek at our house. I had an Omnia 2 that I really liked. I fiddled and modified until it was just the way I wanted but it didn't have the direct access programs like android does so after I saw my S-I-L's device, and checking that there were Android apps for the stuff I like to do, I decided to upgrade to the Galaxy S, reset the Omnia 2 and give it to my SO. He's not a geek but I'm around so I thought it would work out well.

Not so much. The screen was not sensitive enough except when he didn't want it to work at all. This meant tapping H-A-R-D on the screen for texting yet doing butt calls even though the screen was supposed to be locked. Frustrating. He wasn't interested in having several screens with themes for applications and really didn't like the on-screen keyboard. I had a credit so I asked him if he wanted to go shopping for a phone. He said he would trust me to get him something.

First it would have to have a roomy keyboard. I looked at a Torch, and LG Optimus Quantum. The torch keyboard has very small keys with ridges around them to center the thumb on the key. The LG just has larger keys and just felt like it would be better for someone with bigger fingertips. The Torch had a series of small icon to touch and the LG had big squares. So I brought home the LG. With an upgrade credit and by trading in the O2. I ended up paying $6 and have 14 days to exchange it at any Futureshop.

It was a hit. In 2 seconds he had sent a couple of texts and was on line at his favorite website. Setting up email was a snap. We sat around and took pictures of each other with the LG, SGS and iPhone4 in the room (mine were the best because I was using retrocamera but his flash was a nice feature)

This would not be the phone for me. I fiddled with it for a couple of minutes and put it down. But for people new to the smart phones I think it could be a good choice. It has solid construction. WP7 Marketplace has a reasonable range of apps for those doing social media or playing games and the Internet Explorer is responsive. Like the old Palm PDAs, there is no multi-tasking but you can use it as a DAP while using programs and when you return to an app, it's where you left off unless you close it. Most importantly, it's easy to use.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Missing the point of the pro choice position

Going around the part of the internet I peruse is the truly ridiculous internet poll about the "pregnancy of Pete and Alisha Arnold". The feeling in my part of the blogsphere is that it's a scam designed to promote the anti-abortion position since no real people would get pregnant in order to have strangers decide on their personal life. That seems very probably, PZ's post may not be the best (no person *yet*? There will never be a person in her belly) but as always there are some awesome comments and those are what I'll be rifting off.

MY pro-choice position. I have no right to input into any pregnancy but my own. If I were to be asked what I would do in their position I would try to help them clarify what medical terms meant for end result of the pregnancy. Then it's their decision. Government has no right to input into pregnancies either. Whether it's US states denying abortions to women or the Chinese government dictating the one child/mandatory abortion policy. I agree with the motivation for the China policy much more than the US position (population explosion vs. women are stupid) but in the end, I feel both are wrong and would be better served with a education and medical intervention to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Pregnancy is a health condition that starts changing women's bodies soon after conception; it should be avoided if a child is not desired. If it helps, think of it as workplace safety.

People seem to be confused about the terminating the pregnancy part. All too often you get someone saying that there must be restrictions against late term abortions. Why? First, if a woman did decide on a late term termination is legality really going to be an issue? Do some major damage to yourself and the pregnancy is likely to be terminated. Second, late term terminations are done all the time. C-sections - late term termination. Any labour inducing actions are, in effect, late term terminations. The pregnancy is terminated not the product.

An expression of the lagging of science is often stated as where's my flying car. I would ask, where is my artificial womb. If it was truly accepted that life began at conception and human life is sacred there would be a concerted effort to ensure that any embryos removed from women would have an opportunity to develop as far as possible. This would be a boon to infertile couples and overly fertile women alike. The embryo/fetus only dies because of the inability to survive the new environment - see all those terminated pregnancies walking around?

It's very important to me that abortion is legal. Pregnancies can and do go wrong and doctors must be able to communicate options that will be in the best health interests of the woman and/or help prepare the parent(s) for birth. Just like any life changing event, the patient may need counselling. I am very glad that Canada doesn't have an abortion law. Pregnancy is treated as any other medical condition. I don't get to vote whether a smoker gets a lung transplant so why should I get to vote if other women keep a pregnancy. What is the difference between women miscarrying and needing a D&C and women choosing early in a pregnancy to get a D&C? Why do anti-abortionists assume the doctors that are there to help women hate humanity?

When you really think about it, it seems that the anti abortion lobby can only be primarily a pro-"punish/control women for being able to grow cells that can become life" group. That's a topic for another post though.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trip down memory lane - our wedding

We were visiting with friends and they were playing their wedding music for us. It was interesting because their wedding was South African and very dance-able. This lead to our wedding music, clearly more important to me than him because he couldn't remember it. He gave a stab at our first song (he chose "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce at the time but not during our visit) then, I think, just gave up and said something by Roberta Flack for the second song. Really, Roberta, Killing me Softly, Flack? I knew I had wanted "In My life" by the Beatles for the first song so thought we had it for the second song. Quick - get the wedding memories book.

We were all pretty happy about following local traditions. 
I'm amazed that I found the book in 3 seconds. We've moved several times and rarely look at photos anymore. I was very detailed in filling in blanks even though we were at school. Some of the comments are classic. Under traditions we like I have - arch at end, vetoed by SO; Under Engagement Mementos there are a couple of pictures and the comments 2 roses for Valentines and over 3.5/4 for grades - at least I didn't totally go soppy. And, btw, all wedding dress styles have sleeves that's how long ago it was.

My dream wedding was to get married in a hot air balloon at dawn. Very symbolic and unrealistic considering I get motion sick at the drop of a hat. That would have had to a very large balloon. Anyway my dad mentioned that ma cousine had gotten married by a JP; I wasn't going to do that was I. Uh, I guess not. Off to a church we went. Luckily in the '80 the RCC was much more relaxed about weddings - busy shuffling those priests I guess. Our priest was a very nice guy who got the call while taking Chemical Engineering. We spent a lot of time talking Chemistry rather than religion. He made suggestions for secularizing our ceremony (least repulsive OT verses, no mass etc) and off we went. Church, hotel reception and dance (calypso, rock, no polkas or Beach Boys until requested by guests!). We took off at midnight because we were heading to Hawaii in the morning.

I compare to the last wedding I was in 5 years ago. Very nice ceremony in the bride's parent's back yard. Nice supper at a hall, lots of country music. Bridal party last out the door because we had to clean up garbage, remove decorations, pack up booze, take gifts home etc. And that seems to be the trend around here. One of the lab techs has 2 weddings next summer, one in her back yard and the other not. In both cases there will be cleaning up that involves more than removing the gifts. I guess it prepares you for the rest of your life together.

And our second song *was* In My Life. For all that it's remembered I should have push for it to be first:)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Faith-based organizations =/= religious org ; semantics at it's best

Every year the multi-national I work for puts employees through the Corporate Ethics. It used to be everyone but they've stopped wasting the time of people who have no purchasing power; unfortunately that's not me. In it people like me find out things like
  • if someone has a frowny face they are unlikely to take your teasing about age well.
  • avoid the appearance conflict of interest
  • don't give/take bribes which includes most gifts
I also thought it said something about not promoting religion, as did some other people, but apparently we miss understood. It's okay to systematically use corporate resources to advance an evangelical personal life as long as you use support faith-based (aka non-denominational Christian evangelical) organizations NOT religious ones. Company sponsored table at a prayer breakfast - no problem, any person of faith will appreciate that this is a super way to be involved in the community. Support an evangelical children's charity - who could deny children at Christmas? The OCE is ready for questions and have their supporting statements ready. Pursue that line of inquiry and the manager knows you're not one of his type; it's the appearance that matters.

And so American manager has brought his religion into the workplace. Even if I choose not to participate in a charitable activity, I can rest assured that he will contribute on my behalf. That would be my behalf as both and employee and stock holder. Thank you for relieving me of that burden. Now I have to make doubly sure to up my contributions to secular charities.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Obesity acceptance

I was reading Dr. Sharma's weekly links. One interesting discussion is  obesity is like alcoholism. Commenters rightly noted that obesity doesn't at all lead to the types of behaviour alcoholism does with the effects on others. But if obesity was treated as an addition like alcoholism perhaps more people would seek treatment.

I'm not sure we're seeking a solution that doesn't exist. A long time ago, a friend (who was taking a psych course at the time) told me that all people have addictive personalities as part of their pleasure/reward system. Research has not contradicted that pleasure is a powerful motivator and reward and we see it in all aspect of life. It's just as some are more socially acceptable than others. Most people admire successful/rich people. In the past, a well fed body was an indication of wealth. Now that there is an overwhelming availability of cheap palatable food everyone can have this wealth indicator.

I admit, I find it difficult to empathize with obese people. I don't really understand why, once you have to increase your clothes size a couple of times that you don't take steps to stop the increase by checking your portion size and making yourself eat different foods. Replace food as a reward with an activity you would do more of if you had more time/money. Take time to build new habits and don't multi-task while eating.

And then I remember dog training. My first dog never went on furniture - a firm rule but he also had to be on a leash because he was intermittent on coming when called. We're now on dog number 4. None of them have had really solid recalls though all of them come when I call them to watch tv or go in their space because I'm going out. I can make all the excuses in the world about time and other commitments but, in the end, as much as I would like (really like) my guys to come when I call them ALL THE TIME, it's not that important to me because I haven't made time to effectively work on it to make sure that they do.

Why does obesity matter to you? If you're activity level is slow walking, sitting, driving and you can do that, what is your motivation for change? If you don't mind taking pills to compensate for metabolic shortcomings why lose weight? If you are willing to take the increased risk of surgical risk, poor medication dosage then being larger isn't going to be a motivator. If you don't care how long you live because you'll be seeing everyone who matters in heaven, why would you be concerned about your length and quality of life?

Why does your obesity matter to me? Well, in a universal health care system there is a finite amount of money. I am currently healthy. A little physio and an annual checkup is about the extent of my use. But every dollar that goes towards a intervention of a manageable health problem is unavailable for other use. That means poorer assessment and treatment of cancer and other diseases. Longer surgical wait times because of the increased surgical complexities with increased likelihood of poor outcomes. Less research and/or health education funds.

Research shows that it's really is the calorie intake that matters; we over eat way more than we can compensate for with exercise. If the reward not being obese is not self evident, perhaps it means MORE food processing to take out calories while maintaining nutritional needs and inducing a sense of satiety. I'm not talking about deceitful marketing or emphasizing of one nutritional aspect in the face of overwhelming lack of value for calories (like chocolate milk and twizzlers). I'm talking about more intrinsic single serving packaging like precut pizza made with low fat cheese and salt substitutes with flash freezing for optimal palatability. Prefer pop/soda? Make it with stevia (natural has a better image!) and load it with nutrients. Many people denigrate food research because it is done by multi-national, profit based food companies. This is like denying the good that has come out of medications because they are developed by multi-national, profit based pharmaceutical companies. Use food processing to help those people who are not going to take the effort to garden, prepare raw food, measure serving sizes and all those other things that go into healthy eating habits.

I would like everyone to be more like me. Making the choice to eat healthier foods in moderate quantities. Exercising for fun and all that. But that's not realistic. Instead of using an authoritative control for a widespread problem, play into the behavioral aspect. Making the low calorie choice convenient, attractive and tasty may seem like giving up or giving in but what am I losing? The ability to be judgmental about people who make different lifestyle choices? Sure but I'm also hoping to lose the strain on the health care system and see people live with less medical intervention.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gender roles hurt men too.


I was wandering the interwebz before my exercise class this morning and ran across a discussion about this comic on Pharyngula. I have to admit that I naively thought that women would have more respect and status by now given that we are at least half the population but between the rise of uber-conservatism and the denial of existence of experts it's no surprise that women as still treated like second class citizens. Mostly it boils down to  men being unable imagine that women could have an area of expertise other than one related to sex - and really the only thing that matters to women is their sexual attractiveness. Oh and thinking they have the right to lack self control but anyway...

Eventually someone brings up the "men have it hard too" argument. Oh and gender roles hurt men.

Which brings me to the reason I'm blogging today. The instructors at NRG4Life are all certified and very well versed in musculature and how to exercise without injury. Kind of like EXPERTS! Today was Halloween fun so a woman brought her husband along to the class. Now you know that classes are through to be lame because - well they are female activity involving rhythm and music. For the class today there was some aerobics then some free weights. The deal with free weight is you do specific movements in a controlled manner to work specific muscle groups. You can challenge yourself by either upping the reps or the weight. Well the guy at the back of the class was using 3 pound weights (I could tell because they were lime green) when we were told to only grab heavy weights; then when we were doing shoulders he was swinging his arms around like he was scything hay. Let me tell you it's very distracting to have someone doing something so *utterly* useless in your field of view. He continued this trend through the entire upper body workout. The instructor didn't challenge him even though he was inviting self injury and I don't blame her.

That man was unable to comprehend that a woman could know something he didn't so he didn't follow the routine. I wouldn't be surprised if he told his wife that it was such an easy work out that other men couldn't be getting much out of it. This guy flirted with an injury because of his inability to follow directions from a woman. You can bet he would have blamed the instructor if he pulled something even though he wasn't doing what she said. Also he's old (like me only a little older I think) so it's going to take a long time to heal a soft tissue injury. There are a few men who come to the various classes. They use heavier weights to exhaust their muscles and they follow the routine so they the benefits of a guided workout. Kudos for being willing to show exhaustion when working out with the opposite gender.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WM 7 is out - competition is good

WM7 had the big launch yesterday and there are tons of handsets out there. wmpoweruser.com has a very nice overview of the handsets available with their specs. I've enjoying having a couple of WM handsets over the past few years. I don't even think their new catchphrase "always delightful, and wonderfully mine" is that creepy or any dumber than any other large corporate phrase generator :)

I do think MS has successfully edged between the iCrowd and the fandroids. The multitude of form factors will ensure there's something for everyone. The HTC Surround looks really cool with the pop up speaker and built in stand - hopefully you would have an office and not just a cube. You can get a vertical or horizontal keyboard which is nice for those who like physical keyboards. I'm always tempted by the HTC Pro until I actually pick it up - it's pretty heavy. Then there are, of course, the slabs from Samsung, HTC and LG. The sparse interface and closed app store will make it easier to control. A couple of new-ish players are being given a shot - I'm referring to Dell and LG - but it's no surprise to hear that HTC was working with MS from the start; they don't have a proprietary O/S.

Over the past couple of years, as I've been looking for the smart phone for me I've come to realize that tech sites really *fear* customization which is why they've liked the iPhone so much and cheered the new direction for MS. They want something good enough right out of the box that the reporters don't feel the desire to go below the surface. And they're sure if consumers dip below the surface they will be scared and/or disgusted by tiny print and a learning curve seen in WM 6.5 and even in Android (yes I have seen the little print - it lets you do the cool stuff). What they like to over look (or dismiss as fragmentation) is how consumers pick a phone.

My SIL is a general consumer and I am a gadget geek yet we ended up with the same phone. She wanted something with SIM. She texts, takes pictures, uses SoundHound, lets her boys play games, goes on line and makes the odd phone call. I wanted something with a SIM card that I could watch TV, read books, text, surf, bank, and make the odd phone call. It looked great, the on board interface was attractive to both of us and we're both really happy.

Against my better judgement, I made the jump to Android earlier this year; I had wanted to wait until after the launch but even after the launch I have no regrets. I played with an iPhone 4 for awhile the other day. It's small, heavy and has that screen of icons that I find unappealing. WM7 has those big the tiles and the closed App shop, I don't have a Zune or Xbox and I don't need Exchange compatibility. Even though I start out liking things out of the box, over time, I always customize. When I handed off Luigi (Omnia i8000) I reset to factory and was amazed at how different it looked. I had even changed the start up graphics! I know I'll need to learn a new OS so I'll go to something I can personalize.

And yes I do stare at my phone but not because I'm looking for something, I looking AT something I find interesting. It's a cute idea but glance and go isn't going to appeal to me or any of the people in the commercial.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Sermon - another ist

Last summer I participated in a survey of atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and sceptics titled administered by researchers at U of Waterloo (my alma mater btw). It was bound to have a bias as the survey was linked from many atheist web sites. I got an email from the researchers that gave a link to their preliminary results. As I read through the descriptions of respondents I realized that I hoped I didn't fall in the "new" atheist group. But I am. I'm in the group because I strongly agree with the idea that religion should be practiced privately and not inform  public policy and I'm in total agreement with individuating morality rather than binding/purity morality. I've held my religious (or lack thereof) beliefs for decades so why would it bother me to be put in the "new" atheist bucket?


Well for one thing gnu atheists *are* passionate about excluding religion for public policy. That means butting heads with pretty well all cultures as people seem to think you can't have culture without some kind of belief in a "higher something" authoritarian or not. This is not a fight I want to have. I just want to live my life according to my beliefs as I stay within secular law (hard sometime when it comes to speeding). My beliefs inform my actions and I expect your beliefs to form your actions.


For another - atheist are the last group public figures can malign and no one speaks up (except the Universal Society of Hinduism). Who wants to "own" that label? First the Pope now the Dalai Lama lay a lot of ills of modern society on criticism of religion as if the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Irish civil war, Yugoslavia and Bosnia atrocities and the ongoing deal between Israel and the rest of the Middle East are equal to words that simply saying that being religious doesn't make you more moral or ethical and religious documents do not correlate with known events.


And finally - whenever you read anything about how science and religion could get along if only those "new atheists" didn't rock the boat both belief, as it is commonly practiced, and atheism are distorted beyond recognition.


But after participating in and reading preliminary results from the Beyond Belief survey I'm happy to be identified with "New" Atheists who I would prefer were called informed atheists but I don't make up new terms just to make me comfortable. I am agnostic in that there could be an omniscient, omnipotent being pulling our marionette strings but how can we comprehend anything about such an entity much less how to make it happy? I am atheist about the existence of a God who listens to your prayers and decides what is best for you. I am "scientistic" about a shared reality that can be explored to give consistent measurable results that apply to everyone whether they believe or not.


When I was a teen, I thought religion was an effect way to control a diffuse population. Religious leaders were in it for the power. Everyone else was in it because it was the culture (and fear of punishment from the leaders). I couldn't imagine that there are people who are comforted by an authoritarian figurehead and unchanging world. Now that I've suffered some personal losses and empathized with friends who've had losses I can understand the appeal of a world view where you are promised that if you follow all these rules then you will get to see all those people/friends you've lost again. Your human suffering has a point other than mere existence and as a bonus you can feel superior to those who don't follow the rules as they've been handed to you (if that's the way you roll). Face it, premature losses haunt you as you wonder if there is anything that could have done. Change and uncertainty is frequently uncomfortable.


At this point in time it would take some extraordinary public event to make me accept the reality of God - that's the "scientistic" part of me. I'm sure I would resist the evidence but in the end, all the answers would lead to that reality regardless of whether I believed it or not.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lifestyle change update

Well it's been a couple weeks since I started back into the exercise routine along with the eating better (although I did have 2 cupcakes for supper). If I was doing this to lose weight it's be pretty disappointing. I haven't really lost any weight but I'm happy with how things are going.

I'm doing a great range of activities. Yoga is helping me improve my flexibility and balance twice a week. Bootcamp is killing me once a week - there is just no way to not go hard so I'm glad it's only managed to be 45 minutes each week, it must be building endurance. I'm still doing Zumba twice a week because it's so much fun. Once a week Zumba's right after bootcamp so it's not as energetic as it could be.  For more cardiac activity I'm doing an advanced step and a pump class. I just wish there was one more yoga class.

And what about the eating part. I wanted to focus on not eating as much junk food. It's not that I was eating poorly, I was just eating extra stuff late in the evening and I wanted to cut that as much as possible. That part is going well. It's always good to check on your serving size. With my app, I'm finding that I eat not that much but what I eat is kind of fatty and definitely high in sodium. Good thing my blood pressure is on the low side. And there's no scientific studies showing that cutting sodium decreases chances of heart attack - yay.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First week back at exercise...

and I was away too long. I could see I was starting to lose tone and my serving sizes were creeping up as were the number of "treats". Even though I've missed seeing people and am glad to be back, I did get some new stuff because everything even more fun with new stuff!

I got some new clothes at a new store in town called One Tooth. Very nice quality yoga clothes/active wear for far less than Lululemon. Even though I workout nearly daily, I have problems buying pants for nearly $100 (that includes jeans). So One Tooth is working for me. I also got some new shoes - it was time.

The purchase I'm most excited about, though, is some software for my Galaxy S. It's called Absolute Fitness and I downloaded it from the market. I am a food logger from way back. It forces me to focus on serving size and I'm lazy (yet honest) enough that I eat less because I don't like seeing all those items in a day:) I was looking for something that tracked both calories and exercise. This is a really neat app. You can add foods if you don't find what you eat, it includes all sorts of exercises (for calories burned) and gives a very nice graphic of how you are doing for the day. The daily calorie intake for me is 1850 which seems high but reasonable. It's easy to add your food as you eat it and will show me when I tend to eat - mostly before evening since I exercise in the evening.

I've bumped up the classes I'm doing as well. Over summer I did Zumba for fun. Now I've added Bootcamp before Zumba (are my quads killing me), a flow yoga class on Tuesday, Zumba again on Wednesday, Adv. Step and Flow Yoga on Thursdays, a PUMP class on Saturday morning and intermittent stuff on Sunday. I'm not sure how Thursday is going to work because I have an hour between classes. While it's not to cold, I'll probably come home and shower but as winter sinks in I may shower at the gym and read for awhile before yoga. Or I may do the class right before yoga instead.

I don't do this to lose weight. I tend to eat when I'm not doing anything else so it helps get me off that kick to track my intake. I love exercise classes - I've made lots of friends and it's my opportunity to move to music as my partner is not a dancer. Scalzi has a rant about finding time to write and says just make time. I feel the same way about fitness. Everyone has the same 24 hours, it's how you use it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paid Labour - a failing social construct?

I was reading the news the other day - much like the Beatles - and decided to read about how Canada's unemployment rate went above 8% to 8.1% in the month of August. Since I live in a very hot job market I'm really an on-looker but I still wonder what the real percentage of people are actually looking for work when these numbers are published. Then I wandering into the comments. The first two comments were anti-Harper comments along the line of - Go Harper raise that unemployment rate. Since we have a capitalist (with safety net) society, I wonder what on earth that means? Is the government supposed to force employers to increase employees? Are our tax dollars supposed to go to an inflated public service so more people can be employed? How much more welcoming can our government be towards business and would it make a difference?

The Industrial Revolution didn't bring about a huge change in labour for most people. Instead of majority of people being peasants they moved to the big city and became labourers. Sure labourer had more autonomy than peasants and seemingly more ability to move up the ladder but most were content to stay where they were. Most people could still identify the fruits of their labour. Good companies fostered paternalism that replaced the serf/lord relationship. You can see it in pictures from the early 1900s. Work for a company and they had housing for you at a reduced rate and did family type stuff like picnics. And so it went  through 2 world wars and for as long as lots of people were needed to make stuff. Things were by no means perfect but basically you worked and got paid. If you did a good job, you stayed employed and even got raises - that was the social contract.

To me that contract seems to be failing and I can pinpoint when it happened in Alberta. The economic downturn in the early '90s. Employees were laid off because companies would go under if they didn't. Employees went along on the unspoken understanding that when times got better, jobs would return. Then the government wanted to reduce costs by 5% so the nurses trimmed and retired enough to offer that 5%. In return the provincial government said - thanks, now *we'll * implement the 5% reduction. The thing I noticed the most about that 5% cut was that it affected jobs performed mostly by women; teachers, administrators and nurses - and male feminists rarely speak out in those situations - they need their jobs too. In Alberta, the public sector lead the way in fracturing the work contract. Businesses started to lay off if they weren't going to make their profits for the year as it was an easy way to cut costs. Lose some people, save their wages and redistribute work. Jobs have returned but the stability of knowing that if you do a *good job* your job will be there never has. Sure you can't get fired but make up some reason to slow down and get rid of a position....

Fast forward to the present. People making the most money don't seem to contribute to the actual manufacture of a product. The economy has recovered to a great extent yet there is still high unemployment rates; at this point jobs aren't coming back so new ones have to be created but by who? Everyone seems to be buying into the idea that company profitability is THE reason for ... everything!  Why would new jobs be created when they can squeeze the people they have. Management disrespects people's skills and knowledge then complains that the quality of employee isn't the same as it used to be AND they are rewarded in the form of tax cuts from the government.

Yet I still hear about an upcoming labour shortage as baby boomers retire. How is this possible? When I was growing up it was a given that the work day would shorten and we would have lots of time to do fun stuff. It seems like all the "leisure time" has been concentrated to create a higher unemployment rate. There is less jobs to be had and more automation. Minimum wage here seems reasonable but how many part time jobs do you need to cover expenses?  Questions, questions. Our economy seems to be based on infinite growth - or at least infinite for now.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Autumn is time to diet and exercise reset

We tend to be on a scholastic year even though neither of us have been in school for decades. The back to school specials combined with the impending end of warm weather activities makes it a good time to think about our winter schedule.

I started thinking about my activity schedule last month and have been eagerly waiting for the fall/winter schedule at nrg4life. I found I was injury/ache prone last year so I asked Grace how she stays so fit and defined. Grace exercises hours a day because she really enjoys it and her favorite activity is power yoga. The hours have changed this year so I can take both evening yoga classes. Fred wants to do some intense kayaking in the Cooks next year so I'll be doing bootcamp to improve my upper body strength. Still enjoying Zumba so that's twice a week and I want to do an advanced step because Grace may add some dimensional routines which are a blast. I also want to do a core routine everyday. My Yoga Online has some very good short core focused routines that I'll be using.

Well that takes me away from the kitchen but what about stocking the kitchen for when I'm home? Fall is horrible for snacking, somewhere inside me is a bear that wants to bulk up for hibernation:) It's really important to have healthy snacks and some kind of meal plan since I exercise during supper hour. This year it looks like there will be lots of stir-fries and we'll probably end up with quesidillas again. I would like to use our slow cooker more but it makes a lot of food and the more food available the more likely we are to take excessive serving sizes.

Exercise is an important part of my winter activity and not just for calories burned. Think about it, a chocolate bar takes almost an hour of hard activity to balance. No the benefits are getting out to see people, relieving stress through activities and keeping busy to prevent boredome eating.

What are you doing to get ready for winter?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Breaking a personal rule

Hopefully this isn't the slippery slope into ethics failure but I feel compelled to blog about work. While work doesn't define who or what I am, it is somewhere I spend a lot of time and have a lot of emotional investment in. News that catches my eye is elevator deaths and food safety violations. I am always disappointed but not surprised when news headlines are followed by reports from employees that they tried to communicate with management about near misses but were ignored. I see this all the time.

Working for a large company I can really see the disconnect between the "slow down for safety" coming from the top down, the desire for manpower at the worker and line supervisor to work safely and the continuing drive to optimize production at all levels in between; the classic organizational culture vs. climate problem. After 10 years of trying to create a safety climate with specific training to most management, there is still a struggle to create a safety culture at the operations management level. There are metrics for shipping, receiving and incidents but without a buy in from that OpMan there is incomplete metrics on near misses for both safety and food safety.

My, should have seen this coming, moment was with regard to product quality. Operating parameters verifications were routinely off spec but operations management believed it was just due to operational changes so disregarded the specs creating all sorts of problems. After years of working with a proactive management I couldn't truly believe that I was now working with a reactive management team. Even now that operations are back near the conditions they had been, operations management seems to believe that what happened was inevitable.

Is a safety incident also inevitable? Our operations manager is minimally involved with safety. He hasn't attended safety training since coming to our location. He skips safety events for employees in favour of production related tasks setting an example that encourages short cuts; kiboshes local safety initiatives that haven't been top down mandated; nods in tacit agreement with a safety violation and has a colleague doing damage control (oh he doesn't phrase things right) after he displays a stunningly negative safety attitude. Will he still be here when the fruits of his labours mature?

In a company with multiple locations, the only true way to measure the of each location is incidents. Upper management wants to believe that all is well; location management is ethical (or at least following the company ethics guideline) and that the workers are just jamming for more money or expensive upgrades that have no payback for the stock holder. Line supervisors are stuck in the middle, on the hook for incidents while being bypassed by management when determining operations.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Atheist, Accomodationist, more ists for the mill

One of the interesting things about living in Canada is that we are a secular state in spite of having God in our constitution. There are a lot of churches and apparently our Prime Minister is a church goer. I say apparently because he doesn't talk a lot about his private life. In any case, we really we have more of a Christian culture than burgeoning Christ based theocracy. Sometimes reading about religion in the US is like reading about a different world and because they are such a h-u-g-e influence on Canadian culture I fear religion in Canada becoming radicalized.

I think about this because of a few themes in the blogosphere that I follow; accomodation vs atheism, Phil Plait's don't be a dick talk at TAM8 and Park 51 There is so much disingenuity when discussing these topics that are really linked by religious in grouping.

First a little about atheism. It means one doesn't believe god(s) exist. Any of them. Ever. Most atheists are honest enough to admit that if a god actually showed up they would have to renounce atheism.  That doesn't mean they would have to worship that god, just accede that it is one. Atheist probably don't have any more in common than any group that is defined by one characteristic. One hopes that atheism is a decision based on examining facts but it could just be the way you were brought up. Many atheists are secular humanist and passionate about human rights and justice. Some aren't. Some are outspoken, some soft spoken and some non-spoken.

So first the Accomodation vs Atheism thing. Why do accomodationists (and my main exposure is Chris Mooney) like to demonize passionate atheists writers and bloggers? Why frequently joining with the religious in totally missing the point of a gnu atheist demonstration then expect respect from them? PZ Myers/Crackergate is a really good example. Accomodationist and religious alike focus on the stake through the host while ignoring the back story. PZ stepped up when a student was assaulted in a church for handling a host that a friend brought back to show, then expelled. Assault and expel a student for looking at a host - pick on an adult staking a host. Immature is marauding into a church service; victim-less crime is a picture of a host, page from a Qua'an and the God Delusion with a spike through them.  And I have to say, I have gone to RCC church many times and NEVER seen bizarre behaviour of people watching to see if the host is eaten or prevented someone from showing it to another - things must be very different in Florida.

Then there's the don't be a dick thing. I can't see how people say they don't get it.  Again PZ is a good example. Pharyngula is a great unmoderated  blog; there is a lot of swearing, aggression and dismissal of religion there. If someone tries to evangelize there, that person must be able to logically argue with new points to be respected. Critics like to point at PZ as an angry "dick" atheist. I suppose he is if you are insulted by the idea that people don't believe gods exist. On the other hand, I can recognize dick commenters on his site. If you are an isolate atheist, you may think you have to be this outspoken to be included in the gnu atheist "club" and *talk* to people like this. The internet confers anonymity and it's pretty easy to be much more abrasive on line than you are in real life. Be aware, not everyone reads the same sites as you.

And Park 51. I'm not Muslim but I am horrified by the moronic things the protesters are saying so I can well believe that radical Muslim groups are happy to have recruiting help courtesy of the Teabaggers. And this idiot rhertoric has leaked into Canada. When I mentioned the center and said what about the Muslims that died by 9/11 my Dad actually asked if I meant the hijackers. Really!?!?! I didn't know Muslims were prevented from having jobs in the WTC or being emergency responders.

Sometimes I have to step back from the internet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The first sign of getting old is using the phrase when I was young

I've always smiled at the emails that go around asking what you remember even though I'm having more in common with my Dad than I used to. I'm also having a heck of a time looking at people and guessing their age. When I got IDed at 29 I thought it was nuts but I now understand now hard it is to visually tell ages. I generally divide into kids, young adults, "my age" which seems to span a 30 year range, parent's age and wow you've lived a long time old. I don't think about it a lot because I consider stage of life to be more important than age.

So I did found discussion in Slate about Twentysomethings to be fun to read. This is at least the third time (each separated by a decade or so) I've read about how twentysomethings are kind of lame for being different than the people now in their 30s like being 30 is magically gives you something other than the bragging rights of getting there. I read these discussions to learn if anything new and came upon a couple of interesting ideas (mostly from comments).

One is the introduction of a developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood. I suppose that would be a good thing. As our society has more time to age it makes sense to recognize stages of growth but consider this. Many people have problems understanding how juvenile crime works - limiting terms and sealing records due to the youth being unable to fully understand the consequences of their actions (IANAL). I'm not sure creating another "division" serves any value. The other is a comment about kids these days have too many choices and no clear path to adulthood. I'm not sure how you can have too many choices unless one isn't given the tools to properly make decisions and isn't that what parenting is about? Waa - society isn't as authoritarian as you want.

I get the part about wanting to both criticize and be part of the current twentysomething cohort. Who wants to grow old - especially in our current society. Not only are we judged by how old we look but it's easier to escape youthful mistakes than in the "olden days". Mobility and secular society have made shunning a less effective social tool. Work seems easier. At tech school, I learned how to make an analytical GC column and computer courses revolved around learning to program. Now it's more computer courses  focusing on learning how to use specific programs - easier maybe? Younger folks have more time to get finances somewhere decent - let's ignore the huge burden of student loans and how profitability is worshiped over job creation even in the public sector.

Supported squat, a sign of aging.
I'm not seeing the difference between kids now days and when I was a YA. We are lucky enough to live when being 20 something is the time to try jobs, maybe get ahead, try relationships and hopefully find yourself in terms of ethics and self actualization. I admire that the people I know take their time more, both at work and in their personal lives, not rushing into tasks or relationships (personal or work). I have lived long enough now to know that people can change and learn from mistakes and it's only by luck that we avoid serious consequences of the thoughtless stuff we all do.

And defining adulthood? Maybe it should just be when a person figures out they are not the center of everyone else's life and  takes the consequence for their actions. No blaming things on someone/thing or expecting a supernatural being to make thing better.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I have the exercise habits...now about balanced eating

I'm lucky to have really good exercise mentors. While my parents didn't particularly encourage me in team sports, one of my youngest memories is my mom working out with Ed Allen with I was a pre-schooler. Her example of making time to exercise is one of the things I really admire. Through my  YA years I remember her skipping (on a cement floor - yuck) for 10 minutes most evenings to get her exercise in. My M-I-L could not be more totally different physically than my mom was yet she too has a strong exercise history. My partner's family did a lot of outdoor activity while he was growing up including fishing and hiking. Unfortunately going to the gym was pretty intimidating for women in the '70s and '80 so activity fell off in the winter. Her group activity used to be bridge but is now water aerobics sometimes yoga. How great is that when she's in her '70s?

Of course physical activity is only part of the health story. I am a proponent of the calories out must be same or more than calories in or one will gain weight and all calories are the same (in terms of energy). Yes you may have a faster or slower metabolism, have food sensitivities that physically affect you but in the end, if you eat more calories than your body uses then expect to end up putting extra physical demands on your body through weight gain.

Even though I know this, I eat a lot of nutritionally empty calories. In spite of all the scare chain emails, I do use sweetener because I really like sweets. Like everyone (I hope) the more I think about a specific food the more I crave it and feel hard done by if I can't eat it. The effect of the piling on calories from pop, cake and candy is much more immediate and difficult to counter act than the use of sweeteners (I may change my ind after reading this article  from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). I prefer Splenda because I can bake with it. Each packet is 12 mg and as long as I don't consume the equivalent of 65 packets a day, I'm inside the FDA guidelines for exposure. Since I do not have phenylketonuria I don't have to be overly concerned about the effects of  aspartame either. For me, drinking nutritionally valuable liquids is difficult if not impossible. I would rather eat fruit than drink fruit juice although I enjoyed the eggnog-esque smoothie by Booster Juice last winter.


I've never really followed the Canada Food Guide but I have followed research about values of different types of food. I think because of school and our climate, I think of fall as the time to change things up and create new habits. I will be evaluating my exercise regime due to some chronic injury and I also to tune up my eating habits to decrease risk of chronic disease. I enjoy cooking and now that summer grilling season will be over soon, I need to get some good recipes in hand for comfort eating.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stop looking for the magic diet bullet!

Feministe has some guest bloggers right now and one blogged about advances in obesity research and how it could be used to castigate pregnant women. Cue the anti science comments.

There are a few problems with talking about obesity research. One is that most are discussing reports (news clips or PR releases) of the research the other is that obesity is a hot-button topic. Women have been rated on looks for so long - and it's rebounded with a vengeance currently due to hypersexuality. Most people have a bias if they are interested enough to read a science paper; I know I do. I follow many obesity research blogs because I want to know what my risks are and what effects of those risks are as I get older. I want to start taking the pill cocktail with each meal as late as possible so I try to keep up with research.

What are the risks of being obese? Weight and health are related. More weight makes your muscles and joint work harder. But fat isn't just like carrying around a bag of rice. My interest in fat cells developed when I noticed, during peri-menopause, that my weight affected whether I menstruated. Then when my SO had elevated cholesterol levels the doctor suggested trying weight loss to see if he could avoid starting on Lipitor for awhile. 10 kgs lighter and no meds. Sure enough fat cells have a metabolic effect.  Recent research shows that obesity related diabetes is can be related to  metabolites from fat cells causing the liver to become insulin resistant. It's long been known that dietary fat can increase cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. Combine the increase in cholesterol levels with the increased difficulty in being active when obese and the risk can skyrocket. Turns out that fat cells become a big problem when they are overloaded and having more fat cells can help with that storage. All of these things are counter-intuitive.

We're entering a very important time in obesity research and weight management. Food companies are becoming much better at marketing poor quality food as healthy.Spokes persons to tout the "no bad food" mantra (who doesn't want to believe that) while emphasizing the possibility of risk in quality foods. There is bad food : it's when the health risks intrinsic to the food outweigh the calories consumed. Yes an Aero bar IS a source of calcium but is it the best source? Red Licorice has no fat but it isn't calorie free so what are those calories from? Exercise is not medicine. BMI is taking a hit since most people outside the BMI limits insist they are muscled way more than the population BMI is based on.

Isn't is less expensive to try and eat well than to take a bunch of medication later?

My SO and I have each lost 7- 10 kg and maintained it for the past 9 years. We did it different ways (low fat vs. food/calorie logging) because we have different belief systems about what works. The reality is that reducing excessive eating lowered weight. The thing we had in common was an increased awareness of what and how much we put in our mouths. I struggle with this much more since I cannot casually skip meals. This has become a lifestyle change reflected in our grocery lists and restaurant choices.

Back to the research finding from the Feministe post - pregnancy is a very difficult time, not just the physical changes (and possibly permanent changes in family life) but the bizarre loss of privacy. It seems that since women no longer hide away they are fair game for everyone with an opinion. (and strangers touching bellies - just yuck). As research continues about how fat tissue physically affects health it is important to monitor how fat affects fetus development. Research provides better perinatal care as well as (in an ideal world) shifting health resources for an aging population. This study isn't saying anything new, it's giving more reasons for encourage pregnant women to be aware of what they are eating.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

all kinds of -ists

I've always thought of myself as a secular humanist. I'm not sure if that's what exactly I am but it's how I identify. I don't care if you get inspiration for ethical behaviour from Grimm's Fairy Tales as long as you don't expect me to worship your source or expect your source to top laws that apply to everyone. Part of being a humanist to me is to try to support groups that make the world a better place.

That desire also leads me to identify as a feminist. One of the ongoing random arguments in my home space is when SO makes a comment that implies that papa x can't come out and play after working so hard all day because mama x demands papa x be ...OMG ...a parent. Our domestic unit now uses terms like flight attendant, letter/mail carrier, fisher, spouse that, at least mentally, takes the gender role out of the job. Guys who use the 10 weeks of paternal leave available gets my support because they are embracing their family role. If woman will trust me with her kids, I will look after/monitor them when she needs a break. To me feminism is about fighting patriarchal privilege by, at minimum, recognizing it and working to overcome that privilege.

As is frequently the case, this post at Feministe about embracing the label of mama'i rather than feminist was made more thought provoking by the comments. I am not black nor USian so much of the anger does not resonate with my experience, I can only empathize. I can understand the need to redefine feminism because is it so white and US-centric and has become a strawman to burn in the media. Much like art, music, socialism and most cultural changes, a formal feminist movement requires a group of comparatively affluent people wanting to initiate change. Most of society are busy just living their lives; affluent people have the time and resources to advocate for change. The unfortunate thing is they also end up defining the movement initially and frequently the movement fizzles out as the next generation thinks the battle has been won. It seems to me that the biggest difference between the black civil rights and feminist movement in the US is the recognition by the majority of blacks that the fight is on-going regardless of what mainstream media tries to say. Too many women are ready to narrowly define the feminist movement and call it done. Men are more than happy to go along with that because they don't have to try and change their thinking.


Which leads me to another type of -ist; the "New Atheist".  The NA is an expected extension of the Enlightenment movement which discovered less and less need for a god to explain the world or for a brutal justice system based on otherness...and a topic for different post.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Narrowly averted BIG DEBT

I have some nice stuff - especially since I like to see big numbers in my bank account and not on my credit card bill but lately, I had a bug about buying stuff. Maybe I felt the need to reward myself for something so far undiscovered or I was just bored. Two things came up for consideration and the weirdest thing is that I like what I have even though I was on the front edge when I purchased (sort of like picking Beta instead of a VHS player)

The first up on the block for upgrading was Luigi (my Omnia 2). When I last upgraded, there were apps for Audible, ereader, Slingbox, etc that were only available for WM so it made sense to get a WM phone. And I really like Luigi. Huge screen, fast, lots of memory, camera flash; what could happen to change my mind? Well MS announced that nothing on WM7 would work on WM 6.5 and below.

Luigi's new clothes - much cheaper than new phone
 Most developers instantly stopped producing updated software. Yes old apps still work for WM and I can use web pages but stand alone apps are popular for a reason. I really noticed when I started using Google Reader. I never got into RSS feeds but I really like how Google Reader lets me flip through blogs of interest. Using the webpage really sucks on Luigi. I thought maybe I should get a new Samsung Galaxy S. Hmmm. Crisis averted! I was looking through OpenMarket and found speeed reader Now I have an icon on my main page for both Twitter (MoTweets) and Google Reader. Combined with my other stuff I can't even start to need a new smart phone.

That was the cheap crisis.
Passat is more practical than our other drive

I thought I might like a different car. I have a '06 Passat with 4motion. It's pretty awesome. When I first saw the VW Passat on the street, I loved it. When I decided to trade in my GTI I took the opportunity to check out a mildly used one. It's green with beige leather. It has lights that turn when you go round corners; a lane change mode on the turn signal (1 touch, 3 flashes), sat nav and those 30 cool things they added to the Passat. I checked the specs and yesss they upgraded the engine to actually have performance. I drove into the city with one car and came home with another.

But I had seen the BMW Gran Turismo in New Scientist and really liked the styling (other than the pedestrian friendly front end). I've seen another sweet BMW, the X6. Then Honda came out with the Crosstour. Not really hot on the front end but we have a dealership in town advertising 0.9% financing and I'm liking Norden a lot less than I did when I had my GTI. So I test drove the Honda. Nice drive but not nicer than my car. I feel like I'm giving up a lot of luxe features for a newer vehicle. Then I checked the balance of my car loan. Another crisis averted! I washed and cleaned my Passat and it's like new. In a couple years I may trade it for an Acura ZDX if I could ever get used to *that* front end. If VW has something similar I could also head look at it too at a different dealership.

I'm glad my cheap side came through again. Truly none of the cars I could afford evoke as much emotion as my Passat did. While I would like the X6, I had to get my Passat flat-bedded to the city because of a steering column lock failure (yay warranty; yay failing in the garage). The truck driver said he hauls lots of BMWs in. Beemers - still finicky after all these years.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I loved this season of Dr. Who

I haven't really settled down with a theme for the blog other than I'm getting old:) so I thought I would lighten up with some TV chatter. Dr. Who used to be shown late on Saturday night on PBS; we watched it to relax while at tech school. Until recently, the new series was shown on CBC and pretty well pre-empted at the drop of a hat. Still I managed to see a most of the shows with Rose as the companion and the last couple of season with David Tennant on BBC Canada. Now it's being shown on Space where it's always belonged - yay.


I've been watching the current season on Saturday and the previous seasons on weeknights. It's really interesting to see how different the doctors are. The 9th Doctor didn't actually seem to like humans - more like he was watching a train wreck. The 10th Doctor was coloured by his love of Rose. I read somewhere that Tennant was the emo Doctor and I have to agree. When he wasn't being crazy he was sad. He did seem to get over it when Donna was his companion but I found the 10th doctor to be bitter and unlikeable in his last season (4 specials) so was more than ready for #11.

For a lot of viewers (certainly the ones commenting on io9) this was the first Doctor that was younger than them and they wondered how it would be pulled off. Well the Doctors are generally good actors so that should be the first hint. I was waiting eagerly for the season to begin and have to say this was a very good season and here's why.

Solid writing and acting - Matt Smith quickly created a character that was similar enough for continuity yet different enough. The episodes had enough mix of stand alone adventure and arc stories. Amy and Rory are a great companion team and much more equal in importance that past teams because Amy does love Rory not the Doctor. Perhaps some viewers couldn't relate to Amy and Rory because of gender role reversal - usually it the man who seems nonchalant towards their partner and goes adventuring while the woman that is along because of the emotional connection.

The season finale was great the way that shows for the US/Canada should emulate. If anything happened (ie. entire crew killed by an asteroid) the season could stand on it's own. Had this been a US production the penultimate episode would have been the season ender and the season finale would have been the first show of the 2nd season. This is much better. I mention io9 earlier and their article on the season finale prompted this post. To wrap up I just wanted to reply to some of the question points in the article and comments and how they were resolved to me.

*Doctor saves the world with a time paradox - to me he was using a tool that let him move in the confined space of the diminishing universe. Had he taken the TARDIS that would have created a big paradox because it was exploding.
*Importance of Amy's wedding day - she had to remember the Doctor. That was also where she was supposed to be. The whole thing with Rory was she had to focus on that relationship because it was the jump off for remembering the rest of the universe.
*This doctor still seems to be settling into himself. Instead of just going on adventures with a companion, almost right away he has to deal with something totally unknown, a crack in the universe. Now that I'm watching the previous seasons I can see what a departure this is.
* The deal with the stars is they were the first things to go from the perspective of earth. Most people don't look at them anyway so it does point out how special Amy is.

The Doctor took a big risk to get the universe rebooted. While he did everything he could to get Amy to remember him there was always a possibility that she wouldn't. And what a great way to touch on previous episodes without doing the "letters home" thing that Stargate does. I really looking forward to the next season.

Lastly thanks Charlie Anders. I've enjoyed reading your recaps and even with the spoilers it really whetted my desire to watch the show rather than thinking I knew all I needed to.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Smell, scent or stink

I get inspired by the strangest things. On an open thread kicked off by the Old Spice commercial people started talking about how far away you should be able to smell perfume then it roamed onto the smell of cigarette smoke.

I am very sensitive to perfumes but I really like them so I explore different ways of wearing them. One time I tried a perfumed hair mousse. Tip - if you are sensitive to scents, don't put a bunch in your hair. It made me nauseous and took me quite awhile to figure out the source of my illness. Luckily a quick shower fixed me right up. I have tried and chucked several products and have settled on a compromise. All my cosmetics and hair products are unscented or low scented. I use shower soaps are by Philosophy because they have lots of variety but the perfume doesn't stick to my skin or hair.Scented body lotions are okay as long as I wash my hands after putting them on.  I have found a couple of perfumes that work with my body chemistry so if I'm using a spray I don't use it on my wrists or head area. I also really like rollerballs for control.

I'm a big fan of small scent foot print. I like to smell my perfume occasionally but don't think anyone else should be able to unless they are standing very close to me. I'm okay with larger foot prints in large spaces with reasonable ventilation (locker rooms, labs etc). I'm not okay at all with them in workout situations and end up moving away from that person.

And what about cigarette smoke, it may seem different but it isn't to me. I used to smoke and I realize that it's a legal activity, yada yada. Where I live there is no smoking in enclosed public places, including bars, restaurants and casinos and I work in a non smoking facility. I don't care if other people choose to smoke as long as I don't have to breathe their second hand smoke much but I am surprised at how far the smell can carry and linger. I won't buy a house that was owed by a smoker and scrutinized my current vehicle (a used Passat) carefully. I love that car but had it been owed by a smoker I would have passed.

How noticeable is smoke to me? Someone smoked in their vehicle with their window down and and I could smell it in my car. I can smell smoke when there is a smoker in a vehicle in front of me. I can definitely smell when someone has just had a smoke and when a smoker has been in a room (not smoking in it, being in it) I am appalled that I thought my parents didn't smell smoke on me when I was illicitly smoking. I guess they were picking their battles.

And what about the Old Spice guy? What a voice and those videos looked like they would be fun to shoot. Old Spice itself? Sorry, too smelly. highly scented body wash and deodorant is just as icky on guys as gals to me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The lazy days of summer

Summer is a difficult time for me. In the winter I do a variety of exercise classes ranging from step aerobics to pilates to yoga. This builds cardiac health, muscle tone and flexibility and, most importantly, I have a lot of friends that work out so it's a great way to socialize. In summer I walk to work if it's not raining, golf and take only a couple of classes for fun. In the past it's been yoga but for now it's Zumba which is way more fun than I thought it would be. Since I totally change my activities I lose some muscle tone and, dare I say it, gain some weight.

This summer has been hard as there's been quite a bit of stress at work (not sure why exactly) and has marked the return of stress eating. For the first time in ages I had an whole small DQ Blizzard in one sitting and a regular onion rings on a different occasion. The horror! The weirdest part is the effect on my self image. Naturally the first place to loose tone is my tummy so I have this irrational image of me as a much bigger person even though my regular clothes still fit albeit a little differently than in the winter. Note to self - pretty well everyone looks large if they stand less than a foot away from a mirror. Get over it.

I give myself a pass in the summer because I know I'll be active again in the fall. This fall could be different though because I seem to have a chronic i-band injury that's made it difficult to keep up my exercise routine. Work out too hard and it creeps into lower back pain. The main thing for me to remember is that it's not my weight by my metabolic and cardiac fitness that matters.

I mentioned before that I read the Obesity Panacea blog. I would rather be effective than indulge in wishful thinking and these guys report on the latest research.

If I'm going to exercise for cardiac health, go hard. I've never understood that fat burning zone thing because if I stay if it I feel like I'm just coasting. The group leader where I exercise moved away from the heart rate charts to "how hard to feel that you've worked" way of assessing effort. Aim for a 7 or 8 (10 being near death). This year I'm planning on doing Bootcamp and Zumba (haven't you danced hard for an hour? It's work!) for most of my cardiac work outs. I'm also going back to yoga for flexibility.

New research has shown that how full your fat cells are determines your metabolic fitness. As long as they are not bursting you're ok. So you can be metabolically healthy without a low weight. That's good to know. Still, I want to eat "right". A higher fiber breakfast should last longer and could help burn calories more efficiently. I weigh myself every morning and if I drift up a kilo in a couple of weeks I scrutinize my eating to see where the junk food has crept in. Personal finding - those 100 calorie snacks are killers. I suppose they are better than eating a bag of chips but I can eat a much wider variety of snack items (a few pretzels, sliced strawberries and a caramel for instance) and stay under that 100 cal.

This winter will be interesting as I try to maintain fitness levels while making some changes to exercise styles to accommodate the payback for an active youth.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

oooo- implosion at The Intersection too

After Pepsigate at Scienceblogs, I decided to get science news/opinion more from the Discover blogs network. Now that I am I remember why I didn't make this a primary source before. I love reading Bad Astronomy and most of the other blogs but The Intersection just seemed to get weirder and weirder as Chris Mooney got off the topic of science reporting and into the badness of "New Atheists"

I admit that when I first heard of the New Atheist (NA) movement I thought it was kind of dumb - why does one have to declare that s/he doesn't believe in a specific version of god, religion is a private thing? Well in the US it's not a private thing. Evangelicals continuously try to insert God into everything regardless of relevance and insist that it trumps reality. Why can't New Atheists be nicer? I'm not a tactful person but since I'm Canadian I'm automatically nice (ha, ha). After going to a few sites like Pharyngula I could easily see why the bloggers come across as abrasive. They are outspoken, the commentators are even more outspoken and there is always someone dragging tired religious tropes into conversations about science, ethics or both. After repeating yourself a few billion times, you get abrupt - with the anonymity of being on line you can get really obnoxious in your abruptness. People are really eager to interpret actions negatively because for many, not believing in their God is threatening in itself. But I've not seen video from talks by Dawkins, Myers or any of the other high profile NAs that show them being disrespectful, or even impatient, of questioners. Actually I have been encouraged to examine my belief system and get up-to-date with several science areas.

How is this relevant? I stopped reading The Intersection after this post and scrolling through comments. Let me get this right, some guy (I'll call him LIAR) claims to have seem some scientists being insulting to religious folks and this comment gets elevated to the subject of a blog post? Really? LIAR is make further claims about systematic rudeness of non-believing scientists toward the non-scientists they are supposed to be educating/working with. Surely there would be some surreptitious video of a conversation - after all this is the Youtube generation - but nope. Nothing. Now it turns out that not only was the story made up(!?!) but many of the comments following the post were by LIAR using different names! And a website connected to LIAR was also blogged by one person using several names.

Mooney has gone public with this which is good but his focus is on whether the person exists and protecting that person's RL reputation from what was done on the Internet. Nowhere does Mooney recognize that his really big problem is that he didn't actually check on the reality of the claim the LIAR made. Not saying people aren't people (and thus sometimes obnoxious) but that when people are doing work related things they tend to have a work related face on so the whole story never rang true for me.

So what now. Disco blog networks isn't perfect and some of my favorite bloggers are on the scienceblogs network. So back I go.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My internet has changed!

There was a big implosion at Scienceblogs about the inclusion of a blog by Pepsico about called "Food Frontiers". Pepsico was going to pay for the privilege of hosting its blog on the site. It wasn't introduced to the existing bloggers well and bystanders got to see, and chime in on, the messy admin stuff usually kept behind the scenes. No surprise that a science librarian would have a thoughtful viewpoint with great overview of the kerfuffle.

Zuska looked at an equivalent media decision made by Ms.Magazine when they accepted advertising. Apparently Scienceblogs didn't make the same kind of thoughtful assessment of the effect of this particular advertising stream then bowed to the pressure from bloggers and readers. To an outsider, skepticism appears to be reserved for religion, corporations and conservatives. Pepsico is corporate therefore bad and should be summarily expelled before posting anything of substance.

The person writing an opinion piece in the Guardian explained why she threw this out to the wider world. Seed has shown a pattern of lack of integrity in terms of editorial content for both Seed and the Scienceblogs network. This explains rapid exodus of bloggers, who seemed on the edge of leaving in any case, as well as the lack of following any kind of pre-existing media rules about how to integrate paid with free blogs with full disclosure.

I thought the blog sounded interesting. Ideally the researchers would have time during work to blog about anything that was not confidential research, PR people could ensure that researchers read/answer more specific comments and we could all learn how food research is done. Pepsico brand includes fruit drinks and Quaker Oats. Like it or not food for the masses is big industry* now. The food industry does a lot of research into preservation, added nutrient value and should fund more basic research. With the right people this could have been window into a world we don't usually see.

As for science news. Scienceblogs was starting to be kind of American echo chamber for me. It seems like several bloggers would comment in the same way on the same topic. Lots of the writers moved on to Discovery Magazine's blog network so I have too. And I listened to my first Dr Kiki Science Hour and loved it. Sometimes you have to be shoved out of your comfort zone.

*disclosure, I work for a multi-national agri-business.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smartphones again

I read on my twitter feed that WM7 may roll out sooner than later. The way MS is loosing mobile base they really should be out in time for the new school year – late August to early September if they want to recoup any market share. But what do I know, I'm just a user that is happy with the versatility of WM 6.5 and the variety of places to get apps. 

But this is not the “Why MS Why are you abandoning geeks for WM7” rant. I know why, the masses are geeks.

This is the - is it ethical to let people have sorta smart phones like iPhones without including a fairly extensive chat about costs and features – rant  prompted by this article .


I don't have a lot of sympathy for this guy with his $8K cell phone bill. How can you take your phone out of country without checking out how much it will cost? Marketplace (CBC) aired a show, in December of 2009, called Canada's Worse Cellphone Bill where they polled a bunch of people who racked up huge charges and how they have little recourse. And it's not as if Virgin Mobile is hiding information. Look it's part of the main header when you check out plans.

 
and they did him the favour of cutting him off when they noticed so he only incurred 3 days of charges instead of 7 he wanted to.

Do I think this is a hard lesson, absolutely I think the consequences are out of line with the actions and yet ... I cannot believe I am defending a corporation. If cell phone providers are expected to  excuse all these overages by people who can't read contracts and stay within their plan, how can costs drop for the rest of us?  One occurance I can see negotiating but people aren't going to complain about a single accidental overage.

So what can you do? I got Luigi because I wanted to take him places. So far he's been to the South Pacific and the US.

When I went to the South Pacific I got a local SIM card so I could make calls and text. I could also use the GPS, connect up to WiFi networks for internet use and use my regular e-book and audible software. Did I mention I'm running WM 6.5 and can do all this?

When I went to the US I did the simple thing, I just turned off the phone element and used it as a PDA. Had I been somewhere with free WiFi I would have connected up but I was busy so I was happy to just take a few notes, add stuff to my calendar and start some rough spreadsheets and outlines for docs when I got home.

Should providers tell you about roaming charges, long distance and the penalties of going over your plan? Yes they should and I think they do a reasonably good job. I've gotten the talk every time I've changed plans, what's included, what's not, don't tether as it's very expensive. It's just that people aren't listening. They're all excited about their new toy and all the stuff it can do. Perhaps they should re-iterate the information on each bill or include cost saving tips or something. Or just not sell someone a phone without give a course and quiz first :)  
 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I like working in science

I've always wanted to be a scientist - well since grade 4 when I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I lost momentum. My dad wanted me to be a doctor so I went into medical imaging. After sometime out of school I went back, did chemical technology then did my undergrad degree by correspondence thru U Waterloo. Zuska had a post on women choosing science as a career path. What is so great about working in science and would I do it again?

I have to say absolutely I would do it again and if anything I would have switched to chemistry after one year of medical imaging so I could get into a field I enjoy faster. Would I encourage others to choose the same path? Not if they are looking for fame and/or fortune.

I've found working in a lab to be a good mix of working with people and working alone. I've met some really great coworkers and mentors while having the usual mix of bosses. I've had opportunities to take leadership roles myself. I like learning new stuff and continue to do so after all this time but there's routine as well. While I'm disappointed (yet lucky since I get motion sick at the drop of a hat) at not going into space, I did get to analyse data for the Canadian Space Agency. And now I'm in the corporate world, the money is pretty good especially compared to traditional fields.

There has been concern about tempting women into science and engineering as well as much (legitimate) handwringing over the loss of women at the graduate level. Certainly when I was at the Uni stage we had Women in Science and Engineering groups that focused on mentoring undergraduates to at least stay in science/eng and perhaps consider grad school. Twenty years on, I think things have gotten more difficult for young women thinking of the sciences. Society is on an anti-intellectual, conservative swing where fitting in by being womanly is more valued than anything else one could contribute. Some women seem to think we're in a post-feminist age where women have gained equality so it's time to choose to focus on family and creating the perfect home complete with scrapbooking. Other successful women seem to think of themselves like Queen Victoria - she could be queen but mere women had to be protected from themselves.

In some ways we are lucky. With more learning options you can indulge your interest in science without becoming a scientist - just use google scholar instead of google.com in your quest for science knowledge.