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South Beach Diet experience Thu, Apr 28, 2011
I've had slightly high cholesterol for a while now, and after a few different failed attempts at regulating it with natural supplements and exercise, I decided to give the South Beach Diet a try.  My normal diet consists of lots and lots of carbohydrates, both in the "pure sugar" variety and in the "chocolate-covered" variety.  Thankfully I was blessed with genetics that enable me to eat whatever I want and never gain any weight.  But unfortunately I was cursed with the silent killer of high cholesterol.  There's some evidence that a diet high in vegetables and fiber and low in carbohydrates might have a beneficial effect on cholesterol.  As sort of a last ditch effort before I started taking prescription drugs, I decided to try it out for six months. 

The first few days were unpleasant.  Heck, the first half of the first day was unpleasant.  I stopped eating sugar and all other carbs before slowly reintroducing limited whole grains after a few weeks.  My body had to go through a period of withdrawal, where I felt tired and annoyed, and no amount of food made me feel satisfied.  It's a truly unique feeling to have a stomach full of food but to not feel full.  This mostly went away over time, and I found a few foods (like peanut butter) that took away hunger like magic.  I was surprised that I lost about 8-10 lbs in the first couple weeks, which was an added benefit I suppose.  I really didn't have a problem eating meat and vegetables all the time.  I'm a fan of things like Brussels sprouts, so it wasn't difficult increasing my intake of vegetables.  But after a solid month of daily salads for lunch, I got sick of them, though largely because of the dressing.  It's hard to find salad dressings with no or low carbs. 

Each week I was supposed to introduce a new whole grain carb, such as whole grain rice, whole grain bread, etc.  But by about the third week, I couldn't really find any more room in my diet for more food without cutting out the good stuff like meat and vegetables.  The diet's literature says to keep adding a carb until you get up to seven per day, which I still think is ridiculous.  You'd have to eat a boatload of food to reach that amount. 

It was interesting how my brain changed while on the diet.  I began thinking of my diet in terms of right and wrong, so that the foods I could eat were considered right, and the foods I couldn't eat were considered wrong.  That made it so that I didn't get too many cravings for things I couldn't eat.  And when I did give in on occasion, I felt bad about it.  I couldn't even have a guilty pleasure.  It was only guilt. 

My birthday occurred while I was on the diet, and my method of celebrating consisted of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a muffin, pizza and root beer for lunch, and ice cream cake for dessert.  That was a good day, and aside from that initial rush of sugar directly to my brain, my body experienced no ill effects. 

At about the three month mark, I happened to get a blood test for life insurance.  I fasted for twelve hours before the test just so my cholesterol readings would be accurate.  The results came back a few days later and showed that my cholesterol hadn't changed a single point.  I really wasn't expecting that outcome, so I took a few days before I decided to give up on my diet early.  The thing is, I was kind of looking forward to the diet not working because that would mean I could go back to my normal way of life and just take a magical pill to prevent a future heart attack.  Someone suggested that it was kind of cheap or weak to have to depend on a drug to fix me; I think of it as a miracle cure for something that would've killed me by middle age if I was living 50 years ago. 

I also feel bad about giving up on something early.  I'm not a quitter, but I just can't see a point in continuing this lifestyle change when there is absolutely zero benefit.  It was suggested that I continue the diet anyway because it seems like a good idea to eat healthy, but I argue there's literally no benefit to a change in diet for me, and that was proven pretty conclusively by a blood test.  I think it helps that my normal diet is actually fairly healthy, with only the occasional fast food and somewhat limited snacking (i.e. I don't eat a whole package of anything in one sitting).  Even without the diet, I typically eat healthy meals and exercise regularly, which is most likely a good thing.  So it looks like I'll continue doing that, with the addition of a daily pill.  It was worth a shot. #health

Video game after effects Tue, Apr 26, 2011
One of the unexpected things that happens when you play realistic video games for hours and hours is that your real life starts looking somewhat similar to your game life.  This can be a problem when said games include violence and other types of crime.  This wasn't an issue with earlier games, since most days you don't find yourself encountering floating blocks of bricks with magical flashing coins.  But newer games are so much more life-like, and sometimes it can be confusing whether you're still playing a game or not. 

On a related side note, I refuse to use video games as an excuse for my actions, like those stupid kids who shoot people and blame it on video games, because that rationale is about as solid as reading a Superman comic and thinking you can jump off a building.  Unless there are important parts of your brain missing, all people have that little check valve in their heads that helps them determine whether something is right or wrong.  And most people use that check valve, regardless of what they see in movies or do in video games. 

One example is from the Grand Theft Auto series, which is well-known for including many different types of crime and violence all in one game.  One major component of the game (as referenced by the title) is the act of stealing cars.  When you steal a car in the game, you typically drive it around until you crash into too many things and it blows up.  So you hop a few curbs, hit a few streetlights, and then ditch your ride and get a new one.  After playing the game for a while, I remember getting into my real life car one day in a parking lot and almost hopping a few curbs to get out quicker, before I realized that I was still making car payments and it wouldn't be wise to rack up more bills. 

Another example is from Half-Life 2, which for some reason included a lot of carefully placed 55-gallon explosive fuel containers.  Whenever you wanted some more bang for your buck, you'd simply wait until an enemy got close enough to one of the containers, then shoot the container until it blew up and killed your enemy.  The problem with these fuel containers is that they look surprisingly similar to these floating cylinders scattered around the lake near my house to warn about depth or something.  Every time I drive by them, I want to shoot at them, not because any of my "enemies" are nearby, but simply because I like blowing things up (in video games). 

The final example (for now) is from the game Borderlands, which included a lot of swarming animals and bugs that liked to attack you indiscriminately.  Early on, I would do my best to avoid these creatures because they were more trouble than they were worth, but as I got better I would kill things at random almost out of spite for previous attacks.  I'd see a flock of flying bird-like animals and just shoot them all down for the heck of it.  It turns out that compulsion followed me into real life, where I routinely see birds circling overhead and have a strong desire to shoot them out of the sky. 

In conclusion, don't turn off that check valve. #entertainment

Non-fact facts Mon, Apr 25, 2011
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl recently said the following in reference to the government funding abortion clinics: 
"If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."
The problem with this statement, as one person put it, is that he's almost exactly wrong:  Over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is perform services other than abortions.  Regardless, that's not my point.  When confronted with his misstatement, a spokesman for the Senator responded: 
"His remark was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."
Here's the thing:  If you're trying to make a legitimate point, it's a good idea to use facts and figures.  If your "remark was not intended to be a factual statement" then it's not advisable to try to use made-up facts. #politics

How to waste paper Thu, Apr 21, 2011
My older co-worker stopped by my cubicle yesterday and asked me to follow him.  I pointed to the lunch I was devouring; he took the hint and said never mind.  A few minutes later he came back to my desk with a color printout of a Google map showing walking directions from a hotel to a convention center two blocks away.  It took up two pages.  He just wanted to show me how far we'd have to walk when we go to a convention in a few weeks.  Since I had booked my hotel room before him, I already knew that information, so I kindly accepted his printouts and he walked away satisfied.  This was about as useful as printing an email. #business

Part representing the whole Wed, Apr 20, 2011
I don't like how certain groups of people are represented by a single person.  Like the president.  Many people are opposed to some of his political policies and whatnot, and especially in the case of non-Americans, they assume the president's beliefs and actions are representative of each of his constituents.  That's simply not the case.  And even if you voted for the guy, chances are you still disagree with some of what he does.  I just want to say to people who don't live in countries with a representative democracy:  The part doesn't fully represent the whole. 

The same is true with religion.  I don't like being grouped in the same category as people who burn Korans or people who protest funeralsTechnically, I subscribe to the same religious beliefs as these people.  But in reality, my religious practices are quite different and typically don't include negative or hateful actions.  I wish I could announce to the world that whatever religion these people are practicing, though it may sound similar to my own, is not. #sociology

Knives as tools Wed, Apr 20, 2011
I keep a large steak knife at my desk at work, and I use it on a daily basis to cut up my lunch, slice the occasional apple, and butter my toast in the morning.  (My opinion on office eating is that if I'm spending half my waking hours at work, I'm eating at least two meals there.)  But whenever one of my co-workers happens to see my knife, they say something like, "You could kill someone with that thing." 

If it came down to it, I could probably kill a person with a paper clip and lots of carefully-placed puncture wounds.  But I don't, because I don't typically kill people.  Even though steak knives have been used in the past for that purpose doesn't mean all steak knives are always used for that purpose.  I resent the fact that a tool I use on a daily basis labels me as a criminal. 

Also, in terms of fighting styles, knives are close-combat weapons, meaning you have to get real close to use them, which leaves you open to counterattacks and such.  I'd personally rather use a really long stick, or run away screaming. 

On a related note, whenever I go to the airport, I have to remember to leave my pocket multitool at home because otherwise they'll confiscate it due to its weapon-like abilities.  What they don't realize is that the knife doesn't even lock open, so if you tried to use it to stab someone, you'd most likely end up cutting yourself. #lifestyle

Sad bunny Wed, Apr 20, 2011
Max had a tough day at the office.

#nature

Convincing the convinced Tue, Apr 19, 2011
Psychologist Leon Festinger: 
A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
From the Science of Why We Don't Believe Science (via Daring Fireball).  I'm definitely guilty of being unwilling to accept information that doesn't agree with my beliefs, and I feel kinda bad about that. #science

Transocean safety Fri, Apr 15, 2011
Transocean, the company that operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico until it exploded and killed 11 people and dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean thus creating the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history, decided to go ahead and hand out bonuses to their executives for their "best year in safety performance."  I'd hate to see what their worst year in safety would look like. #business

Marten Thu, Apr 14, 2011
A marten is a small mammal found in northern forests (such as New Hampshire and Maine in the US) that looks like a cross between a squirrel and a fox, measuring around 20 inches long and about 6 inches tall.  I had never heard of this animal until it was mentioned in a book I was reading. #nature

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