Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please ignore this post. It's a test.

This is a test to see if my scheduler auto-tweets when my blogger auto-posts. Theoretically, it will do exactly that if the word "scheduled" is included in the text of this post.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weight Loss Update

It's been 54 days since I've blogged about weight. Here's a brief update. I'm smaller. Specifically, I'm 16 pounds smaller. I seem to have plateaued out at that level for a week or so, so it's time to up the pace. That means more exercise. I've been walking at least two miles every other day; I have to increase both the distance and the pace of those walks and I have to start doing some resistance work. We've got some Bell Flexbands and I'll start with those. I'm certainly not going to reduce my caloric intake, which is already under 1700 kCal/day. My diet can best be described as "don't eat much crap, and don't eat too much non-crap." I've cut way down on cheap carbs like crackers and bread, on excess sugar, on alcohol, and that sort of thing. I think I'll have to make my diet plans more formal to get to the next level, but with the coming increased exercise we'll see. I was hoping not to have to do that until I lost 40 pounds or so. With spring finally springing I imagine my diet will naturally improve some anyway because of all the great stuff at the farmer's markets. The main difficulty I've had as far as eating is learning what's good and what's not good. There is just an overwhelming amount of bad science and old mythology out there regarding nutrition that it's nearly impossible to find the kernels (heh) of good advice. I'm pretty confident about cutting down on refined sugar being a good idea, but I've cut down on all sugars which means I'm getting less fruits than I wish I were. Some camps say that sugar is sugar, others that sugars are sugars but if they're combined with most fruits the overall benefits outweigh the bad effects of sugar, still others say that sucrose != fructose != glucose != other sugars and that I should dedicate hours of my life to distinguishing among different sugars. The same story applies to cheap flour carbs. I've cut down on them because I've cut total caloric intake and that's a place where I was eating too much; I didn't want to cut out foods with other strong benefits like iron and calcium. The science of how far I should go is all over the place, from a kCal is a kCal to "wheat is poison." (I'm pretty confident that last assertion is garbage.) Finally, I'd like to cut down on fat but I need more protein and I'm not willing to live on beans and boneless, skinless chicken breast forever, nor am I willing to choke down flavorless fat-free yogurt. So there we go. I hope I'm able to update again in a couple months with news that I've lost another 16ish pounds. But I'm not going to be miserable to do it.

Quick Update on Cliven Bundy.

A short followup to the Cliven Bundy story about his cows and the tortoises on someone else's land. Anyone who was surprised that he started talking about "the Negro" and how slavery just might have been better for black people was deluding themself before seeing his comments in print. Lots of principled, good-hearted people believe that the government "should" do this or that regarding public lands in the west, about the extent of its authority on various issues and so on. People who believe that the government "shouldn't" have some power seek to change the situation through the courts or through legislation depending on the circumstance. People who believe that the government "doesn't" have such and such an authority and continue to maintain so after losing case after case in the courts and getting no hearing in the legislature are nuts. And when you scratch those people, you'll uncover a racist. Every single time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to meet women.

One of the most persistent whines you hear from straight men on the internet is "how do I meet a woman?"  Men come up with various theories elaborate and stupid about why they can't meet that special someone.  No, it's not because you're a nice guy.  I promise.  In my experience there are two main reasons men can't find a woman.

The first is that they're being wildly unrealistic.  Brooklyn Decker is not going to go out with you.  Back when I was a kid, the advice from older, more experienced men was that "real women don't have staples in their belly buttons, son."  Of course nowadays Playboy doesn't have staples holding it together and plenty of real women have metal rings in their navels.  But the point stands, dammit!  More importantly, that's not the subject of today's blog entry.

The second problem is both more pervasive and more easily remedied.  Too many men don't go where women are.  Some of the biggest whiners are in the tech industry, which is so sexist it makes Wall Street look like the pinnacle of equality.  The one woman in your sausage-factory cube farm probably loathes you and your whole department even if you yourself don't deserve it because you're part of an overall culture of poison.  Time to seek companionship elsewhere.  The comic book store, the Con, the bar, these are all places where technically women go but are outnumbered 10-1.  On the other hand, you can't exactly stand in a bridal shop hitting on the bridesmaids, can you?  The number one rule of life generally but meeting women specifically is don't be creepy. 

So if you're a single straight guy wondering where you can go to meet women without being inherently creepy just by your presence (not being creepy after that is up to you), here's the answer.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Time for canning and an Amazon test.

With spring finally having sprung it's time to find ways to preserve the wonderful tastes that are available at farmers markets around the country.  Freezing, pickling, dehydrating, infusing with alcohol, all of these are good ways.  But my new favorite is canning.  It's easy, kind of fun, doesn't take up a bunch of real estate in your freezer or fridge and once you've got a bunch of jars it's pretty inexpensive.

 Future marinara sauce

I'm exclusively a water-bath canner as opposed to a pressure canner so I won't really get into canning until later in the season  -- most vegetables aren't acidic enough to water-can safely.  So I'll have a lot more to say on the subject later.  For now, this is something of an experiment.  There's a book on Amazon that's free for today and I want to know how that works with my affiliate thingy.  Here's the link. Canning Guide For Beginners, How To Guide With Recipes: How To Can vegetables, Fruits, Pickles, Salsa, Meat, Fish, Poultry, Wild Game.  If you could download it, I'd appreciate it.  I haven't read it yet.  If a few people download it I'll review it to let you know if you should bother reading it.


EDITED TO ADD:   Boy, this book is terrible.  Only try to read it if you already know how to can and want to laugh at what someone is trying to get $2.99 for foisting on an unknowing public.  After I read some more I think I'll probably review it on Amazon in hopes of saving future potential canners the pain of reading this book.

This post contains one or more links to an affiliate page at  If you make a purchase though the linked page I will receive compensation from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cliven Bundy, Desert Tortoises, The Tea Party all explained.

You're probably read about the recent showdown at a ranch in Mesquite, NV where a bunch of Tea Partiers and others showed up to face down the federal government over a land dispute.  And even after reading articles about it you're probably still wondering what the heck went on.  Here's a primer.

 The federal government is comprised primarily of idiots. These idiots made up a bunch of stuff about a tortoise to squeeze ranchers off of federal land. The only apparent beneficiaries of this policy are the big industrial beef producers who see less competition from cows which eat actual grass, but there's no actual evidence they were behind this whole thing, which makes it even more perplexing. The truth is that the particular tortoises at issue eat cow poop.  If the government were smart and not stupid they'd be paying ranchers to graze cows in Desert Tortoise habitat, assuming they really care about the tortoises instead of some other, undisclosed, objective.  However, it is the government's land and they can, within reason, decide what to do with it subect to a grazing law dated 1916 or somesuch. The Supreme Court has ruled that limiting or even banning grazing to not save a  not endangered species is reasonable and not in conflict with the grazing act. So everything the government is doing is perfectly legal. Heck, compared to other parts of Nevada which the government nuked from above and below for thirty years, the government is being downright benevolent here.

One of the people affected by the fees and restrictions placed on the use for cattle grazing of public lands which are also tortoise habitat is a guy named Cliven Bundy.  Cliven Bundy is also an idiot. He thinks that he owns land that the federal government conquered fair and square in 1848, even though his family didn't settle it until 30-something years later. He also thinks that even if he doesn't own the land then Nevada does, even though Nevada specifically disclaimed ownership of it in 1864, also before Bundy's family's cows allegedly started grazing the land.  And just to complete the idiocy trifecta, he may or may not even recognize that the federal government exists even though Nevada, which he does apparently agree exists, specifically submitted its autonomy to the federal government.  There's no word at this point as to whether he has a conniption fit when he sees a courthouse flag with a fringe on it. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everybody got a gris gris.

That's a Penn Jillette line.  A gris gris is an amulet bag which originated in Africa.  It'll usually have an inscription on it and some stuff in the bag.  Believers thought it would ward off evil spirits, prevent unwanted pregnancies, whatever.

Gillette's point was that everybody, no matter how rational they hold themselves out to be, has some irrational belief of some sort.  A belief that is immune to evidence.

Among skeptics, one of those irrational beliefs, the skeptic's gris gris if you will, is that science is constantly under assault by the forces of ignorance and that every story backing up that belief is true until proven otherwise.

Today's example of that gris gris comes from Skeptical Inquirer, the journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, among the largest and most influential skeptic organizations in the world.  In addition to the full journal, the Skeptical Inquirer has an active Facebook page.  Today, they reprinted a story alleging that actress Kate Mulgrew has narrated a "documentary" by some anti-science nutter or another.

There are several problems with this.